First Impressions: Beijing Culture Shock
July 5, 2012
Although traveling to China is not a new occurrence for me, each subsequent visit has welcomed me with interesting and different forms of Beijing culture shock. The first time I visited Beijing, I came on a whim. It all began three summers ago. An e-flyer for a study abroad program had slithered its way through my junk filter and into my inbox. The program caught my eye and before I knew it I was aboard a plane to PEK International.
My first tour of Beijing was keenly similar to the experiences of many other Western travelers; more specifically, my limited exposure to different food and exotic language. I, for one, found the food to be wonderful and intriguing. I feel that the food here in China can be compared to a collage in the sense that the beautiful minute details of each individual ingredient come together to create a spectacular palette of flavor. One dish that comes to mind is Szechuan Chicken. What starts as a simple piece of meat is soon combined with a variety of spices to create an explosion of flavor. As if the food wasn’t, in and of itself, spectacular, the language proved to be particularly striking as well. However, it wasn’t until much later that I would learn more about the language. I had enjoyed my first trip greatly, and before I knew it, my experience had come to an end. Regardless, it wasn’t long before I could enjoy the seemingly out of this world language and the unusual, yet delightful, food again.
Just as soon as my first journey to China had ended, I found myself on another metal bird en route to PEK International. For my second time around the block, I decided to take language classes at a University commonly referred to as Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). Located in Wu Dao Kou, I decided to step a bit outside of the mold and attempt to enlighten my feeble mind. Although I had become accustomed to the food and language, my second trip was equally enlightening as the first. As I thought my first trip had granted me immunity to Beijing culture shock, I soon found out that, in reality, I had just opened the door to a whole new world.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~Henry David Thoreau