China · 19 Days · 20 Moments · June 2017

Culture & Cuisine

23 June 2017

6-24-17 The interview for this trip was largely centered around food consumption. In the beginning, I was very nervous about that topic of conversation because I considered myself a generally picky eater. However, through this trip I have been able to try many different foods that I would've never tried at home, as well as learn that it is not only not scary and important to try new foods, but that it is necessary to try new foods in order to development over time and experience different things. That being said, I think after three weeks of Chinese food for every meal, I think many of us chose our free day to try and find whatever Western food we could in China. In my case, it was a Mickey Mouse shaped pizza. Was it my first choice? Definitely not. Could I eat another Chinese meal? Possibly, but I didn't want to risk it. My main goal in choosing this meal was to pick something that I could eat relatively fast so I could get back out to the Disney park.

22 June 2017

6-22-17 As we have seen throughout our trip, tourism gives countries a chance to thrive. But something that I and I'm sure everyone else has lived while we've been in China is that even though China has been rapidly developing in the recent years, the culture that has existed for thousands of years is still present. This makes China enjoyable for many reasons, but being able to experience both things (the development of the country as well as the history) are very important for travelers nowadays. This is one of the greatest responsibilities of tourism in our time. I'm sure everyone is aware of how rapidly the wave of technology is taking over the world. Through tourism, China is responsible for keeping their thousand year old culture alive while still keeping up with the wave of technology. We have seen this executed very well in the museums we have gone to that have hologram exhibits that show how people "actually lived" in the time period that is being displayed.

21 June 2017

6-21-17 Something that I think adds to our experience overall, is when our tour guides give us mini history lessons while we're on the bus. It allows or learning on the trip to go one step further, and gives us a chance to take our learning experience to the next level, by learning things that we may not have learned at some of the tourist destination that we've visited. Today, Jeff taught us a little bit about the Ping Pong Diplomacy and it's significance. The diplomacy began when a US ping pong player playing overseas in a tournament in Japan accidentally got on the wrong bus: the Chinese ping pong team's bus. Initially, he thought he wouldn't be welcomed, but the players welcomed him and they all played ping pong. President Nixon heard of this, and decided to act on the kindness that the Chinese gave the US player. This simple act of kindness paves the way for China and the United States to become "friends" in a sense. Ping pong enacted China and the US's friendship.

20 June 2017

6-20-17 When entering Shanghai, I was excited to learn about all of the history, just like we have with all of the other cities that we've visited. I think the history of each place is what keeps me grounded in the moment whenever I find myself getting fatigued in a destination. On our bus drive in, Jeff gave us a little history lesson about the relationship between Shanghai and Suzhou. One hundred fifty years ago, Suzhou was the booming metropolitan city and Shanghai was a small village. With Shanghai being the business capital of China, and one of the biggest business capitals in the world, this was hard to believe. However, things took a turn when Europeans brought commerce to Shanghai. When that happened, the roles reversed, and now we have both of the cities as they are today. Shanghai remains a gigantic business/metropolitan city, and Suzhou is now a calmer city with a lot of residences.

19 June 2017

6-19-17 I think it's safe to say that I have been nothing but inspired while being on the trip. This study abroad was exactly what I was looking for to kickstart my dreams of traveling the world. That being said, one of the main things that has suck out to me are all of the various art forms in China. I briefly mentioned that I used to play band all throughout middle school and one year of high school; since that time all types of music have always fascinated me. I love instrumental music. I have noticed many different instruments that I have never seen before. Before the Tang Dynasty show, the group of ladies playing all of the different instruments was incredible to me. And during the performance, I was thrilled to see a live orchestra playing along with it. On the first day when we were in Beijing, at the 798 District, I actually bought one of the instruments that was being sold in the shops. I don't actually know what it's called, but I'm very excited to learn how to play it.

18 June 2017

6-18-17 I think it is safe to say that everyone at this point in experiencing at least slight fatigue. I am no exception in this. The past few days I have found myself increasingly more tired and sort of lagging throughout the day. This is something that frustrates me a little because I've never been to China! I don't know if I'll ever come back here again and there are some things that I will never get to experience again. So, that being said, I'm sure it is a struggle for everyone to look into themselves and find why we came here to keep us going. When I find myself tired in a tourist destination, I try to think about the history. This is something that has fascinated me throughout all of the places we have gone and I know that this will keep me more present. I love imagining how people lived in the place that I'm in hundreds of years ago. I've noticed that relaxation in China is more centered around nature than in the US it is usually centered around a television.

17 June 2017

6-17-17 It has been such a privilege to be able to visit places that I thought I would have never been able to go while in China. Of course, there are the common tourist destinations, but there are also uncommon destinations. I'm sure everyone has their preconceived notions about what school in China is like, but through this trip, we have been able to really see for ourselves. I have noticed instances of long term orientation at all of the universities we have visited, but mostly in the first and most recent one. At BISU, it seemed like our hosts were very honored to see us, and we could feel the relationship that all of the faculty had with us. Same goes with the most recent university visit. Taking the time to translate the presentation really showed us how open and honored they were to have us visiting. The second university to me, seemed more like the beginning of a long term relationship. We were able to take that initial step in forming a relationship that lasts years.

