-It can be subtle and hard to even recognize for what it is.
Culture Shock and Adaptation
originally posted December 11, 2010
When I first came to China, I spent a lot of time searching for a
dish rack. You know the kind of thing EVERYBODY has in Canada to
stack dishes in after they are washed. Nobody in China seems to
use them, and they aren't in any of the supermarkets. While I
continued to search for this familiar item, and even considered bringing
one from home, I had to wash dishes of course. So I started
stacking the dishes beside the sink on the counter, on a clean towel.
Gradually it dawned on me that I will never use a dish rack again.
The towel system has advantages - it is infinitely expandable, easy to
put away, and takes up no space while not in use. How did we ever
get hooked on dish racks?
The dish rack is unavailable here, but the clean towel is better
Culture shock comes at us in very small ways, almost unnoticed. We
just find ourselves unable to do something the same way we did it back
home, and feel irritated. It's no big deal, but that is culture
shock. Once I adapt, I sometimes find that life has actually
Our kitchen is a case in point. It's tiny, and
has only a hotplate, a small electric oven that Ruth purchased so she
could bake brownies, and a microwave. If a forty pound turkey
would fit in the oven, which it won't, I'm sure I could turn out a full
Christmas dinner with all the trimmings with these basic appliances.
Kitchens and stoves as we know then in Canada are definitely overkill.
Our kitchen also does not have hot water. We carry two basins of
hot water from the bathroom each time we wash dishes. One basin
loads a sink for washing, and the other sits in the sink for rinsing.
Ruth and I take turns cooking dinner, and the person who didn't cook
washes the dishes. The person who did cook helps set up for
washing, and brings the hot water. Hot water in the kitchen would
be more convenient, but we've adapted. Again, no big deal.
Culture Shock Again?
originally posted April 30, 2010
Before I came to China, I thought I was immune to culture shock.
Culture shock is only for the squeamish. I was ready to eat bugs,
or see live chickens dispatched in the market. No problem.
But since then I've come to appreciate that culture shock can be much
more subtle than the truly shocking. Culture shock is happening
anytime I'm thinking: What is wrong with these people?
evening this week
attended a concert on campus. Delightful music played on two
pianos, with a string quartet playing Pachelbel's Canon,
one of our favorite pieces, thrown in for variety. But all through
the performance, people in the audience were talking. Not in
whispers, but in a normal voice, like they were listening to a CD in
their kitchen. For me it was like listening to a radio tuned
between stations, or like that old Simon and Garfunkel version of
"Silent Night" with the world news broadcast mixed in for irony. I
found myself getting angry. What is wrong with these people?
But that's the wrong question. The question is, what's wrong with
me? This is their country, and their culture. None of the
Chinese in the audience seemed the least bit concerned. Most were
having their own conversations at times. If they take a much more
casual approach to music concerts than is the norm in my uptight
culture, who am I to be critical, or to try to correct them.
The audience called for an encore, and it was great to
hear Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" played as a duet in China. I
need to adjust my attitude. Again.
Comment on this Post
First time comments will not appear until they have been approved.
Your comment will not appear until you have refreshed this page.
The Man in China archive index
Incredible Summer of 2010 Wedding and Honeymoon
The Man in China Home