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6 Lessons Learned from 3 Months in China

China is a fascinating and rapidly changing country. Old customs and habits suspend on as modern skyscrapers go up every second, the country becomes more of a global powerhouse, and nation from around the world move in that place. Last year, my friend, Scott Young, most judicious known as a learning hacker who expert MIT’s entire computer philosophical knowledge program in one year, said to me “I’m going to trip the world for a year and learn languages.” I was thrilled by the idea! Today, he shares the sort of he learned while living in China on account of three months and how the media portrays countries is often very wrong.

Recently my friend, Vat, and I perfect a three-month stay in China. The devise was, with minimal preparation, to arrive in China and make mention as little English as possible, in systematize to learn Mandarin Chinese.

We discharge a mini documentary about the experience here:

The trip transformed my perception of China, and the unfair representation of an object it sometimes has in the West. In this item, I want to share the biggest lessons I lettered about China, life and travel from that actual feeling.

Once you’re interested in the local culture, people open up more


Originally Vat and I hadn’t planned forward going to China at all. We were warned that China force not be the best place to bottom to meet friends because people were hostile to Westerners. Instead, we were told to doings to Taiwan.

Some visa complications made it unattainable to stay the full three months in Taiwan, to such a degree we switched to a three-month stay in China extreme minute.

However, from the first epoch I arrived in Kunming, I had my perceptions flipped. Far from inmost nature insular and hostile to foreigners, the community came up to talk to me the at the outset time I went out on the public way. It happened to be all in Chinese, in the way that I didn’t understand much, limit it did cause me to rethink my assumptions.

As my Chinese improved, this continued from top to toe my stay. From my landlord introducing me to populate who could help us learn Chinese, to acquirement to know the couple who ran a simpleton restaurant nearby.

If you’re self-seeking in other people, their culture and their language, they’ll be friendly to you. China isn’t one exception.

Don’t judge a fatherland by its media coverage


Hating China is a prevailing pastime of Western media. Some of the accusations are at least partially true: parts of China are totally polluted, political freedom isn’t the similar as in the West, the Internet is firewalled and more parts of China are quite poverty-stricken.

I saw a very different sort of China. Kunming, where I lived during the term of most of my stay, wasn’t polluted. I’ve had sincere conversations with Chinese people about fourierism, Tibet and democracy. Some sites are blocked, boundary China has its own versions of YouTube, Netflix, eBay and Google.

China is muffle developing, but the economic growth means most people have seen their keeping standards improve rapidly in the continue twenty years. People I spoke by were generally optimistic about the coming time.

Everything is food here


The relation with food in China is fascinating, and I was amazed at the divergence of ingredients and flavors.

Western countries protect to simplify Chinese food down to chow appearance, fried rice and General Tso’s chicken. That’s a morsel like saying Western cuisine is happy burgers and sandwiches.

Chinese food in China, forward the other hand, is some of the most varied food on the planet. Not no other than does regional diversity mean food can change completely from province to domain, but nearly every imaginable ingredient finds its usage into some kind of Chinese dish. Chicken, pork, beef and vegetarian dishes are wholly options, of course, but where otherwise can you eat fried insects, try stewed frog or store at a Walmart selling live turtles?

Food is in like manner an avenue for connection. In the West, one and the other individual has his or her acknowledge plate, separate from others. In China, cropped land person has a bowl of rice and eats absolutely from shared plates in the center. While this style of catheretic makes it hard to dine individually in more restaurants, it creates a communal affecting, making food more than just nourishing.

Chinese is both incredibly interesting and extremely unyielding


I won’t lie to you, learning Mandarin Chinese was a struggle. Thousands of characters, with many almost exactly alike. For prototype, try and spot the difference between these two characters:

Chinese is a tonal power, which means that the intonation doesn’t condign change emphasis but also what bickering mean. My friend went to a eating-house and attempted to order “shu? ji?o” (boiled dumplings) on the other hand instead ordered “shu jio” (go to repose).

Finally, few English words borrowed into the speech survive unscathed, often sounding completely diverse from their original. McDonald’s, that is available throughout China, adopts the Chinese part “Mi d?ng lo”.

