Moving to a new place is always challenging, especially when that new place is an altogether new country. In a country not known for it’s ethic diversity, you might think it will be very difficult to blend in. However, it won’t take long to find where other foreigners congregate – especially if you are staying in large metropolises, like Shanghai or Beijing. From Christian fellowships to the bar scene, there is likely a place where you’ll fit in. However, it is inevitable, and desirable, that you will find yourself engaging with the local culture.
Being the odd one out
One of our most memorable experiences with having young children in China was going to the Summer Palace in Beijing. We had been in China for a couple of years by this time, so we were used to getting a lot of attention. But this was unlike anything we’d ever experienced. As we were enjoying the tourist attraction, one person came up to see our little baby and then another and then another. And before we knew it, there was a whole crowd surrounding us! We soon realized that we were the tourist attraction!
Especially if you have children, being the center of attention in a foreign land can be frightening. But keep this in mind: many Chinese have never interacted with a foreigner – and especially a foreign child. They aren’t trying to be rude or overstep your personal space. They are just curious about the kind of people they’ve only seen on TV. Still, it’s a good idea to discuss these issues with your children and decide as a family how you will handle such situations. For us, we always encouraged our children to be polite and courteously respond when spoken to, but if they ever felt uncomfortable, we would quickly intervene and remove them from the situation.
The longer you stay in China, the more you will realize that “blending in” is more than skin color and language. Blending in quickly becomes more about being comfortable with your surroundings and having confidence to deal with situations that would be otherwise be scary.