16 June 2017

6-16-17 I'm going to admit, I read Hofsteade's cultural dimensions before the first day of class, but I didn't give it much thought because I didn't think there would be too much actual evidence of it when getting to China. However, I'm very surprised that there actually are noticeable differences like those mentioned between the culture of China and the culture of the US. One main one that I noticed in the university today was that no one would make a move unless instructed to do so by the main person in charge. It really emphasizes that there is in fact someone in charge. Another one I noticed while at the university was how group pictures are arranged. Once again, the main person in charge calls the shots. Usually main instructors are sitting down in the picture also emphasizing the power distance between the instructors and students. One other thing I noticed that I think is noticeable is how police officers are put on pedestals, emphasizing that the police are superior.

15 June 2017

6-15-17 As technology is rapidly taking over the world, some countries lose touch with their original heritage or culture. Thankfully, China is the exception. Although it is difficult, China has been able to fuse the two, making present day tourists able to see how China is rapidly growing, while also seeing bits of how the culture remains. One way that I have seen this is through the architecture. When looking at skyscrapers in the US, all we see are tall metal structures with hundreds of windows. In China, we can see those type of structures but the skyscrapers are dawned with an older dynasty-type structure at the top. Another way I have seen this is through the museums. We have seen in many museums how technology is placed in certain museum exhibits to get a glimpse at how people lived before us. This not only fuses technology with old China, but gives younger generations a more interactive way to learn about the older culture that follows their current learning styles.

14 June 2017

6-14-17 One thing that I have noticed while traveling through China is that everything seems to have a deeper meaning. I've mentioned an increased attention to detail, but in China you can tell that everything is well thought out and has a stronger meaning. One sense of deeper meaning can be seen through gift giving and the superstitions associated with it. On our bus ride this morning, Bing mentioned a common superstition regarding gift giving. Gifting a fan can be seen as a disrespectful gift, as it is interpreted as wanting a barrier between two, or wanting to part ways with someone. This is something simple that would not be thought of in the US, but is common practice in China. Another thing that I have noticed that has a great meaning, but not entirely focused on gift giving or superstition is the favoring of the right hand over the left. Being served on the right hand side is common practice in China bc the right side is the "better" and more dominant side.

12 June 2017

6-12-17 With every cultural exchange with students, I realize more and more how different Chinese education is from American education. Not only is the curriculum more strenuous, but there is also more pressure put on the students here than in America. I always grew up hearing the common stereotype that Asian people are smarter than Americans, but (as weird as it sounds) I finally understand why that stereotype kind of makes sense. And I have also found that Chinese students have a greater desire to learn things that American students do. Which would obviously lead them to learn more things which would in return make them smarter. One thing I found very interesting is that Chinese students don't have as much of a chance to change their major if they feel unsure about their chosen major. The student, Emma, that I spoke with said that that opportunity is reserved to only the top performers of the class. It makes me wonder how many students are in majors they are unsure about

11 June 2017

6-13-17 I think the biggest difference was that in Beijing we had a chance to try more authentic Chinese food, while in Xi'an it seemed we went to tourist Chinese food restaurants (excluding the amazing lunch we went to in Xi'an). In saying this, I think there is a specific reason behind it. I think that Beijing is generally more equipped for tourism. What I mean by this is, in Beijing I'm sure there are many tourist Chinese food restaurants that are made to accommodate larger parties. But because Beijing is so big, there are also many authentic smaller restaurants. I don't meant to say that tourist restaurants are not authentic, but they kind of have a "tourist" feel. Xi'an seems like a smaller city that is less equipped for tourism, so the options we had to dine we limited. So, the food was amazing in both places and we got to try a lot of unique food in both places, but, to me, the food in Beijing seemed more authentic and fresher than that in Xi'an (both were fantastic though).

10 June 2017

6-10-17 Before starting this class, I had a general sense of what "showing face" was, but never knew the name, and never knew how much it came into play in every day things (okay, maybe cultural differences in countries across the globe aren't every day things, but right now for us, it is). In saying that, there were a few times that we "showed face" and our fabulous late lunch today. At the very beginning of the lunch, we shook hands and made sure to make eye contact with Dr Wei's close family friend. This showed immediate gratitude and respect for him, as well as showing Dr Wei in a good light in the fact that we acted respectfully. We also ate lunch while taking part in some traditional Chinese meal time "rituals." One of these being toasting before eating. This is not something we have done at our meals previously, but in doing so this afternoon we showed our respect to their customs.
6-11-17 The thing that I have struggled with the most while on this trip is something that was stressed heavily during the selection process. I would say that this is the most challenging thing for me because I have always struggled with it growing up. That would be the topic of trying new foods. I have always been picky, and seldom try new foods when I am at home. But, there are two things that have helped me overcome this. One is my peers. Seeing them try the foods and either see them let love it, or see what they are experiencing, makes, for me, the task of trying something new not as daunting. The second is the outlook of what I am actually eating. I mention this quite a bit but it is something that I constantly find myself thinking about when dealing with these types of topics. This entire trip is both an opportunity and experience that I may never have again, and I would be a fool to not try something just because I've never heard of it before or I'm afraid I won't like it.

