So I went to a US-China conference last night in one of Shanghai's most prestigious universities called Fudan. It was really interesting to meet all types of Chinese students who constantly hope for bright futures and mass successes. It was also very intriguing to meet the young students and have a one on one interaction with them.
The classroom I was assigned to had a very wide and open space which allowed for a lot of interaction between both the Chinese and US students. We talked about cultural differences and our different point of views and it was very interesting to open my eyes to a whole new experience of how others perceive the world.
Whenever we did activities together, the debrief questions always got somewhat personal. The Chineese students had a very hard time opening up about their perceptions about the Chinese government whereas the Americans were very open about all the economic and political/race issues that go on in the US. When I speak my mind, I find it very easy to share my opinions with others – but I learned that other people, specifically Chinese, like to be a little more reserved with their thoughts and perceptions.
Furthermore, because I am a very direct person, I always find the need to be as straight forward as possible. This is due to the fact that I am a very low context person, I like to get straight to the point – I find it hard to resonate with people who beat around the bush. But I learned to respect their high context culture because I don't want to have a “be like me” bias. Low context or High Context — no option is better than the other, it is just a matter of preference and culture. One of the most valuable lessons I've learned in China is that people don't always have to be open with their thoughts, opinions, perceptions, and it doesn't make you any better than others who are more kept to themselves about their true feelings and emotions. It just depends on how a person prefers to speak to another, and if there are differences, then they must be accepted and embraced.
Speaking of cultural differences, my proctor considered the American culture as “friendly” and the Chinese culture as “Not Friendly.” Although I am not Chinese, I got personally offended by his statement. It's not that Chinese are not friendly, they are just more reserved and kept to themselves when it comes to a first time encounter with another person. The value of this story is that one should always respect different types of cultures and understand why people act the way they do. Americans were not born and raised the same way the Chinese were: the culture is different, the environment is different, and the political “ruling” of choice is definitely unique from one another.
My final thoughts are that we should not stereotype a certain race as “not friendly”, we must understand why people perceive them that way and change our minds about them. Also, be careful of the ethnocentric bias, Americans are Americans and Chinese are Chinese – no one is better than the other, and definitely no one is more “friendly” than the other.
That is all.
My flight is tomorrow, I'll update you as soon as possible.