China is a nation of unpredictability. You never know what experiences will arise at any given moment. After being in Beijing for more than a week, I can honestly say that my previous perceptions of China have dramatically changed. Eating street food, haggling at the markets, and visiting the most beautiful historic sites has shown me how diverse the Chinese culture truly is and how it continues to play a significant role as Western influence continues to expand.
During the first week in Beijing, I had the opportunity to visit cultural attractions that gave a look into the diversity and complexity of the Chinese culture. The most significant cultural experience was definitely the hiking/camping trip to a remote area of the Great Wall of China. Hiking up the steepness of the Great Wall was an exhausting, yet exhilarating accomplishment. I learned to appreciate the sacrifices the Chinese people made in order to build this behemoth of a structure to defend their country from invaders. Upon reaching the top of the Great Wall, a group of UF students, including myself, were blown away at the incredible views that you could not get anywhere else in the world. Our mutual awe at the scenery and willingness to help each other hike up the Great Wall created a bonding experience like no other. This bonding experience and the friendships that developed so quickly have made the experience in China better as a whole. I am grateful for being able to have this meaningful experience with a diverse group of incredible people.
China and the United States have many cultural similarities and differences. The most notable cultural similarity between the two nations is that of the predominant culture of consumerism. With a rising middle class, the Chinese people are willing to spend more on acquiring name-brand products to flaunt their social status. Similarly, the United States has an obsession with materialism created by capitalistic policies that encourage this type of behavior. Although the China and the US are similar in this manner, they are also quite different culturally. For instance, the Chinese have a collectivist society where the people place more of an emphasis on relationships and their family. On the other hand, the US has an individualistic society where emphasis is placed on improving and doing things for one’s self rather than for the social good.
China is very unpredictable and I look forward to what experiences this great nation has in store over the next two months.