In just a week, I will be traveling back to my home country, a place I have been away from for over 18 years. As I have been counting down the weeks, and now days, until I finally hop on that plane, I have tried to imagine what I will encounter when I am back in China. Will I fit in? How will others treat me? How will they feel about me?
During the first week of the program, I have been fascinated to learn more about China’s views towards its own people and others.
First, it was surprising that Chinese citizens face discrimination within its own boarders. Before, I believed a communist country seeks equality for all. However, knowing more about China’s Confucius influence, it is understandable as to why there is still a hierarchy. Socially, many urban residents wish to remain separated from their fellow citizens who live in more rural areas. The government continues to discriminate rural citizens with poor wages, working conditions, education, and health care. A person’s societal level may be defined by their hukou, which is part of household registration system established by the government.
Second, the Chinese have been culturally raised to value group needs over personal needs. They express responsibility for their family first, then community, clan, and nation. People are an extension of their family and ancestors, and must practice “proper behavior.” With this focus on family and collectivism, it is no strange occurrence that the Chinese favor the idea of guanxi, or practicing meaningful relationships. When doing business in China, good guanxi is imperative to the deal. The Chinese honor loyalty and trust and it can be easily lost by one action.
Jumping back to my pre-trip thoughts. Due to China’s one-child policy, I have been raised in an American home (learning only a little about my heritage), I speak English rather than Mandarin, and I have grown up with many opportunities. I wonder how the relationships I make during the next 8 weeks in China will be affected by my past and lack of culture. Will I be considered an American with American values? Could I be viewed as person who left the country and did not want to learn the language? Will I be respected for coming back to become more familiar with my heritage?
Whatever my experience may be, I am beyond excited for my journey this summer in Beijing. As a Chinese proverb says, “He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.”