When you pack your bags and you are ready to set off, your heart is surely filled with joy and expectations: travel has started. Traveling has been considered by many people as one of the things that make people happy, because when you travel, a new world awaits you every day and you will meet a lot of new things: appreciate a foreign country’s music and dance, enjoy a constantly changing scenery and landscape, visit places of historic interest and scenic spots, meet various sorts and varieties of new friends, and so on – this is certainly a lifestyle that one can look forward to.
I vividly remember 1st Sept. 2012, the day we set out from Nigeria to China. From the day we received our admission notices till the day we stepped into the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos-Nigeria, our hearts were filled with indescribable happiness and expectations. It was one of those periods where you wished you had some control over time to make it run faster. It was real. We were going abroad, to study. It was a dream come true. The thought of what lay ahead didn’t discourage or dampen our spirits, rather, it filled us with zeal and a longing to seize whatever opportunity that presents itself in the course of our adventure.
We came to the beautiful city of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, Southern China at night after enduring a grueling 16-18 hours flight. It was my first time to take a plane. The sight that greeted us upon landing was beautiful and simply overwhelming. Streets adorned with brightly colored lights, skyscrapers towering high above as if competing with each other for attention. It was too good to be true.
Fast forward to 2015, almost three years of living in China, I have acquired some knowledge about the culture, cultivated meaningful relationships with people from different backgrounds and already adapted to the life here.
However, like someone rightly said, “there are two sides to everything”. Living in a foreign land can be intriguing and challenging. The first challenge we had was the food. The food really required some getting used to. It wasn’t easy. I still remember how difficult it was eating at the school cafeteria for the first time with so many people staring at us. We were lucky enough to have studied some Chinese language in Nigeria, and thus, were able to overcome one of the greatest difficulties foreigners experience here – language barrier – since only a handful of Chinese people could speak English. With our language ability, it was easy to associate and interact with the locals who always find it interesting that a ‘laowai’ (Chinese term for a foreigner) could speak Chinese language. I would like to break down my experiences in China into questions – questions which some people might consider ignorant and insulting, but all I am trying to do is throw some light on what to expect when you come visiting.
The questions outlined below are the most common any African (or blacks in general) will have to answer frequently in China.
Where are you from?
This is the most common question. The average Chinese person doesn’t ask your name. A ‘hello’ from you is immediately followed by a ‘where are you from’ reply. This, however, does not necessarily mean they are interested in your country. I recall a story my Russian friend once told me. She was on a bus and a Chinese lady was sitting close to her. After a while the lady asked the girl where she was from and the girl said she was from Russia, the lady then asked, “Is it in America?”
Are you from Africa?
Of course if you are black then you must be from Africa. If not Africa, then you are from America. Chinese think black people only come from these two countries. (NOTE: I said country). A lot of Chinese think Africa is a country, with South Africa as the capital. Hilarious!
Why are you so black?
Do you drink a lot of coca cola? Do you play basketball? Do you run very fast? Wow! You are so strong! Many locals here, including my classmates, have all told me I looked like Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and even Kobe Bryant.
Do you have rice in your country? Do you eat noodles in Africa? Do you eat Bread?
The list goes on and on. Nevertheless, the Chinese are very nice, humble and kindhearted people. In fact, the advantages of living in China far outweigh the demerits. In China you can be almost anything you want, even without prior experience or formal training. Some of the best avenues for making money includes but not limited to teaching English, business, entertainment (modeling, music) and also sports. Most times, I think if I am ever to go broke in China, I’d simply become a street performer.
Generally speaking, traveling requires a very strong adaptive ability, a very rational mind and an ordinary heart – this is the only way one can derive joy from traveling. Besides, since you have already chosen a travel destination, it is wise to learn to accept those things that you are not really used to. What was your purpose of leaving home in the first place? Was it not to see a different world? Why not take these differences and regard them as happiness? China is a rapidly developing country whose economy has simultaneously been increasing by leaps and bounds. Along with this booming economy comes ample opportunities to make a living and pursue one’s dreams. But first and foremost, a profound knowledge of Chinese language will help open doors and windows of opportunities for you and make your stay in this beautiful country rich and colorful. Get real. Get Chinesetic.