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Living in China 
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Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 4:58 pm
Posts: 59
Post Living in China
Hello, I know there are many teachers on this forums who teach in Asian countries. How do you cope with enormous cultural differences?

I moved to China approx. two years ago. At first the situation didn't feel so challenging, maybe because I stayed in a less developed part of the country where foreigners are much appreciated and they catered to my every need. The situation is far more difficult in an environment where you are not a "rock star", celebrity whose difference is much appreciated but only one foreigner, regarded as weird. Not to mention that Chinese have some opinions and attitudes also not acceptable for us (anyone who lived in China will probably know how little we know about the country and people before we actually get there).
How do you cope with it?

Sat Jun 09, 2012 2:27 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post Re: Living in China
Well, I've never even been to China, so it's hard to say. All I can comment on is the stories from people who have lived there for extended periods. It certainly sounds like China is a very different place from Western cultures and even other Asian cultures. Certainly, when your differences are seen as cool, it's much easier than when your differences are seen as "different" and worse seen with disdain.

There are things about Japan that are hard to understand, but the longer you are here the more you begin to understand why things are the way they are. So much of the way people think and act is ingrained in the societal culture and religious culture. Since those of Asian countries differ so greatly from Western/European countries, it can be hard to wrap your head around it at times.

For me, I had to realize that I was looking at things through my American goggles. I was viewing things from an American perspective and Christian background. Once I actively tried to overcome those preset ideas and concepts, it became easier to accept why others think the way they do and do the things they do. I don't have to agree with them or participate in them, but I can understand their decisions and actions.

I guess what I'm saying is it's hard to understand what is a general truth and what is a cultural belief of right/wrong, moral/immoral, and polite/rude. I can't say that I understand fully, but with education and experience in different cultures, you begin to see that a lot of our ideas are culturally based and not necessarily general truths.

In China's defense (as well as other countries,) they are probably right at times in trying to preserve their cultures, resulting in demonizing Western ideas and culture. American culture invades and dominates cultures that leave it unchecked. Same goes for other European cultures just in smaller niches. It can be hard to balance choice, globalization, progress, and industrialization but also maintain your culture.

Again, I can't say whether this applies to China. China is quite closed off and government dominated, but hopefully something in here was helpful and encouraging. I think with more time, you'll begin to understand better why things are the way they are. Then, hopefully, things will become easier.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:23 am
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Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:55 pm
Posts: 26
Location: Shanghai
Post Re: Living in China
Hi, I have been in China since April 8, 2011, and I can relate to much of what you are saying. I have taught at two different schools now, and in two different cities. In the first city, I was considered a bit of a celebrity, since I was the only Fat bald American in the area. One young man even walked up to me and told me that he had never seen a foreigner before. The Chinese people are not shy about staring at you at any time either. I have literally seen then wreck their bicycles while staring at me.

Currently, I am teaching in Shanghai, an area well populated with foreigners, but the same rules apply. The people here are much more familiar with we foreigners, but they will still stare when it suits them. They are much less friendly at the bus stop and will not give you any slack at the fast food counter.

One thing to keep in mind is that Chinese pride is a powerful force. I Chinese person will do what they can to keep from "losing face." It is part of their culture. If you have a disagreement with a Chinese person, it is best to accept defeat (even if you are in the right) because you will create an enemy of you cause your chinese opponent to lose face. One of my co-teachers had an altercation with a chinese customer in a KFC restaurant where the Chinese man cut in line in front of my friend. My friend spoke somewhat rudely to the man, who immediately yelled a long string of Chinese explatives. It was my friend who was escorted from the KFC by security officials.

My practice and recommendation is to simply go with the flow, do not be nieve about China or its people. If you respect them, then they are more likely to respect you. Do not over use the words "Please" and "Thank you" here since the Chinese language is based upon giving each other commands. You will not hear the Chinese saying something like "Please give me the pencil." It will always be "Give me the pencil."

Common sense is always the first order of business here. I hope this helps.

Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:21 pm
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