China Through the Eyes of a First-Timer
This past December and January I had the chance to travel through China with an organized travel group as part of my NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) trainer training.
I had been to Hong Kong before, but never to China and so was curious. I’d heard so many things about China, mostly negative. Over the years, the picture that the media had painted of China wasn’t a very positive one. So it came that I entered China with a bit of apprehension – and was pleasantly surprised. I found the people very friendly and genuinely helpful, and always happy if a Westerner was interested in them and their culture.
The second thing I found amazing was the food. It has nothing to do with the food I encountered in the many Chinese restaurants in Europe. In China, everybody sits around a round table with a – what I would call – a lazy Susan. Basically, a spinning surface in the middle of the table, so that you can turn the lazy Susan to get what you want rather than reaching across the table or waiting for somebody to pass it to you. All the food (sweet and savoury) is served at once and placed on the lazy Susan going round and round for everyone to take and share. What a wonderful way to have a meal with friends!
The third thing that struck me was the craziness and colorful mix of new, modern, kitsch, and old, thrown together in a crazy jigsaw puzzle that was dominant in the cities I visited (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Ganzhou, Jingdezhen, Shanghai). I admired the unfamiliar beauty of the Huangshan mountains, and was enticed by Wuzhen.
I have also come to love Chinese foot massages. Most of the spas where I had foot massages looked more like a 70s disco – so many colorful neon lights! Serenity wasn’t anywhere to be found – people smoked everywhere, there was music and karaoke, and everybody talked over the top of one another. But the massage therapists were excellent and knew what they were doing – 75 minutes of pure bliss that started at the head and ended up with cupping on the soles of your feet. The latter due to some of the finer details in conversation in a mix of Chinese and English that got lost in translation, even with the help of my trusted Google translate app. I nevertheless found communication with the Chinese mostly very easy. And the many funny situations that stemmed from the not always 100% correct translations of the Google app just added to the overall experience.
Getting around was no problem – I ventured out into the cities, on my own, always felt safe and always got to where I wanted and always made it back to the hotel without any issues. I made sure that I always had a business card in Chinese with the address of my hotel, and I pinned my locations in Google maps just to be able to show someone where I wanted to go.
In short – I fell in love with China, with its mix of old and new, ugly and beautiful, its rich culture and history, and at the same time modern way of living. I fell in love with its friendly, helpful people, with the food, and with the mega cities. I can’t wait to go back for more – to explore this wonderful country!