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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Perils of China: 'In China...!'

By Garreth Humphris
3598 Views | 20 Comments | 6/26/2014 3:37:35 PM
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#2014-06-29 19:24:07 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@weiming
Agreed that every culture has it's rituals and rules about dating and marriage! I think the big difference in China is that once a 'traditional' Chinese lady has decided to date a foreigner - she has already 80% committed to marrying him and expects the process to progress swiftly once it starts - once the main objections from family have been cleared, the process should be complete - in as little time as possible. In contrast, the foreigner is probably on a 'look and see' mission. Then a longer wait to ensure compatibility and then marriage. I suspect if you did a poll to see how long a wait between meeting and marriage, most Chinese women would say 9-12 months whereas a foreigner is more likely to say 18-24 months!

#2014-07-05 16:36:52 by Runelabs @Runelabs

I also think that these problems about adapting to the local culture is the same for anyone going to live somewhere else - even different regions of one's own country.

When I lived in Brazil for some years, I saw there were some who always just hung around other foreigners and very sparingly spoke the native language. They missed out on a lot of the understanding of the culture by ways of accepting it as something just equally valid as their own background.

If trying to apply "logics" to one's surroundings with the premise of one's own culture and not the one where you are staying, of course it will fail. Not to forget that "logics" is a formal, mathematical way of representing abstracts that in no way can start to describe most of what is the immense variety of the real world that changes and adapts all the time. That is why logics are stale and fixed, while the world adapts because it is living - as are we. Kurt Ködel and the Incompleteness theorem basically stops the "logics" from being applied to everything, although Kierkegaard had it presented a bit differently with the leap of faith. :-D

Resisting one's surroundings is quite tiresome in the long run - for oneself and those around you, but keeping one's identity and integrity with values you protect - that is "logical" (obvious) and shouldn't really alienate anyone friendly to you. Keeping one's "essence" as a person just makes you be and protect who you are, with the confidence to accept any kind of surroundings and still be true to yourself.

When living somewhere different than "home" the only way to begin start understanding history and the complexity behind the people is to leave the "expat bars" for some periods and delve into the deep unknown and only speaking the local language with locals - not trying to make them accommodate to you, but realizing you are the one who need to make the effort to understand their language, history and culture. Obviously, you would expect the same of them if they came to your "home country". Only then would you recognize their genuine desire to learn the more intricate sides of you and your culture and happily oblige them, right?
;-)

#2014-07-06 17:20:15 by QinQL @QinQL

@panda2009, @Garreth
Thank you panda for translating this blog into chinese to help our chinese people to read it though I’m sorry to tell you that there is still a bit hard to understand all of them for me.
It seems hard for the blogger to understand the way that chinese people thinking though he has lived one third of his life in china. I have to admit that some ways of you western thinking are more better than chinese’s, such as “There is only black and white, very little grey!” It is related with our history and education in the past of china. Till now more and more people especially for those people who have gotten a better educatione now or people who enough wise to learn more, realize there are plenty of “grey” in the world. And we are to be happy with “grey” too.

I feel you might have been confused and hard to accept the ways “in China” though you have lived in China so many years. Quite a shock really for me. Hehe.

Garreth,I hope I haven’t misunderstood this blog article. If it was, please point out for me.

#2014-07-07 15:54:13 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@QinQL
The main point of the blog was that there are major differences in thinking between Chinese and others and even though I have lived in China for a long time, they are difficult for me to understand and accept without ´fighting´ my own thoughts and ideas.

For me to keep an ´open mind´ I must fight very hard because some things acceptable to Chinese are so different to me.

The reasons may be educational and access to alternatives - the society and culture still tell Chinese people what is expected of them very strongly, even though many people believe that China is very ´open´.

It also highlights the Chinese trait of shutting down communication with the phrase ´In China,...´. This is used when the person does not want to listen anymore and is telling the only way they will accept!

It also warns foreigners of the same effects if they intend to take their partner overseas... and is that fair?

#2014-07-11 01:52:46 by QinQL @QinQL

@aussieghump

I was just kidding When I said “I feel you might have been confused and hard to accept the ways “in China” though you have lived in China so many years. Quite a shock really for me. Hehe. ” cos I am also often confused and wonder and feel unfair with many things that might be the way only in China. Though all people even on CLM knew I was a chinese woman who was born and raised and have been woking in China till now. And I have seen a lot of things in china have been becoming more open , more fair, more reasonable ……

So, I admire you that you are able to live in china so many years and have known a lot of chinese culture. It is most possible that you know more than me.

