Culture shock in Nanjing

19 Jul

Since my mother has arrived, we have had quite the mixed bag of experiences. It has been very interesting for me to see China through my mom’s (newcomer) eyes. Things that we have gotten used to and don’t even notice anymore surprise her and remind me of how strange I felt when we first move here. For example, as we were walking to the subway on the first day, a guy in a shop loudly calls out, “Hello!” and I greeted him back, without thinking. My mom said, “Do you know him?” I laughed and explained to her that I didn’t but that Chinese people like to say “Hello” (always “hello”, never “hi”) to foreigners and that I learned to just say “Hello” back.

Strangers posing with my family

Another amusing thing was her seeing how the Chinese always want to take my kids’ pictures with their kids, particularly when visiting touristic areas. On Saturday, we took advantage of the lack of rain to visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s mausoleum on Zhong Shan Lin. Several times, parents approached my kids and I to ask permission to take their picture. My kids are really tired of this and never want to do it anymore, which is what we tell people but somehow they just can’t take “no” for an answer. Usually we just walk away but my mom, not knowing this would happen over and over at first encouraged Roya to take the picture so she reluctantly did. My mom also took the picture and said how Roya’s face had this unnatural forced smile on it.

Strangers taking pictures of my family

One time was particularly amusing. There was a family with two girls walking near us for a good ways but never asked for a picture (no doubt seeing our reaction to others). Then, as I was taking a picture of my mom and the kids, they went to stand behind them and their parents took their picture. My mother started laughing, and then laughing hysterically as others also started taking pictures of them. Unfortunately, you can’t see her laughter as her face is covered up by one of the picture takers because its hilarious when she starts laughing like this. Even after they got up, the two young women continued to take their picture.

Still taking pictures…

Another family was with standing in front of me in the line-up for the tourist trolley from the subway and I asked them about the trolley prices. Later as we got off, I asked them the name of the place we had left so I would know how to ask to get back there later (we never went on the trolley before as we had always biked to the mountain). They then suggested we walk up to the mausoleum together. I said that was not necessary but they were very careful to keep pace with us and we talked with them from time to time. When I mentioned that my kids didn’t like strangers taking pictures of them they just said we can refuse but I explained that that was rather difficult at times. At one point I asked them to take a picture of us and they took a really great one.

Later we went to walk on the Nanjing wall near Xuanwu Lake. Unfortunately, visibility was at an all time low so my mother was not as impressed as I think she would have been had it been clearer. The day was overall a success though as it was our first long outing with the kids and they walked all day with little complaining so it showed that they will do very well on our trip.

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One Response to “Culture shock in Nanjing”

  1. mudspice July 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    That is sooooo hilarious!

    I remember when we were in Taiwan it was exactly the same. Olee was one year old and he would smile and coo and babble they just loved it! Especially because he was so blond.

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