One of my favorite things about being abroad is experiencing the different cultures. You can read and watch about a new area all you want, but it is nothing compared to actually being integrated in it. I feel most a part of China when I am at my work. The people are always so inviting and will always try to speak to me. In the mornings, I say “hi” to my fellow cubicle friends, get some coffee, make some small talk about the weather (the only full Chinese conversation I can hold) and start my work. In the office people are always chatting, what about, I have no idea. It’s nice to hear some laughs, and conversation while at a desk, it makes you remember that you aren’t alone. Everyday at 11:45 someone turns on the radio, the same song plays. I have no idea what that song is but it’s becoming very comforting to hear. Then a loud voice starts counting in Chinese
“yi, er, san , si…”
music follows in the background, a few of the coworkers stand up and start doing exercises in sync to the counting. I have joined them a few times , but they are experts at the routine. I later learned this is an exercise they’ve been doing since they were in primary school. After, I will go to lunch with a few of the coworkers. We go to a different place everyday, we eat, we talk, and I post my meal on Wechat moments.
My boss is a very friendly person. His English is limited but he is so eager to learn and will constantly talk to me so he can improve. I have talked with him about my role in this company as well as differences in our cultures. On Friday’s the office will go out together. We saw a movie, played badminton, had dinner and walked around the streets together. I make small talk with whoever is near me but mostly I just listen and smile. Seeing everyone out of the workplace environment allows me to feel more integrated. I almost know everyone’s name now.
Something I have loved since I came here is being able to use my Chinese name more. Growing up I would never use it and I hated when someone would ask me my middle name and then I would have to explain. They would mispronounce it, some would make a comment and it wouldn’t be brought up again. However, here everyone smiles when I introduce myself with my Chinese name, it is easier for them to pronounce. I catch myself responding to my Chinese name, more and more people are using that as my identity. For the first time, I am too.