The survivor’s guide to China
Adrian from Switzerland studied International Business Management with INTO China and blogs about his orientation week.
Two months ago, when I arrived in Dalian, I had no idea what to expect, except for some things I read in the INTO pre-departure guide such as: “expect squat toilets everywhere” and “you may find yourself being stared at by people on the street”. Both things are true by the way.
The first Chinese person who spoke to me when I arrived at the airport was the customs officer. He stared at me and said with a big smile that I was very beautiful. I guess it is always a nice thing to hear, even coming from a fifty year old police officer.
This surprised me a lot; you would never see a stranger calling another stranger beautiful in the Western world – just one example of how different Chinese culture is from ours.
Adapting to China, with help from student services
China is a beautifully chaotic place; nothing seems to have any structure, but it all somehow fits together.
For example, I was terrified of crossing the street the first week I was here, but now I’ve gotten used to it and I just casually stroll between the raging cars and buses.
Arriving here is quite a shocking experience in many aspects, but I’ve realized that the best way to cope with these experiences is to have the right attitude, a lot of patience, and a good sense of humor.
You’ll find that a simple trip to a restaurant or a clothing shop is an adventure.
Don’t worry though, the student support office will be your best tool to get things done. The person in charge of the Global Institute of Management and Economics (GIME) office, Eric, is on call at any time for the craziest requests and he’ll always find a solution for you.
It’s important to always be on his good side, or if you ask him to talk to a hairdresser about cutting your hair you might end up looking like Bruce Willis!
Going beyond culture shock
You will only need to know one word in order to communicate with the locals when you first arrive here: “zhege” (roughly pronounced “jay-guh”), which means “this”.
My roommate and I used to point at things and say “zhege” in every shop or restaurant we went to. However, this elaborate technique did not work when the menus did not have pictures. In that case we would just gamble and choose a random item, which ended in only two possible ways: either the food was surprisingly good, or very “exotic”.
Something you’ll realize is that the Chinese government loves paperwork. No matter what you do (move out, change your phone number, sneeze) I can guarantee there is a form you have to fill and submit to the nearest police station within 24 hours.
Luckily you don’t have to worry too much about keeping track on all these things because student support does it for you -perfect because you can submerge yourself in the culture, instead of drowning in burdensome paperwork and let them take care of it!
What I really liked about GIME is that I felt at home straight away. We are all like a big family here and the student community is very united.
On our very first night here we met Anastasia, a fourth year student, in the hallway of the accommodation building. No sooner had we told her we were freshly arrived in Dalian, she gladly took us Downtown and introduced us to the city.
It was really nice of her; we went to a Japanese restaurant, then to an Irish Pub, then to another bar, and finally she introduced us to Jd’s, the local student nightclub.
All the students and staff here are super friendly and helpful. Never hesitate to talk to them if you need help or advice about anything.
We’re all in this together, so it is normal for us to help each other.
Advice from a ‘local’
Don’t let the culture shock you; shock the culture!
Go out there and be active, try to make the most of your experience here as possible, and more importantly make China your new home, not just some foreign country you’re studying in as an outsider.
If you can survive the heavily restricted internet, the hordes of locals wanting to take pictures with you on the street, and the occasional food poisoning, you’ll do just fine.
Adrian is obviously settling in well as he embarks on his degree! Don’t you think he should give the Bruce Willis haircut a chance next time?
We hope we can catch up with him again, but if you have any stories about living China please share them with us in the comments below.