Ah, dear Laowai, are you ready for becoming a true Chinese? You have an awesome journey ahead. China is amazingly big and the experiences you will have are mind-blowing. If somebody says he knows China, one of the first questions should be: What China? Northern China? Southern China? Chinese cities or the rural areas? Which minority? From my impression, there is no way that you ever can claim that you really understand this country as a whole.
I have described a lot of real-life situations in this book that you will probably experience pretty quickly after your arrival, no matter which area you’re living in– and even years after staying here, you will still run into them and they will bring a smile on your face. Or make you bang your head against the wall due to frustration. But staying here for some while is totally worth it. From my experience, there are three types of foreigners who come here: The ones who hate this country, which is a very small share. The ones who are somehow ambivalent, this is also a very small share. And the ones who start to love it after their arrival. The ones who say “I just want to stay for a few months or years” but somehow get hooked up and will either not leave or always come back. It is a little bit like trying alcohol the first time: Maybe in the beginning you do not like the taste. But you will drink again and again. And maybe end up an alcoholic.
After staying here for a long time there is something I refer to as the “Asian trance”. When something is happening around you even after years of being here you will have the feeling that you are totally lost in the events and just cannot grasp the situation evolving around you – but you will love it. You will have tears of joy in your eyes and will be so happy that you have had the opportunity to experience this. This is the moment when the trance sets in. There are also lots of dark sides where you have no idea what is happening, but this time you will hate it to an extent that you want to leave the country as quickly as possible while cursing at everybody crossing your way. Situations that will make you think that all of this intercultural experience is too much for you to bear and you want to smash everything around you. Luckily, these kinds of situations are much less frequent than the mind-boggling happy ones.
The most important recommendation I can give you is this: Be patient. Observe, relax, and if something does not work out the way you want it to work out there will be a solution, even if it might take some time. Calming down mostly helps.
One of the reasons to come here is that this country is a ride on a rocket – development compared to other countries is on light-speed which can be seen in construction, politics, but also culture. Some of the information I read in some traveler guides or culture bucks seems to be outdated, at least for the bigger cities. This country consists of long-lived traditions which are confronted with modern influence – you can clearly see that China was literally shot from stone-age to modern age in just a few decades. Sometimes people seem to be lost here on the way but somehow they all cope with the quick change. A change that at least for people who come from more tranquil places might be too much to bear with. But do not give up hope, dear Laowai with a big nose. You also somehow can enter the flow and get used to this firework of everyday-changes and development. And I promise, if you’ll stay here long enough you’ll find your old life in your old country boring.
And last but not least, in my opinion no foreigner can take this country really serious. Most foreigners who come here switch on their party mode, what happens in China stays in China anyway, and when they finally leave the country they switch it off again. This is an amusement park for adults where you can gaze in amazement at a great show somebody delivers on the street, and where you can shout out of horror because something is not going the way you’ve planned it. But still, it is an amusement park with lots and lots of different experiences waiting for you to discover.
I love it. At some point I might hate it. But until then I will enjoy every day here and be happy that I have the chance to spend a share of my life in this amazing country. And I hope you will too.