Overcoming Culture Shock in China
My mom asked me a little while ago “Ross, how are things REALLY going?”. I think it’s time for me to open up and let everyone in on how I’ve really felt throughout the last 66 days of travelling…
It is true when people ask me how things are going I usually say ‘great’ because the truth is everything is great! How could it not be? I’m healthy, free to pursue my passion and I’m travelling the world with my one true love. Things overall are fantastic, however, I’m not going to lie and say that every day on the road has been filled with unicorns shooting rainbows out of their asses. The adjustment from living in Canada with all the creature comforts you can imagine, a country that’s familiar and comfortable, to living out of a backpack where I’m constantly moving from one bed to another has been challenging for me at times.
Looking back, starting our travels in Japan was smart as it is a relatively easy country to get around and although it is very different from Canada in many ways, the first world benefits can be found virtually everywhere and values like order, cleanliness, and personal space are similar to home. I loved Japan because it reminded me of home in a lot of ways while still being very different at the same time. It wasn’t until later on in our trip that I consciously realized being similar to home was not what I was after on this trip. This isn’t why I’m travelling. Expanding my comfort zone is what the original goal was when we decided to pack up our lives and travel the world.
When we got into Malaysia and then China, I was smacked in the face with a very different reality than the one I am accustomed to back home. A few examples of which were the overwhelming pollution, both in the air as well as noise, constant honking, no pedestrian right of way, people spitting, cutting in front of others in lineups, and littering.
The culture shock hit me hard and instead of going with it, I chose to instead fight it and after fighting it for so long, I was becoming increasingly frustrated and angry. I had lost my funny bone, I was no longer able to laugh things off, and I was beginning to no longer see the good in situations. I’m the son of a law enforcement officer and I guess I’ve always been taught things ought to be black and white, right and wrong. I haven’t left room for any grey areas in my life and I’ve sometimes been too stubborn to adjust my attitude on the right or wrong way of doing things even though I thought I had before I left on this trip.
After having a long talk with my amazing wife in Xi’an, who quite frankly was tired of some of my B.S. (as she should’ve been) I realized I had to make a change. I could not continue travelling the world with the mindset I currently had. I needed to allow things to come as they are, appreciate the beauty in the small things and stop getting angry at different ways of doing things, even if I disagreed. It was time to appreciate life, appreciate the good in every situation I found myself in. It was time to free my mind, find my sense of humour again and start loving travel like I had been in Japan.
When we left Xi’an I felt like a different person. My mind and heart now feel open to new experiences and new ways of doing things. My anger has completely disappeared as I now choose to be happy, go with the flow and appreciate new ways of doing things instead of fighting them.
I now feel freer and happier than I ever had. I’m having fun everyday, I hold no anger, resentment or any other negative emotions towards anyone or anything. It’s allowed me a richer experience travelling, a deeper relationship with Alyse and I truly believe a richer experience living life as well.
Fun nights with strangers like the one below in Ping’an are becoming a reoccurring thing in China and I love it! The people here are amazingly hospitable, friendly, fun and eager to meet and talk to foreigners like Alyse and I. We have put out positive energy into the universe and we are receiving it back and it’s been an absolute joy to meet locals and get to know them and their country on a deeper level.
I have learned more about myself in the last 2 months than I think I ever have and I know that as we continue travelling the world, pushing our comfort zones, meeting new people and experiencing new and exciting places, I’ll become even more at peace with myself and the world as a whole.
So how am I doing now What’s the word for better than great?