Going to China for a week will change you. When you’ve been born and raised in North America and all you know about China is from a textbook, on TV, on the internet, and from your friends and acquaintances, you MUST experience it for yourself. Even if you’re from Canada, a country that is more ‘open’ and ‘melting pot’ than others, China is a very different place. You must smell the air, breathe it in, taste the food, look at the people in their faces.
I admit, I kick myself even today for not learning Mandarin in school. If I could go back and do it over again, I totally would in a heartbeat. Instead, I took Advanced Placement French, and ask me how far that has gotten me.
China is a great place. Sure, the living conditions are harsh, the streets are dirty, the people don’t have a concept of personal space, the driving is insane, and the pollution in the air and water are more than evident, but you must know why this is. For the people of China, progress comes at a cost, a large opportunity cost. One step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back, that’s how it goes there. I was attending a trade show where they were showing off the world’s best stone slabs, great sculptures and works of art, and factories that can produce products faster and more efficiently than you could ever imagine. And not thirty feet outside of the exhibition hall, there is truckloads and truckloads of waste, garbage, broken pallets, and wastage. Progress, at a cost.
I now know why people in Canada spit on the streets, don’t respect personal space, don’t respect lineups and queues, drive like crazy mad people, chew with their mouths open, pick their teeth at the table, and only buy things in brand new condition.
I will grow to appreciate the customs, heritage, protocol, and tradition that China has to offer. It is certainly a challenge on it’s own just trying to figure out who to toast and when to drink at the dinner table.
That will come as a result of progress.