Iain Rommel: Chinglish - A Foreigner's Tale from China


It was 5:30pm when I received my baggage and headed towards International Arrivals. I could see the face of the friend who was picking me up from the airport. Great, I am not alone! I could not help but notice that there are a lot of Chinese people in China…I was now part of a visual minority. This was something I had yet to experience.

As we stepped out of the airport, my body was struck with three sensations. The first was the smell, it cannot be described. The second was the thickness of the air. The third took a different form. It was the hands of many local taxi drivers who insisted they could get me to my destination in the cheapest and fastest way possible. They were aggressive and were grabbing at my clothes and bags. The Canadian in me decided to be polite and say, “No. Thank you.” But I was told being polite to strangers in China would get you nowhere. This has been confirmed.

We ended up taking a bus to Jinan University. It took 40 minutes and cost $3.50CAD. Welcome to China. After the ride I bought a case of beer for $2.00CAD, but that is for another blog entry.

 
After my first night at the university, I was invited to spend the weekend at a friend’s house outside of the city, in Panyu District. Her parents do not speak English and we had to navigate social situations in ways that were not verbal.  They cooked three large meals for me each day, as well as showered me with many meaningful and hand made gifts.
 
This happened on many occasions. Within 3 days of returning from Panyu District, I met a man who invited me into his home for dinner and to meet his family. Again, no English and the communication through our smartphones began. I was once again given wonderful gifts, food, and drinks, and felt as though I was truly part of the family in ways that are not expressed in Canada.

I soon began to realize the Chinese people are overwhelmingly kind and honest. They are additionally beautiful in ways that transcend visual beauty. I took off my Western lenses that have been smudged with the pollution of Western media giants. The stereotypes of China began to crumble around me. I urge the readers to turn off the news. Tell BBC you are too busy, tell The Globe and Mail they poison your view, tell The Vancouver Sun that you have had enough of Rob Ford, and lastly tell CBC that actually China is doing much more to protect the environment than what is reported. Uncover the truth for yourself. Enough with the judgment.
 
We all share this planet. We are all the same. We all want the same things out of life; happiness, peace, satisfaction, love, relationships, purpose. Yet we chase these desires in such radically different ways. But deep down, we are all the same and there is a beauty in that that you can only experience from the opportunity we have been given as exchange students.

What do the kids say? Carpe Diem?
 
Iain is a third year Bachelor of Business Administration student with a focus on international business.  He is currently studying abroad at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China. 
 

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