I don’t think I am going to talk specifically about China here. If you want updates on my time in China I have set up a YouTube channel here.
I am getting to meet a lot of new people of all different hues whilst I am here. Being in an international department this is, I suppose, to be expected. I am making a conscious decision to try and avoid the British people (there are over twenty students from Sheffield University here and four of us from Manchester,) although I am conscious it is wonderful to have them as a fall back if I ever get sick of being the only Brit in the class. It is one of the hand-full of reasons I decided to move from the middle ranging B group; where all the Brits are, to the more challenging A group. I didn’t come half way across the world to blend in.
It’s wonderful. An Aussie girl and I are often told we have the same accent (really?) and I have been grilled about the Empire and the fact Pakistan was created by me and is therefore my fault; it’s good banter. Mary Poppins’ chimney sweep-like accents also seem to follow me wherever I go in the world.
Culture clashes do seem to be frequent though. An American from my class recounted an awkward moment when he was having a conversation with a German guy and a Polish girl. He was describing a night out where he had consumed a few too many alcoholic beverages, describing himself as, “Blitzed!” There was an awkward pause after which the German chuckled, “Haha, very funny joke.” Bless the three of them.
I myself am having a culture clash of my own. A close friend of mine from Manchester who is also studying here (read her blog here) has been very on the ball and bagged herself a man with outstanding efficiency. The two are an adorable couple, he being from Wisconsin and her from Durham; the two have their fair share of misunderstandings. I like the guy very much and regularly try out morsels of British wit on him…
People who know me well will be familiar with the fact that I will take the piss out of you, more or less constantly, if I like you and I believe you have the balls to handle it. I enjoy a to-and-fro of casual insults; it’s a way of getting to know people as well as their humour and is fantastic at demolishing any kind of bravado, pretensions or awkwardness.
I have come to the conclusion that this too, along with the Empire and ‘Chim-chiminey’, is a very British characteristic. So much so, that it has been suggested by Miss Durham that Mr Wisconsin may not be too keen on it.
Initially my thoughts have been, “Man up, strap on a pair.” But then I remember that the rest of the world does not function along the same social guidelines as The United Kingdom of Great Britain Land. I am also, frightfully British. I need to carry Earl Grey around with me whenever I know there won’t be a Tesco near-by – and let’s just say I am grateful to the fact that all British newspapers, as well as the BBC, are 100% free and available on the Interweb. Imagine having to use CCTV, CNN or even Fox for my periodical news nourishment, perish the thought!
However, there is a whole world out there that doesn’t read The Times every weekday except for a Tuesday (when The Guardian has a simply wonderful education supplement). Maybe, for both me and Mr Wisconsin, I should tone down the tsunami of sarcasm and banter that seems to erupt from my mouth every time I meet someone new.
I’m not changing, oh no, I am simply editing myself for universal consumption. After all, I still have the Brits to crawl back to every time I need someone to have a friendly, if heated, discussion with.