One of my most favorite movies of all time has to be the 1992 baseball film “Mr Baseball” staring Tom Selleck (Jack Elliot) and Aya Takanashi (Hiroko Uchiyama). I really didn’t intend to see the film, but when I was sent to Japan for two years my mom
suggested insisted that I watch it. I’m glad I did actually, because from the time I got off the plane at Narita until the time I left, I could hear the words of Hiroko Uchiyama…”Accept your situation“. That was more than twenty years ago and it was my first trip to the Far East. Fast forward to 2016. “Accept your situation” still rings true in China. ALL of it.
There are times when we travel to places that are just so different from our home that we get anxious and we miss out on so many things. It does not matter where that is…be it Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires or Beijing. These places are all different from where I live and they do things differently. While Israel may feel very “normal” to many westerners, that will soon change when you go down to the restaurant for breakfast in the morning. The Orient is no different…there are going to be some things that are very “normal” to the things you are used to at home, especially in the big cities. But there are going to be those subtleties though that you’ll get hit with when you least expect it, and that can do one of two things. It can either cause serious anxiety or you can accept your situation.
When I arrived in Beijing I was surprised to see that very few people spoke English…at least openly. The lady at the cab stand spoke a little…enough to give my driver the directions to the hotel in Chinese. But I still have not found a cab driver
that can speak English. So you very quickly learn to get the directions you need in Chinese…and KEEP them so you can get back to your hotel at the end of the day. Cabs are, like every city, pretty expensive. Maybe not so much in China, but when you consider the legendary traffic it CAN get expensive. So what about the subway? Yes…Beijing has a subway, and it is really good. To be honest I actually think it is better than the New York City subway system. You can probably thank the 2008 Olympics for that. But for roughly 5 Yuan (roughly 75 cents USD) you can go anywhere in Beijing (one way). And it’s really very easy to do it. While everything is in Chinese, the English translation is right below and the lights tell you where exactly you are and what stations are next.
SO…that sounds easy enough you say, but what about the crowd of people. Isn’t a Beijing subway system crowded? Yes…it is. But it’s clean, it’s cheap and it’s air conditioned. It’s also very quick. Today I had to see a doctor for a minor condition who happened to be in the central business district. If I took a cab who knows how long it would have taken me to get there, and it would have been at least $20USD. But for 75 cents, I was there, and it took me a very easy and comfortable 35 minutes. All in the air conditioning without a single horn blowing because the car in front of it would not move. Accept your situation.
What about that doctor? Did I see a Chinese doctor for the minor issue I wanted to make sure didn’t become a major issue before a long holiday weekend? Nope. I used Google (you need a VPN to access certain websites – I recommend ExpressVPN) and learned that there are a number of clinics that specialize in working with Expats. The clinic I picked, Vista Medical Center, happens to have a very respected American physician (Dr. Gary R. Sackrison, MD) on staff, and as it was I was booked to see him. Was a I ready to see a Chinese physician? Absolutely…accept your situation.
One thing that really helps you accept your situation is how well you prepare for the little things…like using the restroom. You see, in much of Asia the public toilet is a little different that what you might find in America or Europe. The “Squatty Potty” is more or less the norm here, and if you are coming to China I’d encourage you to start practicing your squats before you come. Just sayin’. While that is not that big of a deal, the fact that you need to carry your own toilet paper with you might be for some. In a city with thirty-eight million people, it is impossible to keep paper on the roller, so you just bring your own. When it comes time to do the deed, you do the deed, and you may have company. Personal privacy and hiding your naughty bits is not of the utmost importance here. Bodies are what they are and the Chinese realize that and don’t make a big deal about it (unlike the US where we try to keep women from nursing their children in public). Boys have boy parts and girls have girls parts. Nothing shocking…it is what it is. While MOST restrooms are gender-divided, there are places where men and women use the same restroom. Accept your situation.
When you accept your situation you get to enjoy some amazing architecture of the most modern sense, and you get to experience walking where rulers did thousands of years ago. You get to enjoy great food, culture, people and places. You’ll make new friends, tear down the walls of misunderstanding and expand your horizons in ways you never imagined. Do yourself and your host country a favor and Accept your situation. You’ll be glad you did. It will change your life for the better.