Exactly two weeks from today, my wife, our boy (inside of her!) and I will fly back to Qingdao for our fourth year there. The past several blogs I have written were part of a series entitled Culture Shocks in China. While shocks will inevitably still happen upon return, I would like to take the focus off of that since the upcoming weeks and months to come will be much different from the past four years of my life. With that said, I have enjoyed writing, processing and sharing some of my deepest struggles with you. But the truth is…it’s time to move on.
A couple friends have recently informed me that when living in a place that’s not your own, it’s around the 3-year mark that the most frustrations will happen. The result—either I make or break. I don’t have to envision and force change of this other culture within my ethnocentric self; I can let my heart break from that selfish desire. Because of being daily reminded about this struggle while we’ve been in the US, I took a couple days this week to read several chapters from a book called Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier. I wasn’t up for a whole new book since I just started another really good one, but I wanted to see what content this one held. At least a few caught my eye because of living in China so I thumbed through them.
1. Hot- Versus Cold-Climate Cultures
3. Direct Versus Indirect Communication
4. Individualism Versus Group Identity
8. Different Concepts of Time and Planning
9. Practical Next Steps
Why these chapters? They’re the ones where I have wrestled with the most, especially 3 and 8. What gnaws at me now is what I read on those pages. Stories that are sincerely unfathomable and practical steps that sound like a piece of cake are all being stirred up in my confused mind. But they caused me to remember what one of my friends said, “It’s the fourth through seventh year when the most fruit from your labor can show.” So there is a bright future ahead… Friends are certainly for providing encouragement and challenges.
I hope that is what I have offered you as you have read the accounts covering consequences in a Chinese school to being stared at in public. As memories (good and bad) come and go, I hope you realize that shocks and difficulties can actually work out for the good. In fact, people in this world have more similarities than we know. Some of them just may be deeper. Look for those connections and make them. Seek out the contradictions and understand them. We are never done wherever we are.