#2014-07-11 07:53:25 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@QinQL
It is impossible that I know more culture than you! But, as a foreigner challenged by differences every day, I may be more aware of the nuances because they have an interesting effect on me!
Most of these observations and highlights are 'normal' to locals but 'interesting' to non-locals. Some things I must really fight my internal compass of 'justice' and apply a Chinese viewpoint, even if this is opposite to what I would think/do from my cultural perspective. And one of the biggest differences is filial obligation and how Chinese people allow happiness and love to be negated by family pressure!

#2014-07-11 12:03:08 by melcyan @melcyan

Garreth , I am always fascinated by your comments and I am grateful for the knowledge that I gain from them. I sometimes compare your views with mine and while many of our views overlap, I think our different views on China and Chinese people are due mostly to our differnet histories.
I wonder how your views would be different had you been accepted into the very inner part of an extended Chinese family when you first arrived in China. I wonder how your views would be different if you had little or no contact with expats. The biggest leap of understanding for me has been made with the heart rather than the mind.

#2014-07-11 15:44:39 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@melcyan, Are you saying I need some love? Couldn't agree with you more! But you may be surprised at the extended family I have here in China!

If you are suggesting my experience isn't authentic, then it is as authentic as most foreigners entering China in the 2000's! A bit wild, a bit wooly and definitely the only girls you met had ulterior motives! But I am not one of the beer-swilling, mud-raking rabble you might like to picture me as! I cannot deny my ancestory, education and culture - but I do not hold it 'eternally bright' or spend time only with my own kind!

On the contrary, I have run my own businesses in close contact and co-dependence of Chinese partners, colleagues and friends and although we have had our differences in the past, I am happy to report that I regularly speak and meet with them all, look after their children with jobs and experience and keep a caring eye out for them!

My life in China may actually be more of the exception than the rule! And my observations and reasonings for them are my own...and I choose to remain in China when I am perfectly free to leave!

But they are only observations - made by a single person with all the bias and anomalies that encounters - the difference is that I try to share them (and the dilemmas surrounding them) in an open and clear way! And unlike many others, I am a pretty easy target to spot in my community and sometimes need to physically stand by the comments I make!

So please forgive my largess in writing, forgive my exploration of the obtuse and difficult to understand and forgive my honesty when actually explaining to people the nuances I don't understand (and actually want to!)

#2014-07-14 10:12:26 by Barry1 @Barry1

@aussieghump

Gareth, please let me congratulate you.

Unless I'm mistaken, this was your ONE HUNDREDTH blog article (at the time of writing, you're now up to 102 articles). I think everyone here on CLM owes you a big debt of gratitude.for the mighty effort you've put in, plus of course, the invaluable insights you've graciously shared with us..

Only a select few bloggers have reached the one hundred milestone. These include Peter Vernezze; Ken Silver; and David Lee. And now you've joined these hallowed ranks.

Well done, Gareth! (y)(d)(beer)

#2014-10-03 11:13:32 by Map1 @Map1

Interesting article. I've lived in the PRC for almost 10 years now. First in Shanghai in the '90s when Deng Xiao Ping first gave the command for Shanghai to grow economically. His right hand man in the reforms was Zhu Rong ji, who was mayor and later Party Sec. before becoming the PM. We had FEC, a currency for foreigners in those days. 13 years later I was in the small town of Guyuan in Ningxia Province teaching at the university there. I've traveled all over this country.
Materialism, selfishness, "little emperors and empresses, and the new generation who has lived under great prosperity. The explosion of technology has all given these kids a new perspective and worldview on life. When I lived in Shanghai, the dream was to own a bike, now it's a car.
There is a vacuum of moral underpinnings. Rob Gifford (NPR correspondent) documents this well in his book, "China Road." It has been confirmed by a friend who's a sinologist and another who's a part of the educational system and serves in the government.
Christianity is providing the answers across socio-economic and generational boundaries. The church is growing by leaps and bounds.
I'm still trying to figure out how to understand the new generation as opposed to the kids I taught 20 years ago.

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