Culture Shock and Awe文化冲击
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.'