My family and I had the privilege of living in China for 3 years and during that time we immersed ourselves in the deep, rich culture of the Chinese people. It was pretty amazing! As I reflect back on our expat living, I am grateful for the many friendships and adventures. And these are memories that I will treasure with my family forever.
Now that my kids are little bit older and continue to have that love for exploring new places, I want them to know certain things when they travel back to China or travel to other places around the world and how we represent ourselves as a family. I want to be intentional about raising global citizens.
1. You are a guest, be respectful
When you visit a different city or country, remember that you are a guest. There’s going to be great things that you like about that place, and other things that you won’t. But regardless of what you think, it is a must to respect the people and the culture of the place that you visit.
2. It is a privilege to travel, be responsible
It is a privilege to travel to different places around the world and with privilege comes responsibility. When you visit, be intentional about serving other people and connect with them. This can be in many different forms and it can be simple as learning the server’s name, their local favorites and leaving them a generous tip for serving you and welcoming you to their country.
3. There are lots of different things, be open
Different places have different food. Don’t be scared to try it and if you don’t like it, well it’s ok to say, “It’s not my favorite.” But it’s not ok to say words that include, “icky”, “gross”, “disgusting”. Go back to #1 about respect and remember your go-to words “it’s not my favorite.”
4. People may get in your space, be polite
When you are in China, the local people may want to take pictures of you and may get into your personal space. They do this because they are fascinated by the fact that you are a foreigner and they may have not seen many foreigners in their life. If this bothers you, simply shake your head “no” and say “xie xie”, this implies “no thank-you”.
5. You’ll observe different issues, be the change
Many people in China spit onto the side of the street. People who visit China are completely turned off by it and I get it. However, when you do see someone coughing and hacking and spitting, keep in mind that the pollution could be one reason why they are coughing up a lung. As future leaders, please make sure to take care of our earth and fight issues like climate change and pollution.
6. There’s no rush, be patient
There are over 1.3 billion people in China. That’s a lot of people trying to get to where they need to be. When crossing the streets, please know that pedestrians do not have the right of way. So you need to be careful even when using the cross walks and more importantly, please be patient, there’s no need to rush.
7. Things will be different, be understanding
Babies and children do not use diapers for a number of different reasons. Instead, they use split pant clothing on their babies to allow parents/caregivers easy access when the baby needs to go to the bathroom. It’s just a different way of doing things and that’s ok… different is ok, it’s actually great! There is a lot for you to learn from different.
8. It’s a new experience, be adventurous
Traveling is an adventure and not everything will go right and that is part of the adventure! Life is an adventure and navigating through the unexpected and unknown can reveal some amazing surprises!
As my family continues to travel around the world, I want them to remember that we represent our family and our country when we visit other places. I want us to leave the impression that we love and respect others and their culture even when we differ. Here are some other links that may be helpful when planning your travels to China:
I would love to know some of your thoughts about traveling and what you may or may not tell your kids when you are exploring different places.