After what seemed like a lifetime on the plane, we have finally arrived in China. Having embarked on this trip with few expectations (and even less Mandarin) nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock of arriving in this completely alien land. The only insight I had was a story from a friend, about how a lady had mistaken her for chocolate from her dark skin, and proceeded to start licking her in the street. Writes Jessica Cooper and Lisa Hippolyte…
Upon queuing up for the passport control, I received many stares of intrigue and saw people whispering amongst themselves. Initially thinking I had something on my face – a spot of drool from sleeping on the plane maybe – I realised that the locals were unfamiliar with western visitors. This was such a foreign concept to me – I’m used to walking through the multi-cultural streets of Coventry without a thought to where the person beside me originated. I’m more concerned about where they bought their outfit than looking at their face.
Riding in the coach to the university we received many more stares, something we soon got used to. The experience gave me an insight into what Hollywood stars must feel like. We arrived at Zhejiang University of Media and Communications (ZUMC) to a warm welcome and a meal prepared. With chopsticks at the ready, I was worried about how on earth I would be able to pick up the rice, but within a few minutes it started to feel semi-natural. My friend seemed confused by the use of chopsticks, thinking that they were just used for special occasions. Within the first few hours we had learnt so much. But clearly we were going to learn so much more.
When meeting the students, they were incredibly welcoming and friendly; sadly something I don’t think the students in England would reciprocate. Already realising the good nature of the students, we talked more and compared our lives, the similar and not so similar. One realisation was how damn lazy we are, having roughly 6 hours a week of class compared to the 20 hours that they have. Living in mandatory shared accommodation with single-gender dorms was a big shock to me; comparing this to our first year of halls where we each owned our own bathroom and room, it seemed like something from another world. By contrast, in England mixing between the genders would be actively encouraged.
Having already displayed their excellent work ethic, it seemed the Chinese students had little time for pleasure and the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ seemed apt as they had to be in their rooms by 10pm each night. If they failed to do so they would be locked out, and to the English students this seemed extreme in comparison to our typical English booze-ridden nights out. The Chinese seem to drink alcohol rarely, and karaoke nights are far more popular than clubbing.
When looking at their campus, it was overwhelmingly beautiful yet meticulously planned. All of the space had been made use of, taking into account both practicality and aesthetics. Taking in all that I had seen, I started putting myself in the ZUMC students’ shoes – which scared me a little, being used to such a slothful lifestyle. However, I could see so many benefits from their standard of living; good morals, clean streets, beautiful surroundings, high levels of commitment and overall high standard of work. These factors can definitely explain the hype the Chinese are receiving in the business world, and its no surprise they are becoming the new world super power.