My Chinese friend recently came back to Xiamen after her three months trip to Germany. While her boyfriend, originally from China, has been studying in Germany for several years, it was her first time to visit him. Once she was back, I couldn’t wait to hear about her experiences and her feelings towards my home country.
It was a rainy day and she had already postponed our dinner date for one hour as she had to work overtime. I didn’t feel like going outside at all. My curiosity pushed me to go anyway. “So, did you like Germany?“, I asked after what felt like an hour of hugging and being overly happy to see each other again, already knowing the answer was not going to be a simple Yes or No. She started off with a typical German cliché- Germans are always serious. I couldn’t help but smile. Whether she was on the train or on the bus, she would not find a single German with a face expression slightly close to happy, a phenomenon I had witnessed myself a million times before. I obviously couldn’t argue with that. Neither did a have a reasonable explanation for this phenomenon, except cold weather and too little sunshine. “All of a sudden I didn’t have the urge to be the first one on the bus!”, she continued (phenomenon “First One on the Bus” can be witnessed in China on a daily basis, applicable for all sorts of everyday situations). Moreover she found that in Germany being quiet was a big part of everyday life. “One time I turned on the music on my laptop and my boyfriend immediately told me to turn it off or otherwise the neighbors will come and knock on our door! My boyfriend has become a German!”, she bursted out laughing. His new found politeness puzzled her: “Back then we would tell each other things like Give me your cellphone, if we needed to make a call, now he is asking me May I please borrow your cellphone for a while? And moreover, he knows how to cook now!”, she told me while proudly presenting pictures of their Valentine’s dinner he had cooked for her (which actually caused me to be quite jealous). Back in China her friends found her to be too quiet and restrained. After being in Germany for three months she felt she was neither fitting in in Germany nor in China, a kind of neither fish nor fowl situation. We both agreed I will find myself being in the same situation once I will be back home.
I have to admit I have gone through my first day back in Germany a bunch of times in my head. Me, my parents and my grandma having dinner at a fancy restaurant, celebrating my survival and their puzzled faces when I start unwrapping my chopsticks, spitting the chicken bones all over the table as if it was the most common thing in the world. I have found myself to be very Chinese lately, starting with me having to have lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6pm sharp or otherwise getting all cranky, making my friends life’s miserable. The first time for me to notice I was turning into a Chinese was at my classes impromptu Christmas party, where I started eating cake using chopsticks, not even bothering to ask for a fork or spoon, neither wondering why there was none. And for those who are wondering now – yes, I have to be the first one on the bus and apologizing for bumping into someone is for pansies!
To be continued.