China and Me
My name is Annelisa Wu, I am from Idaho, and am currently a senior at The University of Idaho. I am also studying Chinese at the University of Idaho Confucius Institute. Today, I’d like to share with everyone the story of China and me.
Throughout my childhood, due to my parent’s jobs, we spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between China and the United States. There wasn’t any more anticipated event in my childhood that boarding the jumbo jet and flying across the pacific. When I was six or seven, I thought of flying on an airplane as some sort of magic—you boarded and were transported to a whole other world. To my young mind, the world was unfathomably big, and the difference between countries was colossal. China was far more populated than the States, and everywhere I looked I saw a sea of people. I also picked up on cultural differences. One time I was outside playing, when the neighbor granny came rushing up to me exclaiming, “You foreigners just don’t wear nearly enough!” Taking ahold of my collar, she pulled me over and began counting the layers of clothing I was wearing: “One, two, three. Goodness! You’re only wearing three layers? You’re going to catch your death of a cold! In the winter, you should always wear at least seven layers!” Embarrassed, I gave a quick nod and ran off, but I didn’t forget the granny’s advice. After that, whenever I dressed myself in the winter, I carefully counted to seven layers. Upon my return to the states, one of my friends jeered, “Why are you wearing so many layers? You look like a mummy!”
In my early teens, I observed another cultural practice in China, a sort of extreme politeness known as “keqi.” When someone tries to give you a gift, you are to vehemently refuse it. “No, No!” When they try and force you to take it, you are still to emphatically say “No! No!” After repeating this procedure three times, you can finally receive the gift and politely say “Thank you!” After a while, I developed this habit too. One time I was in the states being hosted by an American family when someone offered me a freshly baked plate of chocolate chip cookies. My mouth watered from the delicious smell, but wanting to be polite, I adamantly said, “No! No thank you!” To my dismay, the platter of cookies was quickly put away.
Through these humorous childhood experiences, I understood the cultural differences between China and America. But now that I am an adult, I actually am more apt to notice the similarities between China and America. In public places, the language in which people converse is different, but their topics of conversation are pretty much the same. At the dinner table, people eat different types of delicacies, but their enthusiasm for food and their enjoyment of their family’s company is one and the same. Chinese customs and habits may be different from those of Americans, but their thirst for knowledge and desire for improvement is exactly the same. During last year’s winter break, I visited China again. When I boarded the plane, that mystical feeling of wonder was replaced with a familiar sense of returning home.
When I was small, I thought that the world was really big. Now that I am “big” I realize that the world is actually very small.
记得我小时候最盼望的事情就是坐上飞机，跨越太平洋。当我六、七岁时，我觉得坐飞机像变魔术，莫名其妙将我带到了另一个世界。在我幼小的心灵中，世界真的太大了，而且国家与国家之间的差别也实在非常明显。和美国相比，中国的人口实在很多。无论走到哪儿都时人山人海。生活习惯也完全不同。记得有一次，我独自在外面玩，邻居奶奶突然把我拉了过来，说：“你们这些外国人衣服怎么穿得这么少呀？” 她揪着我的领子开始数我身上穿了几件衣服： “一、二、三、哎呀！你才穿三件！小心啊，你会感冒的！冬天至少应该穿七件衣服！” 当时我十分尴尬，点了个头就跑掉了。但是老奶奶的话我没有忘记，之后我每次穿衣服时就开始数到七件才罢休。后来，我回美国的时候，我的一个朋友说，“你穿这么多衣服干嘛？ 像个木乃伊！”
到了十多岁，我观察到了中国人的另外一个习惯，就是客气。在中国，如果有人想送你礼物，你要先礼貌地说：“不要，不要。” 他硬塞给你的时候你还要继续说：“不要，不要。” 这样重复三次后，你才可以礼貌地接过来说：“谢谢。” 时间长了以后，我也有了这个习惯。后来有一次，我在美国人家做客，他们递给我一盘香气扑鼻的巧克力饼干，我很想吃，但是没有忘记礼貌，我就说：“不要、不要。” 结果，那盘饼干马上就被收走了，我非常失望。