▶ How ex­pats in China de­fend their adopted coun­try and city

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Huang Yi­ran

With more and more for­eign­ers com­ing to China and start­ing their new lives here, many of them of­ten find them­selves in the po­si­tion of de­fend­ing their adopted city and coun­try. In a pre­vi­ous “Two-cents” ar­ti­cle Met­ro­pol­i­tan

pub­lished, the au­thor Leila Hashemi wrote about her own ex­pe­ri­ence of de­fend­ing China, which struck a chord with many read­ers.

“When ex­pats move here, it is not like home; some can deal with that and some can’t. How­ever, if you are liv­ing and work­ing here, I re­ally find it hard to sit at a ta­ble and lis­ten to you bad­mouth China, its poli­cies and its peo­ple,” Hashemi wrote in the ar­ti­cle.

Her sit­u­a­tion re­flects many ex­pats’ ex­pe­ri­ences in China. With dual iden­ti­ties, they are in the dilemma of ex­plain­ing their choice of stay­ing here to friends and fam­i­lies back home, and some­times an ar­gu­ment is in­evitable.

Clement Jean is a 22-year-old French­man who has been study­ing in Bei­jing for two years. As he re­calls, the main stereo­type Euro­pean peo­ple have to­wards China is “Chi­nese are mak­ing low-qual­ity prod­ucts.”

“In some way it’s true. But in the mean­time, they churn out more and more high qual­ity prod­ucts, like TV sets and cell­phones,” said Jean, “Now I know [the facts]. So when now my friends ask me about things like that, I al­ways tell them it’s to­tally false.” He gave us an ex­am­ple that if some­one buys a good TV set in Europe, they won’t say it comes from China, but it turned out it did, which is very ironic.

But many ex­pats agree that most de­bates about China fo­cus on the food and lo­cal eat­ing habits. Thomas T. Tarpeh from Liberia was bom­barded with ques­tions from his fam­ily and friends like “Do Chi­nese peo­ple eat frogs?” “Can you eat snakes?” and so on.

“Many peo­ple in my home coun­try think China is still an an­cient coun­try. They think ev­ery Chi­nese can do kung fu. My mom once told me ‘Be care­ful on the street in case some­one hits you!’” He gave us a bit­ter smile while talk­ing about this.

De­fend to make a dif­fer­ence

Al­though mis­con­cep­tions ex­ist, many ex­pats are will­ing to ex­plain the real China they see and feel to their fam­ily and friends back home, or to those who don’t know much about the coun­try they are liv­ing in.

Filip Se­bok from Slo­vakia thinks many Western peo­ple are still view­ing China in an old way. “I think [my coun­try­men] just don’t know this coun­try. They only know, for ex­am­ple, Bei­jing and Shang­hai; They only know China is very big and there are many peo­ple. That’s all.”

“So when they ask me about China, I’ll show them pho­tos and tell them my ex­pe­ri­ence here.” Se­bok told Met­ro­pol­i­tan, “China is a very com­pli­cated coun­try. It’s a dy­namic coun­try which changes very quickly, and it’s more mod­ern than my coun­try in many ways. Things are to­tally dif­fer­ent here in just the past five years.”

Sam Sherin from In­dia also agrees. “Every­body [in my coun­try] knows China is a fast-de­vel­op­ing coun­try. Many of my friends told me that if they have the op­por­tu­nity, they will come here, too. In the in­dus­tries like ar­chi­tec­ture and tech­nol­ogy, China is mov­ing faster.”

To sum­ma­rize the rea­son why there are many mis­con­cep­tions about China, Ali Haider from Pak­istan said the two main rea­sons may be “the com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap” and “cul­ture dif­fer­ence.”

“First, be­cause we don’t speak good Chi­nese, so there can be some mis­un­der­stand­ings. Sec­ond, we have dif­fer­ent cul­tures,” Haider said.

Va­lerie Sokolova from Rus­sia was wor­ried about her first trip to China be­cause her fa­ther had told her that Chi­nese peo­ple don’t speak English. But af­ter she came here, she found it was not a problem at all.

“I told my fa­ther that China is great. It’s so clean here, and peo­ple are friendly. On the first day I had many ques­tions, like what should I do and where to go. Many Chi­nese strangers helped me on the street. It was re­ally great!”

Ac­cept­ing these dif­fer­ences and show­ing their coun­try­men the real China are what ex­pats of­ten do nowa­days. Liv­ing in an­other coun­try is al­ways hard, but it also gives them an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent lifestyle and be more tol­er­ant to dif­fer­ences. There is one com­mon belief they share: the more peo­ple know about China, the less mis­con­cep­tions and stereo­types they will hold.

Photo: VCG

Af­ter liv­ing in China for sev­eral years, many ex­pats find them­selves fall­ing in love with their adopted city and coun­try.

Photo: VCG

Many ex­pats share a com­mon belief: the more peo­ple know about China, the less mis­con­cep­tions and stereo­types there will be.

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