Student - 18 september 2014

Blog: Back in China

Na twee jaar studie, een jaar studentenraad en een zoekjaar in Nederland is Derek terug in China. Met zijn Wageningse diploma op zak vond hij een baan in Beijing, en blogt hij weer voor Resource.

Wow, it feels a bit weird to come back and blog again. In the Season Two of Pan in Neverland, I will first share my expenditure of reverse culture chock in Beijing.

I must admit that I’m a bit westernized after the 4-year stay in the Netherlands. This has brought me a few unexpected troubles since I moved to Beijing to work. The first challenge I encountered was to adjust my way of greeting.

On my way to the bus-stop after work I pass through an underground tunnel, full of vendors selling everything from smartphone accessories to fruit. ‘Hey lad, do you want watermelon? 80 cent per kilo!’ I didn’t want any, but I said the Chinese equivalent of ‘fijn weekend’ to him. ‘Wanna buy watermelon?’ He asked, which meant he didn’t get my Chinese. ‘No, I just wish you a happy weekend,’ I said. ‘If you don’t want watermelon, don’t talk crap!’ He said. ‘Sorry! Anyway, fijn weekend,’ I flashed him a grin.

‘It’s so jammer that selling watermelon is the only thing matters to him,’ I thought. But after a few weeks in Beijing l began to think maybe I deserved that cold shoulder: I’m just too Dutch. I notice those greetings like ‘goede morgen’ or ‘fijne avond’ are a strangers courtesy to my colleagues. Every Friday my ‘fijn weekend’ just falls on deaf ears; they look confused, and seem to wonder if I am even speaking Chinese.

This phenomenon seems apply to Chinese supermarkets as well. The cashier and the customer hardly say ‘hallo’ to each other, let alone the consequent ‘bedankt en tot ziens’ or ‘fijne avond’. I feel like an outsider as I keep saying ‘hello’, ‘thanks’ and ‘goodbye’ without any acknowledgement.

The only exception happened two weeks ago, which was the last workday before the Mid-autumn Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday. Everyone at the office said ‘Happy Mid-autumn Festival!’ to each other before leaving. Although it had nothing to do with my perseverance in saying ‘fijn weekend’, I was so touched because, for the first time, I could go home with others’ blessings after a long workweek.


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