Of course, the day you teach a lesson to foreigners about dealing with culture stress and not withdrawing from the culture and people even when you feel like it is the day one of your local friends will inadvertently push a whole bunch of your cultural-annoyance buttons.
The NGO that we’re with in China has “culture lectures” on Saturday mornings every so many weeks. I did the one this morning, about how to handle culture stress, choosing to engage the culture and its people even when you feel like withdrawing from it, and looking at your lifestyle, living habits, attitudes, etc. to see if they are helping or hindering your cultural adjustment. I suppose I was asking for it.
After a late lunch and walk in the park, Jessica and I went home and fell asleep reading books on the couch. We were tired and we had an after-dinner karaoke party planned for the evening. A friend phoned about karaoke details. He wasn’t supposed to phone me. I’d already told him to wait for me to phone him because I was waiting to hear from someone else when and where to meet later that night. But he phoned anyway, and in a blast of partially-intelligible Chinglish (he often insists on trying his English on us, even though we refuse to speak it to him) destroyed my nap. Later, Jessica and I had dinner and were watching a movie when he called again to tell us he was on the way over and just five minutes away, even though he wasn’t supposed to come over for another hour and half. So we watched the last hour of the movie with much less snuggling but a lot more Chinglish. I was a little annoyed; Chinese people often feel free to impose upon other people’s personal space and time in ways that North Americans rarely if ever would. Of course, I was further annoyed at remembering all the stuff we’d discussed that morning in the culture class.
It’s dumb to get annoyed at Chinese people for not acting like North Americans (or vice versa), but that doesn’t mean what they do still isn’t annoying sometimes. Still, I got over it and we ended up having a really fun time, proving once again that it’s usually worth it to put cultural preferences aside and just have fun with people. And who would have guessed that this guy can sing Micheal Bolton songs?