The last 6 minutes of Ji Yida’s “Blue Eyes, Twenty One Days of China” perfectly encapsulates the experiences of a surprisingly large percentage of travellers that I have seen; here, I mean to include folks crossing the Pacific Ocean from both sides of the east-west paradigm.
If you want to skip to the spot I’m mentioning, this link starts at the 14:00 mark: http://youtu.be/6fjoNZG1Kzw?t=14m
The American in the film is from a community of 60,000 people and the videographer is his Chinese friend who went to High School in that community. They took a trip to China together over one of their summer breaks.
Luke, the subject of the film, is a pretty introverted guy–the videographer describes him as “the most non-American-American-I-know”. Some of his comments in the scene linked above reminded me of the time when I came to the conclusion that my Canadian manners were getting me nowhere in many situations in China that really required me to be a little pushy; it was initially hard to make the adjustment and not feel like I was being rude— and also let go of the judgement that others (i.e. the Chinese people around me) were being rude.
and so it goes….
Contrary to the opinion that many folks often express, I have always thought that cross-cultural experiences (especially longer sojourns) ultimately offer you the opportunity to learn more about *you* and your own culture. It’s not a guarantee though– for non-reflective personalities, the process seems to work in reverse and you sometimes see cynical expats who have lived somewhere for years in seeming misery.
again, this has been true on both ends of my Asian-Canadian experience.