“So how’s living in China?” my friends from back home in Europe often ask me. And with every question I always find myself reeling with a simple, let alone accurate answer.
Words like “crazy,” “insane” or “different” always seemed to come to mind as I tried my best to tactfully muster.
It comes naturally from a sense of humility, I hope. That’s the sense anyone who spends time in China quickly realizes. The truth is you can only hope to get an understanding of a very limited part; your view of China is consequently determined by who you are, and mostly where you happen to be focused at that given moment.
I decided early on that the only honest way I could write about this country was by setting aside these generalizations, about how ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ China is, how ‘different’ Chinese people are from ‘us’ or what Chinese people are experiencing.
My mother who is of Chinese descent – it is an inherent ethnical subconscious decision. For years having lived and raised in the Western world from a mixed cultural background, where the Westerner’s often-privileged guide to talking about the ‘rest of the world,’ includes all-purpose labels like ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ as an unquestionable given to bring comfort and order to an otherwise overwhelming world.
And then it’s a career-led decision, because on some level, I do believe that China – whether in politics, in economics or in society – has become increasingly important in a way that it has never been in the past. So if we want to understand the country, we first have to understand what it means to be a Chinese individual.
I often find myself wishing for shutter shot camera-like eyes to effectively capture my surroundings and happenings here before they slip away.
Until technology catches up to this fantastical dream, I will instead try to write about the individual moments and encounters, and try to dignify them with the meaning they deserve.
Living in China at this moment, the stories bombard you with such fantastical vividness that you can’t help but write them down and hope to make sense of them later.
So if I had to how would I sum up living in China?
“You need to come here for yourself and see.”