culture shock

imgres-2August 2nd is Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentines Day). Love and marriage can become an issue for students going abroad. Some couples will find a way to keep things together no matter what and face the future together, others will give up with a sigh and continue their search.



How hard is it for students abroad to understand themselves?

One student named Alex, who is working on his PhD in Math while abroad, calculated that the probability of finding a girlfriend in one year of study abroad is 17.1%. Using Bayesian statistics, he found the probability of marrying this girlfriend is just 5.6%.

An investigation of over 3000 study abroad returnees entitled Large-Scale Investigation of Students Returning from Study Abroad shows those studying abroad were most distressed by “emotional isolation”. National and high-level Psychological Counsellor Zhou Xiaopeng explained, “100% of study abroad students counseling cases involve experiences with romance while abroad. They all meet with dissatisfactory results in the end, this is the common characteristic of many study abroad romances. I think in large part this is because their love is built on the “drawbridge effect”. That is, in dangerous environments, people will have the incorrect physiological reactions, which leads to easier arousal of intimate feelings.  “For all study abroad students, getting used to a foreign country and culture is doubtlessly being thrown into a dangerous environment. This environment might also produce misdirected romances out of the psychological need to avoid danger.” Dr. Zhou admits, most such romances fail in the end.


Geographical loss of gender balance makes finding love even harder

The gender ratio of Chinese studying abroad is skewed in areas of foreign countries with highly developed technology sectors. In fact, at many schools on the East Coast of the US, there are more females studying abroad in business, arts, and literature departments. Most males going abroad for MAs and PhDs study engineering, and they are generally introverted and unwilling to actively pursue [relationships]. Often, When compared with the openness and humor of foreign men, girls find their attentions shifting.

Zhu Yuezeng, a medical doctor who has been in the US for 9 years, has attended matchmaking activities in the Washington D.C. area with twice as many females in attendance as males. He says that many of these girls couldn’t find partners in the area, and that they often choose to move to California or other areas with more men rather than going back to their home countries. “Actually, it’s not hard for a woman to get married in the US, and few return to China. Since their standards are high, and they’d have to compete with other Chinese women [in China], their chances for success there are too low, not as good as staying in America.” Plus, marriage is a fast way for female students abroad to get the proper status and a Green Card.


Can love survive the 10,000 KM trip across the Pacific?

For many studying abroad, moving tens of thousands of miles is an even greater struggle than a long-distance relationship. But there are those whose love has endured. Yvonne and Lee have been together for four years, you could say it was love at first sight, and they hadn’t been apart a day since. Now they’ve decided to apply to study at the same school in New York– Adelphi University. They are lucky, and we wish them all the best, at the same time hoping that their four years of love can stand the test of living in a foreign environment. Maybe it will make their love even stronger.

Wu Hao and his girlfriend got to know each other at UDM, the stress of study abroad causing them to tell each other everything about themselves. With time, their feelings grew, and they started dating. Even though they graduated, Wu Hao moved to his girlfriend’s hometown after returning to China so that they could support one another. “Actually, love is taking care of one another, but in a foreign country, this feeling is intensified. We looked after each other more at that time… that was when we really experienced mutual dependency,” said Wu Hao. “I see her as part of my life now, and I only feel the warmth of home where she is.”



Date of publication: August 1, 2014

Leave a comment

Original publication date: 2/1/13

plateHenan Business News: Xu works in a Chinese restaurant where all the staff are Chinese. When he first started work there, one of the old staff told him, “We dislike Chinese customers the most.” Xu didn’t understand, and thought the workers just blindly worshipped everything foreign.

“You’ll understand eventually,” tersely said the old staff member.

The restaurant had a buffet with three sections. Xu found that when non-Chinese went to the restaurant, they’d go to the first section and try a little of everything, then when they were finished, on to the second section, and so on. They’d also eat in a certain order, vegetables, then meat, then starches, and finally sweets. They rarely piled up food in a big heap on their plates, and even girls would go back to get food four or five times.

