So I’ve had some very cool moments in the last two weeks. And I’m a little sad. Not because of homesickness. Quite to the contrary actually. I’m a little sad because I like it here so much, that I start thinking seriously about staying here. Not that I can say now if I would even do this – especially because it would be too early to decide this – but tossing around options in my head and so on is a little shocking for me, because I was very sure that I would stay for half a year and not longer – period. So what changed? Basically nothing. I think I’m just more aware of some things.
One thing I noticed is how much I like the feeling I get when I think about just how small I am compared to the mass of people living in China. To imagine the geographic dimensions of this country is breathtaking. I’m a little unsure if Germany will feel too small for me if I go back. I mean the biggest city in Germany has around one tenth of the population Shanghai has. I also like this feeling of an inherent roughness, the air pollution, this dystopian feeling I get here sometimes. Which I find very strange because I love nature, tranquility and so on. But it has some kind of aesthetic to it, which I feel very strongly.
Another thing which I like stems from me being a foreigner. On my hiking trip this weekend I could experience a very different perspective on Chinese people, culture and life. I was the only foreigner in my group, which I think gave me this possibility. The warmth, with which the locals receive visitors, is touching. But also apart from that – I got to know some very different behavior than I see in the university. Mainly because the context of meeting is less formal and also because the education in China is very asymmetrical between cities and the countryside. For me as a European it seems sometimes as if Chinese people just don’t give a shit about their surroundings, which just seems this way because the culturally different forms of mannerisms. But I like that somehow. I don’t know why I’m not engrossed when somebody spits out in a restaurant directly beside my table while I’m eating. But if something like this happens, it just makes me happy in a way. Additionally I wouldn’t get offended if they criticize me for being vegan or making some politically difficult remark.
As I thought about that one thing became apparent – if Germans would behave the same way in Germany I wouldn’t like it at all. I’m just as “forgiving” because my reality of life and my upbringing differs so greatly from theirs that I can’t identify with Chinese people at all in some regards. I can be very angry about politics in Germany, because I’m very critical. In China they can do whatever they want – it just doesn’t concern me at all. And I don’t feel like I’m in a place to preach or demand some European “values”. Mainly because I only have the possibility to bitch about something like that, because the countries, of the continent where I come from, have shaped the world through imperialism, destabilizing or destroying other cultures in that process or as a result of that process. I think each culture has to develop own values, which is very difficult considering the cross-dependency of the modern, globalized world. Especially in the case of China which discarded much of it’s ancient culture in the cultural revolution and with the import of western capitalism, which I think is also at least partially due to the weakened national identity and trauma as a result of the Opium War, Unequal Treaties and being a colony. I also think it’s a complex issue because I can’t say that every human rights violation is OK because each country has to find its own way. But as I said I’m not seeing myself in a position where I can demand “my/our/whatever” European values with a pure conscience. So even in China I’m mostly annoyed by other Germans, which is a lot less than in Germany because – surprise!!! – here aren’t as that many Germans. This fact alone makes my everyday life so much more relaxed and it’s one of the reasons why I like it here so much. I can accept my surroundings better, because as a foreigner (whom isn’t discriminated against – thank you white privilege), it’s easier for me to find the required distance.
While writing my last post I thought that my catchphrase maybe isn’t appropriate anymore for this one. But considering my very recent and sudden change of mind about how long to stay in China I think not writing it would be weird because apparently what happens with me, my thoughts and so on is very unsure. So let’s see what happens next :p
P.s.: I have learned a very cool word, which is fadai – you can use it to describe a trance-like state in which you’re in if you’re staring out of the car window while driving on the highway – thinking much and nothing at the same time.