Cul­ture Shock and Awe文化冲击

That's China - - Contents - Text by / Wil­liam Gray

Barely Scratch­ing the Sur­face Then, I would boldly wa­ger, you're still in your hon­ey­moon pe­riod too. Did that sound some­what harsh? In the words of late, great com­edy ge­nius Bill Hicks, 'I don't mean to sound bit­ter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out.'

It was 6.30am. The in­ter­mit­tent sound of a rooster crow­ing from 4am on­wards com­bined with reg­u­lar bursts of the loud­est fire­works I'd ever heard - all in con­junc­tion with my wife's ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers gab­bing to each other in the fore­ground as they went about their early morn­ing chores - made try­ing to sleep point­less. If I'd been sur­rounded by 100 peo­ple singing Old MacDon­ald

Had a Farm whilst at the same time trapped in a war zone, it would have been eas­ier to shake off my jet­lag than it was in this par­tic­u­lar set­ting. I fig­ured I might as well em­brace the sit­u­a­tion and eat break­fast. There didn't seem to any pain au choco­lat in this part of ru­ral China so I sucked up the luke­warm rice por­ridge on of­fer. Just as I was forc­ing the last of it down, I heard a com­mo­tion in the court­yard.

Rub­bing my eyes, I de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate. Whilst the ini­tial rub­bing of eyes was due to tired­ness, very quickly this ac­tion was rooted more in dis­be­lief. Next to a ta­ble con­tain­ing an ar­ray of items, the most no­tice­able be­ing a pig's head, my wife's grand­fa­ther stood chant­ing, eyes to the skies. He was calm­ness per­son­i­fied, form­ing a stark con­trast with the cousins and un­cles duck­ing, dodg­ing and dart­ing around him, busily light­ing in­dus­trial strength fire­crack­ers. Dum­founded, I asked my wife, "What's your grandpa do­ing?". "Yeye is mak­ing an of­fer­ing to the god of for­tune," she replied, be­fore adding, "It's com­mon prac­tice in this area dur­ing Chi­nese New Year." I re­mem­ber as a child wit­ness­ing drunken adults link­ing arms and pranc­ing around to Auld Lang Syne to wel­come in the New Year. It seemed pos­i­tively rau­cous at the time but since liv­ing in China, Western cel­e­bra­tions seem rather tame in ret­ro­spect.

When I ar­rived here, that ev­ery­thing was so dif­fer­ent was very ap­peal­ing. They say 'va­ri­ety is the spice of life' and that 'a change is as good as a rest'. Well, I don't know who 'they' are but who­ever they may be, they, for me, were ab­so­lutely right. Be­ing in a new coun­try af­forded me a new a lease of life. Just step­ping out­side seemed ex­cit­ing in it­self. There was so much to see and do right there on my doorstep. Cul­ture shock is the feel­ing of dis­ori­en­ta­tion on en­coun­ter­ing a new en­vi­ron­ment, re­moved from one's com­fort zone.

Dur­ing my early days in China, if I felt dis­ori­en­tated it was in a good way. I was drink­ing in the sur­round­ings and catch­ing a buzz, be­com­ing cheer­ily tipsy in the process (both metaphor­i­cally and lit­er­ally where

bai­jiu was in­volved). Read­ers who are fa­mil­iar with the main four phases of cul­ture shock may have cor­rectly di­ag­nosed at this point that China and I were in our 'hon­ey­moon phase'. Read­ers who have only been in China a short amount of time and are read­ing this sat in Star­bucks, hav­ing just re­quested the most 'Chi­nese' choice they could find on the menu whilst at­tempt­ing to use a Man­darin phrase­book to place the or­der, beam­ing va­cantly at nd the un­for­tu­nate in­di­vid­ual un­lucky enough to be serv­ing them, de­spite the fact they were al­ready speak­ing English be­fore you be­gan ri­fling through your bag for ab­so­lutely ages try­ing to find the afore­men­tioned phrase­book, de­spite the op­tions all be­ing writ­ten in English be­hind the counter any­way, then, I would boldly wa­ger, you're still in your hon­ey­moon pe­riod too. Did that sound some­what harsh? In the words of late, great com­edy ge­nius Bill Hicks, 'I don't mean to sound bit­ter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out.'

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