When eating at a non-Chinese restaurant, Xu spent eight pounds when others spent one. Everyone was shocked, and he had to leave the restaurant. Xu was embarrassed by the fact that he, a study abroad student in a foreign country, was still wasting food in the regular Chinese fashion.


An embarrassing dining experience abroad

When Xu first got to to England, he went out to have a meal with his roommate one day.

Since it was his first time out to a restaurant in England, he was curious, and wanted to try everything. He got fried rice, curry rice, sausages, french fries, peas, and even four pieces of bread. Before he knew it, plates were piled up in a huge heap on his tray. He didn’t even have room to put a drink on it.

When he went to the cashier, he got distracted; most other people only had one or two pieces of bread and a sausage. When he saw their trays, he suddenly felt crude.

With his head low, he put his tray on the counter. He looked up to see the shocked expression on the cashier’s face. He was so embarrassed that he didn’t dare look directly at the cashier again. He paid and hastily found a place to sit down, feeling that everyone around him was staring at him.

Embarrassed, Xu started stuffing the food into his mouth. He just wanted to get rid of the food as quickly as possible.

The bread was toasted, and he didn’t like it. The peas were a bit sweet, and he wasn’t used to the flavor. The sausage and fries were too oily. He kept stuffing the food in his mouth for what felt like forever. “I felt like my stomach was going to burst, and I still had more food left than most people.”

Xu really couldn’t get all the food down, so he waited until the dish washing staff were not paying attention, put his plates in the bussing area, and then ran out the door. The dish washer returned right as he was leaving.

She saw the piles of food left on Xu’s plates, staring at him with a bit of anger in her eyes. Under her gaze, Xu ran out of the restaurant. “I felt like I had to flee,” he said.


Non-Chinese order what they, order more if they need it; Chinese order a pile of food and waste what they don’t finish

[Xu remembers working in the Chinese buffet.] When waitstaff saw that guests were finished with the food on their plates, they’d come pick them up off the table, and give the customers fresh plates. “Every time I picked up the plate of a non-Chinese customer, all that was left was a bit of oil, they wasted almost no food,” said Xu.

Xu found that Chinese customers had the habit of piling a bunch of food up on a plate all at once. They’d take whatever they wanted the first time without getting up in the middle to get more food.

“Also, they’d mix up the vegetables, meat, and starches, all into one big pile. All the flavors got mixed together, I bet they couldn’t even taste the different foods,” said Xu.

Every time the Chinese customers would return to their table with food piled on a plate like a little mountain, he could see the disparaging looks that the non-Chinese customers gave them. It would always remind him of his embarrassing experience in the restaurant.

The waitstaff also didn’t like collecting plates from Chinese customers. Xu said the plates of non-Chinese were always clean, and that several clean plates could be stacked up together. “But there was no way to stack up the plates of the Chinese customers, since there was always so much food left on them. It would cause us to have to run back and forth several times to clean up.”

When Xu couldn’t take it any longer and started to complain, he finally understood the old staff member’s words.


Unaccustomed to Chinese eating styles, he gained ten pounds at home

Slowly, Xu got used to the way non-Chinese eat. Some friends told him that people coming home from abroad would experience “reverse culture shock”, and that he’d have to readjust to Chinese culture and lifestyles, but he didn’t listen to them.

It was only after he got home that he found his friends were right, especially when it came to dining habits. Every time he’d go out with friends and family, they’d order a big table full of food. As he’d become accustomed to not wasting food, he’d always bury his head in the food and eat it until the end.

“A table full of wasted food is such a shame. I did everything I could to eat. I wanted to eat the leftover food. I felt like I was going to burst at the end of every meal,” said Xu. He’d gained about ten pounds in just one month at home.

After a while, Xu got used to the Chinese style of eating again. He expected that when going out, they’d always fill the whole table with food, and leave with only half the food eaten.

“I can’t change Chinese dining customs all by myself. But it’s been a long time, and this type of environment ends up affecting me,” said Xu helplessly.



Leave a comment