I don’t enjoy posting negative/embarrassing stuff about China or Chinese culture. Sure, when ‘China’ gets under my skin it can feel good to vent a little (this is true for anyone living in any foreign culture, not just China!), but we are guests in this country after all, and there are plenty of positive experiences to share (like in our Weekend of Chinese Hospitality post). Often I wish foreigners would just keep it to themselves; when foreigners in China whine about China, it isn’t pretty.
But we do live here, and we try to understand here, and you can’t do that by refusing to paint anything aside from the rosiest possible pictures. Husbands and wives don’t learn to love each other by avoiding problems or trying to imagine-away the things they can’t stand about their spouse. Some parts of our China experience — unavoidable, shocking, and recurring parts — aren’t that pretty, but we still have to deal with them.
There’s a couple posts I’ve had drafted for over a year called, “The Good Samaritan with Chinese Characteristics,” which I haven’t posted because they’re about a really ugly aspect of Chinese culture. I’ve been sitting on them, hoping they get nicer with age, or that I’ll learn more while I’m waiting and can then be more understanding and gracious about why, as one Chinese scholar says, there is no “Good Samaritan” equivalent in the Chinese cultural ethos. Around that same time I drafted another whole series called, “Living in the Eyes of the Beholders,” about the somewhat uniquely Chinese way foreigners are viewed and treated in public; sort of a “social exclusion with Chinese characteristics.”
When you’re with other foreigners it’s often easy to belittle China for certain things, and culture stress is always playing into that to some degree. So there’s a negotiation to make between trying to be gracious and appreciative of your host culture, but also wanting to accurately convey your honest experience of living elsewhere, and wanting to actually work through and understand your host culture better. It’s not easy to do all three at once, but we’re working on it.
I didn’t want to write and share this kind of stuff while feeling culture-stressed, and figured that a little time and distance would give some needed perspective. So now that we’ve been out of China for almost two months, I suppose it’s time for these things to get their final edits and finally see the light of day. I’ll start posting them soon, along with more stuff on Chinese medicine.