I realise many of my posts may sound like a rant about Chinese things I don’t like. My intent is to discuss the challenges faced, but just in case, here’s a list of things I prefer in China:
Many of these aspects of society come from a tradition of philosophy that is very different from that of the west. For example the tradition of philosophical rock appreciation.
1: Everyone plays their position
Colleagues in China are what we can only dream of in the west. People are willing to play their position and slowly work towards a higher level through quality work and supporting the team. They aren’t interested in creating a confrontational workplace. It is a luxury being around people who enthusiastically give support instead of snide remarks.
2: People are helpful and caring
No, not just helpful. They are fucking helpful. Everyone in China is willing to lend a hand and do a favour for someone. Part of this is due to a ‘I scratch your back you scratch mine’ arrangement in the culture, but I think a good portion is also genuine. People are always giving directions, helping me shop or even offering Chinese lessons. Even if they are investing in a future favour it’s a much smoother lifestyle.
*I’m writing this while on a flight to Shanghai. The Chinese man sitting next to me literally just warned me to be careful of how hot the meal is.*
3: People are forgiving
Folks really let things slide in China. Balls-ed up a local custom; don’t worry about it. Screwed up your tonal pronunciation and said you are going to the uterus not the dinosaur museum; it’s okay. As long as people can tell you aren’t trying to be a dick, they will let most things go. There is a bit of chaos caused by this (just look at Chinese traffic) but in the end it makes my life, and learning Mandarin a whole lot easier.
4: There is a different idea of masculinity
In China positivity is a sign that you have your life under control. Negativity or confrontation is usually considered a sign of failure. This means men are generally kinder and there’s a lot less pigeon chested lads around. Only drawback is often people will bite their lip to remain positive when a confrontation is necessary.
5: China is safe
Aside from the odd hustler in tourist areas, there isn’t much to worry about in terms of safety in China. A friend of mine who grew up in Henan province once told me she found it strange that western women were afraid to walk alone at night in their own countries. She had never considered any threat until meeting foreigners.
6: Things are done quickly
When the Chinese make a decision, it gets done. Do you remember the discussion in the United States a couple years back about building highways made of solar panels? China has already finished their first one, but apparently it wasn’t possible for the states. China announced in 2017 it would build the world’s first carbon negative city (absorbs more carbon than it produces). They plan to complete it by 2020. This year the Communist Party announced the People’s Liberation Army would be mobilised to plant trees. A forest the size of Ireland is due to be planted by December. Development is fast, well planned and embarrassingly better organised than the west.
7: Teaching is a respected profession
I have never once heard the expression ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’ outside of America and the UK. In China teaching is a highly respected profession. I know I’ve griped about the attitude of some of the students I have at HuangHuai University, but their attitude is the minority. Teaching is a profession people aspire to and has competition to enter. There’s a bonus too – art teachers are more respected than some departments and the pay reflects it!