As our trip comes to a close we all begin to reflect back on everything we have learned and experienced. This was truly the trip of a lifetime and many of the things we experienced will be those we all hold with us for the rest of our lives. Entering the Chinese culture from the American lifestyle was exciting and scary to all of us who have never been here before. As the trip reaches its last day we chose to take a look back at the differences in culture and lifestyle that we noticed in China, and all the cities we were so fortunate to be able to visit and explore.
China compared to the United States:
Many of the cultural differences we noticed were larger than the cities we were in and really encompassed the country as a whole. One of the very first things we noticed that was different from China and the USA was the traffic and use if cars. In the United States we see traffic laws and lanes that are obeyed strictly and intensely, however, in China that is not the case. This was apparent from the second we got off the plane, and throughout our whole trip. Every driver is very aggressive, and if you need to get somewhere you need to play the offensive side. Which, when you are in a big bus on a small road can be a scary thing to witness.
Beijing was the first city we went to and many of the cultural norms in Asia hit us here. If you ask any of the students on what was the biggest shocker, you will most likely get an answer about the bathrooms. This was one huge difference to the United States. In the US we have many public bathrooms, that all contain flushing toilet. In Beijing and China in general, they don’t have as many public bathrooms, or flushing toilets in general. Many of us had to get use to the “squatting” lifestyle pretty quickly. Along with this we immersed ourselves in the local cuisine very early on. Traditional Chinese food was nothing we were use to from the states. We were treated amazing with extensive multi-course dinners, all of which sampled the local cuisine. Most of which was not the food we were use to and took some adventure to try. Along with this we learned quickly that the water was not the safest to drink and it was important to drink only bottled water, something we all were not use to from the states.
We took a bullet train to Shanghai which went to speeds up to 200 km/h yet felt like we were moving about 60. In Shanghai we noticed many of the things we saw in Beijing. One of the biggest things that stood out about their culture was how dispersed their social classes were. We would go from slums to high rises on the next block. It really made your realize the discrepancy among wealth and truly be thankful for what we had. In Shanghai we were fortunate enough to be able to visit some factories and be able to see where many of the clothes we wear every day was made. It was interesting to see worker come from all over to work in these factories to make enough money to bring back for their family. It was definitely not something we see in the states. This really made all of us think twice before we buy something, or get angry when something we want is a little too expensive.
One of the biggest differences in Hong Kong was the landscape. Overall from the second we got off the plane the terrain was very mountainous and exotic looking. Another thing we noticed was how the cars were all driving on the left side of the road. This was something that took some getting use to. Hong Kong is an Island so naturally waters surrounded it, but that offset by the mountains made it a very resort like setting. Many people from all over the world vacation here and because of its location geographically it is situated in close proximity to India, therefore we saw many of the vacationers or visitors like ourselves be from India. Overall Hong Kong was one of the biggest well-lit cities we had scene. On the boat cruise we took, the sky line lit up to the point where we had to ask ourselves, our we in China or New York?
Overall this was an experience of a lifetime. We all want to thank Kohl’s and Li & Fung for providing this opportunity. All of the people we met and things we experience along the way are things we will never forget. From learning the culture of another country to seeing where many of the clothes and products we wear and use on a daily basis come from, our eyes our opened. This once and a lifetime experience and something that words cannot do justice. Thank you to everyone who took part in making this experience beyond amazing.
Lauren, Caroline, Chelsi