Dear my lovely readers,
Alas, another academic year had come and gone and, as every seems to be the case when every journey ends, I cannot help but feel nostalgic for this time last year when I was packing up my suitcase in a flurry, trying to predict some of the amazing adventures that have happened. All the memories, experiences, knowledge and friends that I have gained over this past year have honestly and truly made me feel like the luckiest person on the planet!
So, today, I have decided to do my last post for the academic year on some of the interesting cultural (and foody) things that I learnt whilst I was away!
Chinese culture and history are such big topics that I am struggling to find the words to express just how different it is from Europe. And even within China, things are entirely different from each other! During my time in China, I managed to visit Beijing and Guangzhou and my are they different! It’s not only that they speak different dialects – in Beijing, people use mandarin for everything, whereas in Guangzhou, although they can speak mandarin, most people tend to use cantonese when communicating to friends/family/for general day-to-day activities, no it is more than that.
From weather (Beijing is roughly just a more extreme version of the UK – fairly dry heat in summer and snowy in Winter, whereas Guangzhou is part of the tropics, therefore making it a lot hotter and generally more humid all year round!) to food (in Beijing they are famous for their Peking duck, whilst in Guangzhou, they are renowned for their dimsum – both amazing tasty dishes!)
And speaking of food, WOW was it amazing! I have only been back in the UK for two weeks now and have already managed to sneak away to Chinese restaurants three or four times! Food in China tends to be quite an important thing. The main centre point of the Chinese New Year would be families gathering from all over the country to come together and eat, friends will oftentimes invite other friends out for a meal to show respect or gratitude and colleagues will generally go out to discuss their meetings at fancy restaurants, rather than at offices. Food and eating is quite central to their culture in a lot of ways that it is not in the UK, and the cultural differences during eating could not be more clear! For starters, whilst I usually eat with a knife and fork in the UK, Chinese people tend to prefer chopsticks for most meals, and maybe a spoon for rice.
Not only that, but group meals in China tend to be more of a shared experience, with usually a group ordering a few big dishes together and then sharing them over rice, whereas in the UK, people tend to order separately.
In terms of types of dishes, there is just SO MUCH! I tried to have new food every day and in all honesty I still don’t think I managed to try even a fraction of the amount available in China! This isn’t helped by the fact that Chinese dishes vary a LOT depending on whereabouts in China you go (Generally there is a saying that ‘South is sweet, North is salty, East is spicy, and West is sour’) and each province has their own speciality dishes! Overall however, I managed to get a lot of duck, beef, pork, chicken, noodles, prawns, rice, dumplings, buns, egg and various types of Chinese vegetables
none of which I can remember the names of.
So, as you can probably tell, I really enjoyed the cuisine aspect of living abroad 😉
Aside from that, it was just a totally eye opening experience. China is so fully of beautiful landscapes and scenery and architecture. It is very very very different to life in the West, and in some ways, that can be strange to adjust to at first. However for me, this is a good thing. Different cultures, languages, histories and lifestyles give the world colour! It can occasionally be a little frustrating to deal with perhaps, when you are used to a certain way of doing things, however I feel that it is very important to say that no one culture is right or wrong. They are just different. And with that in mind, I intend to discover as much as I can about as many different lifestyles and other countries as I possibly can, because for me, acceptance and understanding of other people is the most important thing one can possibly learn in a lifetime.
And so, that is it from me for today. To those of you who are about to set off for summer, I wish you an amazing and undoubtedly well deserved break! If any of you are planning on travelling, please do let me know where you are going and how you found it so that I may add it to my ever growing list of countries to visit 🙂 Other than that, I hope you enjoyed reading about my travels whilst on my Year Abroad and see you all really soon 🙂