China was like going to another world. And they probably think the same thing when they come to the States. It was the first time in my life where I definitely didn’t look like I was from there. In Ireland, England and even Argentina (due to the large amount of European immigrants) I was at least able to walk down the streets and fit in. It wasn’t until I opened my mouth that it was obvious I wasn’t from there. In China though, I was a tourist and there was no doubt about it. I never felt like a tourist though. People were very kind and patient, except the people trying to sell me a knock off designer handbag that is. They were a little pushy.
Really the only problem I had was the language barrier as it related to eating. Although many people spoke English very well, they did not know the word for everything and spoke in general terms. For example, if some one tells you it is seafood that includes anything that lives in the ocean. There are many things that live in the ocean that other people eat that I am not accustomed to eating. Now at least I can say with confidence, I do not like to eat snails.
As Americans, especially living in metropolitan areas, like New York City I believe we feel very worldly. We have neighbors from around the world, we can get any nationality food, and purchase anything made anywhere in the world. A week in China has let me know that I am not very worldly or cultured or even cool. I have traveled much, and I feel that I am a tolerant person, but it is not until you are immersed in a culture not your own that you discover you have a lot to learn. It was difficult to go to another country and say, “Look, you have a problem with domestic violence. We do too and we hope that we can educate you a little on the subject.” I was afraid that people would be insulted and stand offish. I was totally wrong. People were curious, kind, and attentive. They took our information postcards are actually read them and didn’t just throw them to the ground. I feel that as Americans we assume Human Rights is an American thing. We as Americans think that it our responsibility to solve the world’s problems, but in truth everyone in the world wants a safe home, and a loving family, and the right to live a happy life. We don’t have to tell them that.