After spending 4 years in China, I decided that it was time to call it quits and head back to my homeland, Britain. It’s been around a year now and the learning curve that I thought would stop has just got steeper. My perception of everything that was once normal has become warped and I’ve inherited a new ability to criticize everything I’ve ever known. So what have I learned after a year with a new vision?
Europeans are very wasteful, but love to recycle
I’ve travelled to over 10 countries since I’ve been back and I’ve noticed the same problem, we waste way too much. Take our food for example – we eat a very small portion of the animals we actually kill. In Asia, dishes are more likely to have areas of an animal that you’ve never even heard of. Intestines, stomach, lung, heart, they’re all on the menu. Water is wasted too – look at Italy with its fountain laden capital and free running water in virtually every town. I even stayed at a house where the students don’t wash their pots and pans, they just throw them straight in the bin. Fruits and vegetables are selected due to their appearance because apparently we don’t like ugly vegetables???
China is way more optimistic about its future
Don’t let the recent crash put you off, China is still the place for opportunity. There is an energy that can be felt by most of the people (usually the wealthier ones) that I’ve seen nowhere else in the world. They are experience unprecedented growth in the world and change that is happening nowhere else on the same scale. They are embracing technology in a similar fashion to the original tiger economies. A few years ago, you would never see a Chinese product on the shelves (yeah, they are made there, but not Chinese owned at least), but now you have Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, and services like alibaba and WeChat taking over. Europe, Japan and America are still at the top of the tech industry, but China is a real contender.
I actually prefer the Chinese web to the British.
I look through my Facebook feed and very little inspires me. It’s mainly full of memes of how to live your life to the max, from someone who had a kid at 17 and lives a socially deprived, unambitious, monotonous excuse of a life. I’m not saying all people who have kids live that life, but the people with the ‘life advice’ tend to have the least envious lifestyle. I much prefer posting to my friends on WeChat. There are always people traveling, eating out at nice places, putting on shows or doing something constructive. The restrictions placed by the Chinese government probably don’t affect me, so it’s happy sailing.
Being polite actually does get you to higher places
When I left China, I had a very cynical view of everything. Just getting on a bus is like a wrestling match and there is never any compassion shown between strangers in the street. This is one aspect of China that I really didn’t enjoy and returning home, I had to learn how to be polite again. British shop owners are very chatty and friendly and when I returned, I was often stumped by supermarket clerks asking me questions like, “how are you, today?”. The world doesn’t need to be dog eat dog and everyman for himself, it would be a lot nicer if we all realized we’re in the same mess and helped each other out.
China is still viewed negatively by world media
China is always in the headlines and rarely for good things. Explosions, corruption scandals, natural disasters, sinkholes, Tsunamis, hacking conspiracies, stock market crashes, they all make the news, but rarely do you see the development of China, statistics on poverty relief, development in Africa by Chinese businesses, festivals, and all the good things that are happening. China is often criticized for its corrupt press and journalists being jailed, and that does happen, but when has Britain been condemned for gagging newspapers over any royal incident, what about the 10,000 people protesting that according to most media, never happened? Press freedom is an issue all over, but China and the middle east is heavily criticized to divert attention from our own far right bullshit makers.
Chinese embrace their own products, but struggle to adapt to other cultures
When I rocked up in China in 2010, I knew that it was my duty to learn as much as I can about China and Chinese people. It was an insatiable desire with learning that led me there, and it only got stronger as I made progress in the language. Most the food I ate was local, most the people I met were local, some days I would speak no English at all, and in hindsight I really learnt a lot from that. My girlfriend is Chinese and she lives in Belgium as a student. She is trying to embrace the culture and lifestyle here, but as previously mentioned, it’s tough to be able to afford to live in Belgium. When she meets her classmates, all they want to eat is Chinese food, I here many complaints of how expensive Europe is and how they miss Chinese food. I never really got into Chinese food when I was there, I got tired of it pretty quick, but now that I don’t have the opportunity to eat it, I mis certain dishes. I think the key to combatting culture shock, is to think of the local way as the right way until proven wrong. If you always look at a new place and ask, “why on earth do they do it like that?”, you’re not going to last. Everything will bother you. In China, I learnt to embrace things that denied every fabric of my being, such as asking for higher salaries and lower prices constantly, pushing my way to the front and just being rude and standoffish to get what I wanted. Europe is a lot more relaxed than that, but I still find Chinese (maybe other foreigners do?) complaining a lot about how Europeans live. Embrace it.
I’ve learnt more, but I don’t feel it that necessary to share with you on this post. If you’re thinking of living abroad, I recommend it, but be warned, it will change everything in your life.