5 Tips for Cultural Immersion: Written by Stacey Lui (British Council Generation UK Participant)
During my time here in China, I’ve noticed something akin to a CRCC Asia micro-society being formed. Two months is not a great length of time. Take away the (roughly) 8 hours spent in an office every weekday, occasional evenings for Mandarin class, and a day or two for trips outside of your new city, and that leaves even less free time. In a flash, the months will have passed and all that may remain is a valuable, but brief, insight to working life in China, and hazy memories of many merry nights.
Of course, there’s no prescribed, correct way of experiencing China, but for those hoping to fully immerse themselves into the local culture, here are CRCC Asia’s 5 Tips for cultural immersion.
Self-explanatory, perhaps, but it’s a piece of advice worth reiterating. When you’re abroad, home customs may not apply, so being open-minded, respectful and accepting is essential. Observe and familiarize yourself with local etiquette. There are some things that may surprise you, frustrate you, or simply baffle you but be a judge-free zone. And remember: the need for understanding goes both ways.
Books are a brilliant way of being transported into another time and place and there’s definitely no shortage of literature on China. Delve into a good read before you depart to get a peek into what awaits.
As ever, when it comes to eating out, drinking, and shopping, finding local hotspots is often the best option. Baozi and dumplings are among one of my favorite snacks to grab on the go. When scoping out restaurants, the less English, the better – and if there’s a long queue then you’ve probably unwittingly stumbled across a jackpot. For those with any allergies or dietary requirements, it’s useful to have a few relevant phrases memorized or written down. Ditto when it comes to haggling at the market or underground shopping centers.
Whether it’s really getting to know a co-worker and taking your relationship outside of the office or joining a Meetup event, it’s never a bad idea to have friends in a variety of places. I’ve been to a language exchange, met some lovely people through the Vegans of Shanghai WeChat group, and shared many lunches, and an evening shopping with, the Chinese intern at my company. One of my flatmates even went for lunch with an expat she locked eyes with on the street. Sadly, no great romance came of it, but, you never know, there’s someone out there for everyone.
They say patience is a virtue, and I say it’s one required. In life in general, but especially when you’re outside of your norm. There are times when you’ll look silly and/or stick out like a sore thumb and that’s okay. Embrace it and laugh along. There’s nothing like a genuine smile to break the ice.