The Art of Being Misunderstood In China

Recently I’ve received lots of interesting comments to my old post In China I’m Both Fat And Beautiful and wanted to answer them in this blog post. Many of the commenters saw me as self-centered person who doesn’t want to adapt to the Chinese way of living. But is this really the case?

When you live in a foreign country you encounter numerous new things. And when the new culture is as different as Chinese culture is from Finnish culture, you can’t just hop in and get used to it right from the start. You need to use all your senses to get into the new culture and way of living.

What you also do, is to spend amazing amount of time pondering over all the new things that happen to you. It’s a mess in your brain! Many of us feel like writing our thoughts down in order to make some sense to it all, and that’s why we write blogs.

There are so many things that I think are weird in China. It’s not good or bad, just different from what I’m used to. I need to talk it through in order to get used to it later on. And by writing this blog I hope to share me ideas so when someone else moves to China for the very first time they have an idea what kind of things they will encounter here so they can get ready before hand. So that they know they aren’t the only one feeling a bit lost in China.

So what kind of comments did I get then?

According to many comments:

  • I don’t want to adapt to life in China
  • I want China to revolve around me and get adapted to my way of living
  • I’m self-centered
  • I don’t respect China or Chinese
  • I have forgotten the saying When in Rome do as the Romans do

There are even more comments on some Chinese discussion forum, but I haven’t checked them all yet.

I haven’t encountered these kinds of comments from other foreigners, only from Chinese. What could be the reason for this?

When I say Chinese people don’t line up, is it an observation or a criticism? When I admit it feels bad to be described as fat does it mean I’m not willing to adapt to Chinese lifestyle?

I do think it’s super super weird that Chinese people pay so much attention to skin colour and like telling each other if they are fatter or slimmer than when they met last time. Why is it so weird? Because I lived 20 years of my life living in a culture were these kinds of things were considered weird or even rude. Is it easy to change your mental thinking of twenty years? No, it absolutely isn’t easy.

For others who are planning to move to China or are living here already. Because of cultural differences you might get misunderstood by others and you also might misunderstand the local people for the same reason. It’s an adventure to move to a new country, a process of highs and lows.

I like to think that there isn’t good or bad when comparing two cultures, there is just different. New new habit, way of thinking or custom might feel weird, but that’s because it’s new to you. After a while you will be able to make better decisions about if you want to make that part of culture your own or not.

So what is my philosophy of living in China? Experience us much as you can. Learn the local language in order to communicate with Chinese people and get deeper into the culture. Respect differences and new ideas. Different doesn’t equal bad. If something feels weird for you try to find out why Chinese people are doing or saying something the certain way. You might find surprising reasons behind the customs.

There is a lot I would like to say about this topic, but I will end this blog post with a Finnish saying: If you don’t have anything good to say, better to say nothing at all.