There were many things I saw when I went to China that were quite different from what I’m used to in the U.S. Here are a few things I observed during my study abroad program in Shanghai.
One of the main differences is that arranged marriage exists in China. Parents and grandparents want to make sure that their children will marry the right person. So, every Saturday, there is a marriage market at People’s Square Park. Parents and the grandparents prepare an information sheet about the child that they want to get married. They put the paper on an umbrella. This tradition is taken very seriously. The parents go around in order to find some dates that might match their child’s personality. Information is exchanged at the marriage market and blind dates are set for their children.
If one of these dates works out, then the arranged marriage takes place. If none of the dates work out, parents continue looking for the right partner for their child. When my friend and I went into the market, everyone started staring at us, not only because we were foreigners, but also because we were the only young people there. Everyone else who was at the park was older.
Another difference is the way we eat Chinese food in America compared to China. In the U.S., we are used to eating Chinese food that is loaded with sugar and salt to make it sweeter. In China, however, the food is different. It is not as sweet as it is in America because Chinese don’t add sugar to it. Instead, most of the meals in China are very spicy and greasy. They use many spices such as pepper and chili. However, the spiciness of some plates is balanced with others. The soup and the gravy might be so spicy and greasy, but the rice and the eggs may not be as much.
Another difference is personal privacy. If you are going to Shanghai, then prepare yourself to be surrounded by too many people! And I really mean it! Shanghai is the most populous city with more than 24 million people. While we were using the metro, we stood shoulder to shoulder to the other passengers. Sometimes we were even squished because of the many people that were using the metro at the same time. Besides having very little personal space, the word “privacy” doesn’t exist in China.
The other thing that you can find in China but not in America is the way that they use anime. If you are going to the metro, you will find instructions that tell you who should be boarding first and those instructions use anime to express the message. If you walk in the malls, you will find many anime shaped statues with all types of faces. If you are drinking a cup coffee, they might throw in a cat-shaped marshmallow!
Also, people drive electric scooters and bikes far more in America. You would not realize it until you start crossing the streets and see hundreds of these scooters. And those people driving the scooters usually carry two or three other passengers with them – and most of the time they don’t wear helmets! You also see people wearing suits and going to work on electric scooters.
Finally, the Chinese like to make their buildings come alive! Almost every building that you pass by will have many bright colors and words that keep changing constantly. They can display ads on the building, or just expressions, such as “I love Shanghai.”
Dema Youhanna is majoring in business management. She is studying this summer at East Normal University in Shanghai.