I keep on waiting for the reverse culture shock that everyone talks about to kick in, but, overall, life is pretty darn good.
I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with my family. Especially my niece and nephew, who follow me around and call me pretty and totally believe me when I tell them that dusting furniture is a “fun new game.”
I’ve also been slowly catching up with my friends in the area.
And not-so-slowly catching up on my margarita-consumption.
These two things are related.
I’ve even started running again after having taken a month off while traveling. And, while I miss the pretty pagodas in the park where I used to run in China, I have to say the view from my new running path isn’t too shabby either.As much as I’ve enjoyed my time back in the States (and the margaritas!), I do occasionally find myself missing some things from my life in China.
And not really the kinds of things that I expected to miss – like, say, easy access to dumplings or my couch.
Okay, maybe, I do miss my couch now that I think about it.
But the things that I really miss are things I don’t even remember enjoying that much when I was living there.
Maybe it’s true what they say about distance making the heart grow fonder.
Or maybe distance just makes your heart all wonky and forgetful and unable to remember simple stuff like what you used to like and what you didn’t like.
When I start missing pork floss, then you’ll know I’ve completely lost it.
5 Things I Miss About China (Even though I don’t remember liking them when I lived there):
1. Pushing & ShovingThe first time I went grocery shopping in the States upon my return, I was shocked at how polite and orderly everyone was.
Nobody barreled into my cart. Nobody cut ahead of me at the produce weighing stations. Nobody rammed their cart repeatedly into my back at the checkout aisle in an attempt to get me to move along faster.
Instead, my fellow customers waited patiently as I took forever to weigh my bananas.
They didn’t once attempt to mow me down while I stood staring in awe at the cheese.
And when one person did bump into me with her cart, she turned around to apologize. Like it was some kind of accident and not a strategic attempt to get me out of her way. Or to kill me.This was all quite the contrast from China, where grocery shopping is considered something of a blood sport.
I once had a woman hit me in the head with a really long stalk of celery because I was taking too much time weighing my vegetables. I can only imagine what would have happened if she had been wielding a more dangerous vegetable. Like, say, a turnip.Of course, pushing and shoving didn’t just happen at the grocery stores in China.
If you want to get anywhere in that country, you’re going to have to jostle a few people out of your way . Or a lot of people out of your way.
It really all depends on how many people are in front of you. And in a country of 1.3 billion people, there’s always going to be someone in front of you. Even in places where you wouldn’t expect someone to be in front of you, someone will be in front of you.When I first arrived in China, I can’t say I was a big fan of being regularly manhandled by complete strangers.
But after a while, all the pushing and shoving kind of grew on me.
For starters, pushing and shoving can be an excellent way to relieve stress and frustrations. It’s kind of like kick-boxing or karate – except I didn’t have to wear a fancy outfit or go to a fancy gym. All I had to do was hop on a crowded bus and start shoving at people.
It also made me really appreciate my size. While it can be hard being a bigger girl in Asia, I found that weighing twice as much as your average Chinese person can really come in handy when it comes to barging to the front of a line. Or blocking people from barging in front of you.Plus, pushing and shoving makes doing stuff super efficient.
I could easily get through the grocery store in less than an hour there – despite the fact that the grocery stores usually lacked any time-saving devices like conveyor belts at the registers or, say, signs I could actually understand.
Whereas grocery shopping in the States takes me, like, five hours. Sure, a lot of that time is spent gawping at cheese. But, I’d say I spend at least half an hour every trip waiting for some dude to decide what kind of yogurt he wants and move the heck out of my way. If this were China, he would have had a celery stalk upside his head in no time.
2. StaringLike pushing and shoving, staring is really not something I appreciated that much when I first moved to China. Mostly because it was almost always directed at me.
But the good thing about living in a country where staring at people is perfectly acceptable is that you get to stare at people, too. And nobody cares. Because, chances are, the people you’re staring at are totally staring back at you.After a year and a half of living in China where I got to stare at people all the livelong day without having to worry about getting punched in the face, I find it really hard to stop myself from staring at people here. Especially when people are doing stuff that just seems to scream “STARE AT ME! PLEASE!”
For example, I went to an event the other week where a friend of mine was performing. And sitting across from me was a man dressed in a full-body hotdog costume.
Do you know how hard it is to not stare at a man in a hotdog costume?
Because I’m telling you guys, it practically killed me.
And then as soon as I left the event, I went to dinner where I ordered this:
I’m blaming my near-death, trying-not-to-stare experience.
3. My cell phoneThis was my phone in China:
I could use it to call or text people.
And that’s about it.This is my phone in the States:
I can use it to do, like, a million different things. I’m pretty sure I could even get it to make me lunch.
That is if I could actually make it work.
It took me at least thirty minutes to figure out how to answer a phone call.
Every time I try to send a text, I end up with a long line of random consonants because my fingers are too big and they keep on pressing the wrong letters.
And all the photos I’ve taken so far have mysteriously vanished into some kind of 4G purgatory.And before you get all smart with me and tell me to read the instruction manual already, I assure you I have tried to read the thing.
Oh, how I have tried!
But it doesn’t really give instructions on things that I want to do like, say, be able to answer my phone or figure out where the heck all my photos are. Instead it gives me tips on how to do this:
Really, Verizon, really?
What the heck is a media mogul? And wouldn’t I actually have to be able to answer my phone to become one of those?
4. Limited menu choicesEveryone’s always talking about the out-of-control portion sizes in America, but what about the out-of-control menu sizes? Seriously, you guys, the menus in this country are longer than most country’s constitutions.
I went to a restaurant with my family the other day where the menu was easily twenty pages long. Just the pizzas alone took up five pages. And they all sounded awesome because they were all covered with extra cheese or bacon.
It made me kind of miss the days when I could just pop on over to my local pork sandwich place, where all they served was pork sandwiches, and the only real decision you had to make was how many pork sandwiches you were going to order.Don’t get me wrong.
I love me some pizza.
But I’m really, really horrible at making up my mind. I mean, there’s a reason why I’m thirty-six, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Decisions are hard, people. Especially when you have to decide between extra cheese or bacon.
It was practically Sophie’s Choice. (In case, you’re wondering, I chose bacon. I think Meryl Streep would approve.)
5. Not being able to understand anythingPeople ask me all the time how I managed to survive so long in China without speaking any Chinese.
Sure, learning the language of the country you’re living in can be super helpful.
But being a complete idiot also has its perks.
For one thing, I never had to overhear conversations I didn’t want to overhear.
Like the one I overheard the other day at a café between two women regarding the one woman’s upcoming bladder surgery.
Call me squeamish, but “urethra” is really not a word you should be allowed to say in public. Unless you’re at some kind of bladder surgeon’s convention.
And you really shouldn’t combine it with other words like “leakage” and “pelvic floor.” Especially while in a place where people are eating. Or where people are trying to eat, but they’re too busy gagging. Because you won’t shut up about your urethra and your leaky pelvic floor already.I’m sure while I was in China, I sat next to people talking about their bladders and bowel movements every day.
But because I couldn’t understand the conversations that went on around me, I got to float about in a bubble – a big bubble of blissful ignorance which would only occasionally burst open.
Kind of like a bladder with a faulty urethra.
Oh, I’m sorry.
You weren’t trying to eat lunch right now, were you?Have you ever found yourself missing something you never thought you would miss? What was it?