xi's moments
Home | My China story

The beauty of cultural diversity!

By Kigen Morumbasi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2012-08-06 16:13

China Daily website is inviting foreigner readers to share your China Story! and here are some points that we hope will help contributors:

China indeed is a land full of amazement! As fate would have it, my decision to pursue my studies in this country has not only changed the opinion I had about China but also helped shape my entire paradigm of thought. I previously envisioned a country where the buildings were of typical Chinese architecture and with bicycles all over the streets. Rather than anxiety, I actually had lots of excitement due to the mystical illusion I had about the country that is home to a very rich culture, has a long historical background. Despite the perceived language barrier and cultural differences, I was looking forward to having a lifetime experience in China, which is home to the largest population in the world and is making headlines as a country on the rise in the global sphere.

My initial arrival gave me a firsthand experience of what it feels like to be a foreigner in a country whose language I could not decipher. My first real encounter was with a university employee who had been sent to meet me at the airport. The only thing that was familiar to me as I walked out of the airport was my name scribbled on the placard he stretched out above his head. Though relieved that there was someone to meet me, fears were finally confirmed: he could not speak a word in English! The words he spoke sounded like nothing I had ever heard before and all I could do was to respond in English, which he could not understand. A silent ride is all that followed with our departure from the airport into the heart of Changchun. That marked the beginning of my new journey into life's experience and self development.

Kigen is a Ph.D candidate at the Institute of International Studies (IIS), Jilin University, in Changchun. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

The long silent drive from the airport to my destination gave me a quick orientation into the world of Chinese characters, as I would later refer to them as Hanzi, mandarin. Road signs, building names, advertisements, and everything around me looked nothing more than artistic drawings and I wondered to myself how on earth the symbols could make up a word, let alone a sentence! The first surprise however was that the buildings were of modern architectural designs, bicycles not as many on the streets, and clothing style more western than the elegant indigenous silk garments I had envisioned.

Funny as it may seem, my first meal happened to be at McDonald's. I was taken there the first time I arrived at the foreign students living building at my university. This was indeed beyond my expectations (I only imagined getting noodles) but it made me feel better knowing there were some familiar fast food outlets. I also became self conscious of the curious stares I got while strolling around, trying to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. At that time, which is four years back, there were not as many foreigners within the vicinity hence the mystic expressions I could see on the faces of some of the people I encountered. Looking back now, I must say that there has been some change.

As days turned into months and I got accustomed to basic communication skills, which gave me a better sense of comfort as I began having a number of Chinese friends. However, winter proved to be more extreme than I could ever have imagined. Northeast China is known to experience extreme temperatures that get as low as -30C, which sounded more like fiction before I actually experienced it. My fingers and nose can actually bear witness to the extremely low winter temperatures.

Having been in China for four years now, I am greatly amazed by the rate at which the country is developing. Within months, new structures emerge, bridges are constructed, and the transport infrastructure rises to new heights. A ride on the Shanghai maglev train gave me an experience worth remembering. Being the first commercial magnetic levitation train globally, I experienced speeds of up to 431km/h (268mph), a tangible evidence of the technological advancement of the transport system. Besides this, the skyscrapers within the city really impressed me and made me appreciate the beauty and development of the city. The modern buildings were a total contrast to my past belief that ancient Chinese architectural designs dominated the surroundings. Besides the major cities, smaller cities are also getting into the wave as there are new buildings mushrooming each day in almost every corner. Despite the beauty, I really hoped to see more of the Chinese architectural designs being incorporated into the new structures being constructed. This would give a unique sense of elegance and authenticity.

Before my experience in China, I would never have imagined the presence of Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, KFC, or Pizza hut. It provides the opportunity to indulge in western delicacies among the various types of Chinese food. It really interested me to find that these fast foods have really become a favorite especially among the younger generation of Chinese people. Moreover, it worries me a little to see how the so called post-90 generation embraces western culture while abandoning the rich and Chinese culture. I personally tend to admire the unique design of Chinese clothing.

Looking back at my experience so far, I’m really impressed by the fact that I can now make sense out of the Chinese characters that previously looked like complex artistic impressions. The language itself is both complex and interesting at the same time. My gradual grasp of the characters has showed me that every complex situation or object in life has an element of simplicity in it. It all depends on how much we put an effort in understanding the basics, which facilitate the breakdown of seemingly complex structures into simpler forms. I found out that this trick, which enhances the Chinese language learning process, is also applicable to complex life situations. A simple illustration of this is the relative ease in which we now eat rice with chopsticks, something that I once perceived to be a great task, yet simple once given a try.

My experience in China has indeed been an eye opener. I came to admire the hard work and discipline being exercised by the citizens. It has also given me the true feeling of globalization as I have come to meet different people from different countries, each with their own culture yet sharing the same purpose of self improvement and development. This has taught me that culture is gradually becoming insignificant as people put aside cultural differences and co-exist in harmony. China, which is a country of great cultural diversity, is home to numerous attractions and is gradually rising as an influential actor in the international setting. I have come to appreciate cultural diversity and realize that different cultures can indeed co-exist through appreciating the beauty of diversity. The thoughts and attitudes we nurture in our mind determine the quality of life’s experiences that come our way!

Kigen is a Ph.D candidate at the Institute of International Studies (IIS), Jilin University, in Changchun. Besides pursuing his major in International Relations, he also focuses his attention on learning the Chinese language due to his keen interest. He believes that the ties between China and Kenya are getting significantly close and cooperation is evident in many sectors such as the media, infrastructure, as well as in international affairs.

[Please click here to read more My China stories. You are welcome to share your China stories with China Daily website readers. The authors will be paid 200 yuan ($30). Please send your story to mychinastory@chinadaily.com.cn.] 


Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349