I once thought that I had a pretty good understanding of the world, a bold statement for a person as young and inexperienced as I. Although I don’t know everything about every country, language and culture, I had visited a few countries, met all types of people, and felt that I had a mind open enough to tackle what different cultures and experiences I would face. My eyes were truly opened when my family and I visited another culture, another language, and a very different government system. I visited Shanghai and Beijing, China.
I learned that the Chinese people are so isolated that they see virtually no foreigners in their country, especially people with darker skin tones. This bit of knowledge helped me to make sense out of some of their reactions when they saw my family and me. My family and I were constantly a spectacle once we left the large and diverse city of Shanghai, being asked for pictures, being gawked at, or having blatant discrimination shown towards us. The reactions of the people were surprising and mildly upsetting for my younger brother, but being older, I was able to understand the reactions a little better. These reactions, aside from the discrimination, were not so much out of racism, but were more like the curiosity of a child. But racial ignorance was not the only major cultural difference I experienced while in China. Everything from dining to appropriate conversation topics and from fashion to housing was almost completely different from that in American culture.
Sometimes my family and I were forewarned of these cultural differences, and other times we had to find them out for ourselves.Although the many differences were not too hard to adjust to, I was amazed at how many things were different, and how different they were. My family and I visited famous landmarks and monuments all around Shanghai and Beijing, and learned all of the intricate stories behind them. The fact that I learned so much about a country in a few short weeks was almost scary. The fact that there was so much that I didn’t know about one country, made me wonder and realize how much I really don’t know about the world. I was able to learn something about another country and culture, as well as something about myself at the same time. People say “it’s a small world,” but I disagree. I believe the world is so vast, that we can only attempt to begin to discover the old and new things about it and the people who live all around it.
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