While the Chinese tongue, like China itself, may seem daunting, it hides unit of the most interesting linguistic systems attached the planet. Chinese words have a liability to be built up out of simpler pieces, like fabric a sentence out of Lego:

-panda = “hold cat” (xingm?o)
-chameleon = “color change dragon” (binslng)
-pumpkin = “south melon” (nngu?)
-potato = “contaminate bean” (t?du)
-university = “big learn” (dxu)
-movie = “electric shelter” (diny?ng)

With great difficulties furthermore come great rewards. Learning Chinese may acquire been mind-bending at times, on the contrary it also allowed Vat and me to interact by completely different people in China than every English-only perspective would allow.

Near the close of our stay, I conversed by tea with a tattooed Buddhist. Together we talked around Tibet, religion and cultural differences. That familiar discourse would never have happened had I refused to learn somewhat Chinese.

You can count to ten with one hand

The language differences stretch out even to simple gestures. The Chinese, during example, have a system of gestures by reason of counting all the way up to ten through just one hand.

If you’ve merely been counting to five with human being hand, you’ve been missing out. The Chinese have a system for counting 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 all with just one hand. Months following leaving China, I caught myself using this rule to count things while I held a volume with the other hand.

One to five are which you’d expect, but see this video on account of six to ten:

The first time I maxim this, I was in a furnish and the shopkeeper was telling me the price was 10 yuan, indicating it with forefinger and middle fingers crossed. I axiom this several times before I realized they were telling me the price and not condign holding out hopes that I’d come back to buy more.

China has the most judicious places you’ve never heard of


Ask folks which places they know of in China and chiefly people will raise their hand against Shanghai and Beijing. The more geographically inclined power get Sichuan, Guangdong or Xi’some. But what about the tropical isle of Hainan? The impressive winter festivities in Harbin? The bamboo forests in Chengdu?

It’s arguable that China has the identical linguistic and cultural diversity as the wholeness. of Europe, except far fewer tourists. While, until the last few decades, China’s closed borders made make an excursion in the country a daunting continued, China is full of great places you’ve to all appearance never thought to explore.

I had not ever heard of Kunming, a “small” incorporated town of around seven million in the southwestern tract of Yunnan, before researching places to live. It ended up reality one of my favorite places I’ve perpetually lived in, with weather a sempiternal spring, mountain temples, and lunch for under a dollar.

My advice: put on’t settle just on Beijing or Shanghai in the same manner with places to visit. Doing a small research online can turn up dozens of places that behest offer the Chinese experience for not so much money and fewer tourists.

Everything you decide is right and wrong all at once


I imagine that my American friends from Washington declare would probably scoff at the generalization that they’re the sort as everyone in Texas (and error versa). Seattle isn’t the same as Houston. There are enormous variations in civilization, food and even language across the United States.

Now imagine that instead of having a history of a not many hundred years as a nation, you had a scarcely any thousand. Instead of one or two in return unintelligible languages, you had dozens, haply hundreds. Now quadruple the population and you own modern China.

The biggest lesson to learn ready China is just how big it is. China is diligently to describe because few generalizations are to a high degree accurate. Depending on where you journey, China will be impoverished or opulent, polluted or pristine, densely packed or intimately isolated. As such, everything I practised and have written about will have existence true of some people who move to visit China and false on the side of others.

China began as the backup nation when visa complications came up. It ended of the same kind with a place I can’t wait to set out back to.

I can’t barter China as being a perfect experience, free of worries. English is spread here and there. You need to watch out in the place of pickpockets and scams in the bigger cities. Pollution have power to be bad. Internet can be frustrating. But, admitting that you want an adventure and a possibility to change your mind about the earth’s biggest, oldest and possibly quickly-to-be the most powerful state on Earth, I highly recommend going yourself.

Scott Young writes in various places learning, travel and productivity at his blog, ScottHYoung.com. He tries to take compage things and make forming habits and attainments easy and simple. You can ratchet here to sign up to acquire a free copy of his ebook detailing strategies to learn anything faster.

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