Throughout the first half of my study abroad program, I appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to learn about and witness aspects of the Chinese culture and compare them to American culture. It didn’t take long for me to experience culture shock in Shanghai. In my previous blog I mentioned the lack of personal space, and I have definitely experienced plenty of this aspect of the Chinese culture. Last week when I visited Beijing, there was a museum in the Forbidden City that I explored. I was looking at one of the exhibits and the next thing I know a man starts taking a picture of the exhibit right over my shoulder, then he bumped me out of the way to get closer, but still didn’t acknowledge me. Another instance of culture shock that I have encountered is the usage of sun umbrellas. Chinese women prefer their skin to be white. The reason behind this is because throughout the history of China, the peasants were the members of society with darker skin because they would work in the fields all day, so white skin was seen as a status symbol. To prevent themselves from getting darker skin, it is common for a Chinese woman to use a sun umbrella everywhere they walk. The Chinese students and I spent a lot of time in the sun exploring Beijing and they would constantly reapply sunscreen and walk in the shade whenever they got the chance. I remember at the end of a long day of being outside, one of the Chinese students I’m friends with got upset because she got a little darker. This is an aspect of the Chinese culture that is different from American culture where we embrace a nice tan.
Despite these instances of culture shock that I have experienced, I’ve gotten more comfortable getting around Shanghai. The reason for this comfortability is because the metro system is easy to use. The more you travel via subway, the more you get used to navigating each station. It is also very helpful having the English names for each stop, so even if you can’t speak Chinese, you can still figure out how to get to your destination. Another aspect of the Shanghai public transportation that adds to the convenience is a transportation card that can be used for the bus and metro. All you need to do to use it is load funds onto the card and you are good to go. One of my favorite aspects of the study abroad experience is the opportunity to learn about someone else’s culture and compare it to your own. Heading into this second half of the program, I hope I get to experience more aspects of this culture that I won’t be able to encounter at home!