9 June 2017

6-9-17 With China being a collectivist country and the US being an i diciaula the country, there are obviously some differences between the two cultures. And upon greater thought, there are three things that have stuck out to me the most. The first and most obvious thing to me is the meals. Other than the fact that we always eat together, from what I have noticed the sharing goes farther than just in large group settings. When passing other people in restaurants, they too will order multiple dishes and just share between the two of them. This is something I've noticed is common in most cultures other than the US. Another thing I've noticed is the communal sinks before the bathrooms. In the US obviously we have two completely separate bathrooms. But in the bathrooms I've seen so far, most will have a few sinks and then will have two separate walkways for the men and women. The last thing I've noticed is that most people travel in groups, or at least with one other person.

8 June 2017

6-8-17 With China's culture being almost the complete opposite of the Us's, there is obviously going to be some more apparent cultural differences. There have been two that have stuck out to me the most at this point in the trip. The first being the obvious increase in patience with the people. With driving everyday, we are constantly exposed to how Chinese people drive. The most obvious thing that is different from the US is the amount of bicycle riders. In the US, you rarely see a bicycle rider along the street, let alone bike riders just riding into the street keenly avoiding traffic. So with that as a driver, comes patience. The streets are free of yelling (and have a significantly less amount of honking). You can also see this in everything else they do publicly, but I think the place it is most broadly showcased is with driving. We have also seen their increased sense of curiosity. Most obviously, we have seen how they curiously stare at us when we are in groups.

7 June 2017

6-6-17 I was pleasantly surprised by the impact that the discussion at the BISU university had on me. It is genuinely hard to narrow down something as the "major take away" that I had for the day. However, before I get into that, I'd also like the mention how surprisingly incredible it is to see Chinese students so open to talking about their ways of life in comparison to our. Going off of that, the major take away I had from the discussion group that day was how important it is to always strive to learn new things. Recently in my life I feel like I have seen this more and more, and I love the impact it is having on the way that I think. A few months ago I was never the type of person to question things or want to learn about things other than those in my everyday life. But recently I have found that I don't find comfort in stagnation anymore, but rather a hunger to immerse myself in new cultures and experience new things. And hearing that is the norm in China only reinforced that.
6-5-17 If I'm being honest, the food was one of the things I was looking forward to the most on the trip. American Chinese food is one of my favorite things to eat at home; I'm also familiar with dim sum style Chinese food because I grew up going out to eat it as brunch every week when I lived in Chicago with my family. So going into it I'd have guessed that I knew a decent amount about the Chinese cuisine. However, I'm happily surprised that I was wrong because 1) as much as I love the American Chinese food I'm not in America and didn't want to eat things I already knew, and 2) I love learning new things and about different cultures so learning about the food took it one extra step for me. Some of the main differences I've found is the way the food is served. Typically in America you would order off the menu and then you get a personal, but the food here is served family style and we don't know what we're getting. Second, the vegetables I've eaten are AMAZING, like, next level good.
6-7-17 The great wall is something that no one could prepare me for. And the only ways that I can deceive it are "incredible" or something that you have to see in your lifetime. But in the same way, there is no way that I'd ever prepare someone to see something of that proportion. I keep mentioning the personal that I've had throughout the last few months of my life and how it has affected all aspects of how I think; this is no exception. History means something more to me now. I try my best to visualize what it was like to build something of that size, or to witness it in its first years, or to see it in its actual use in that time period. It blows my mind that something like that could be built in that time on such steep terrain. It truly is a wonder of the world. As for how this affects how I will be in the future, it only sparks more of an interest to see everything that the world has to offer. I see something like that and I can't believe that there are actually things like it

4 June 2017

6-4-17 Upon arriving today, I was able to pick out some minor differences between the culture and cuisine of the US and China; but only minor differences as I have not been able to spend a full day immersed in the culture yet. First I noticed levels of friendliness between the two cultures on the plane. When getting on the 14 hour flight to Beijing, I expected not to speak to anyone other than Arianna, whom I was sitting on the flight and rooming with once we got here. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the younger Chinese boy sitting next to Arianna asked us what we were doing in China and asked us about our trip. It was something I never would've expected on a normal flight in the US. Next, when getting dinner for the night, I noticed that there really are no forks in China. This is obviously a big cuisine difference for me as I have no idea how to use chopsticks but I am looking forward to learning.