Baffled Daily By Chinese Culture
I’ve now slept in the same bed for 8 consecutive weeks – the longest period of time in two years. Time flitters by and anxiety creeps in. Am I wasting my life? What do I want? The transition from traveling full time to working full time has been harder than I expected.
I work. A lot.
Technically, I work 35 hours a week. But including an hour lunch break and an hour round trip commute and going into work an hour early to do some extra planning makes it more like 50 hours a week. And I volunteer to take overtime shifts.
One thing I do like about my job is getting to talk to Chinese people about their lives. The classroom environment gives me a chance to move past small talk.
Every day I tell Martin countless stories of interesting things my students have shared with me.
Many of my students are learning English to travel. One man bought a house in Seattle and will move there in a year with his family. One young girl is going to college in Melbourne, Australia in the fall. Others have vague plans to travel with their family to Europe and America.
I learned that palm readers read a man’s left hand and a woman’s right hand. No exceptions!!
When discussing adoptions, my students couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to adopt a child who had a disability or was older. Most couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to adopt a child when they were able to have their own children.
While many things are unclear to me in China, what is clear is the importance of family.
You must get permission from your parents before you marry. Parents often live with their adult children when they are not able to live on their own anymore. Families may be small, but they are the top priority for people. They are baffled at why I have chosen to not have children.
Chinese people also work very hard. The delivery guys work 7 days a week, 8-10 hour days and get paid 25% of what I make. So many times a student will say they don’t have any free-time activities. They go to work. They go to English school. They take care of their families. That’s it.
While I’m often baffling my students with American culture, I’m baffled daily by Chinese culture.
For example: Diapers are rarely used here. Most young children walk around with a split in the pants and no underwear. When they have to pee, they pee. I often see a mother helping her child pee in the middle of the sidewalk. I don’t know what happens when the child needs to do more than pee. I don’t know what happens if the child needs to pee in the subway or the supermarket or their home. I do know that I always wear shoes.
The other day, Martin and I were exploring a touristy area of town when we stumbled upon a building that said “Shenzhen Tourist Information Center” in English on the outside. Excellent! Of course we went in. But, instead of a plethora of maps and pamphlets, we found a plethora of drones. We wandered around dumbfounded. It surprised us so much, we made a short video:
I turned 37-years-old this week.
I spent the day spending more time dreaming about the future and less time reflecting about the past. Seven years ago I made a plan to travel. Two years ago I did that. Now what? How can I find a better balance between travel and work. Instead of spending 100% of my time working or 100% of my time traveling, can I find a way for it to be more 50/50? I think so.