Written by Sierra L, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Beijing: International Career Pathways
Beijing, China, and northeastern Asian culture has exceeded my expectations. We all travel to a new place and hold preconceived conceptions. Diving into the everyday experience of this city has taught me that being exposed to new geography and customs also introduces a new me. After just one week, I have begun to discover my Chinese self.
Along with learning about Chinese culture, I have learned vital things about myself, and additionally, American culture. Specific etiquette when dining, interacting with friends, or speaking to superiors is expected. When at the table to eat it’s essential to serve someone else before yourself. My mom taught me this early on, but seeing it reinforced as an expectation rather than a favor is impressive. This is furthermore strengthened, as it is only polite to share any good or food when in the presence of others. Giving and sharing is a core belief I have observed, and can’t help but smile. Interacting with my language partner, Jacky, and his fellow comrades, KC and Mint, has taught me firsthand what it’s like to have a Chinese friendship. These students, despite differences such as communist leadership rich in surveillance or present-day evolution of ideology, from traditional Confucian philosophy to modern western attitudes, are just like me.
This is not to downplay my eye-opening startle when conversational topics such as income and or weight are presumptuously asked about. Moreover, personal questions are only asked to show sincere interest. Through my studies of Mandarin, 1 of the 5 Chinese languages spoken (along with 100 other minor dialects) in China, I have learned of definite word constructs that are used to convey self-deprecation, respect, and politeness. For example, to ask one’s name respectively, “请qǐng 问wèn 您nín 贵姓guìxìng?”. The resulting sentence translates to, “may I (respectfully) request to ask you, whom I cherish, for your honorable surname?”. I think that this alone shows the reverence and esteem of relationships held in this country.
Only through self-reflection and a new point of view am I able to learn new things about myself. Stumbling around Beijing, working to navigate and create meaningful relationships, I find myself converting to the unique norms, and growing into my Chinese self. Daily, I become a more giving, transparent, and humble person. For this, I owe China a great deal of thanks.