China Experience: ‘Hearing is not same as seeing’

The writer near the Great Wall of China

Khartoum (Sudanow) In the Sudanese culture, there is a popular saying that “hearing is not the same as seeing” which implies that the judgment you have of things you hear is different from what you see. When you see something you are sure it is a fact happening in front of your eyes; you witness it, while hearing may be influenced by the bias of a narrator. This probably sums up my experience in China, having spent almost a year at the Communication University of China.
As a matter of fact, I had a totally different perception of China and the Chinese people before I went there. These perceptions were formed from the things I’ve been told by other people and not necessarily from someone with an experience with China. I used to consider the Chinese people to be unfriendly, difficult to deal with and rough by nature. However, to my surprise I’ve discovered they are totally different from those negative perceptions.
Because wherever and whenever I was in need of help they willingly offered it to me at the subway, the markets, the streets and of course at the university campus. Sometimes a Chinese would spend an hour helping me to translate and fix a language problem from my mobile telecom company (China Mobile). Also, I’ve often been assisted to navigate around the subway and in some other areas where I have needed support. Truly the Chinese people are helpful, nice, decent and lovely. Really seeing is believing.
However, things don’t always work the way you expect. One area I’ve had a challenge in is the choice of a meal. Compared to my culture back in Sudan, the types of food and mode of cooking is a lot different. While in Sudan, the main ingredient in every dish is meat, lamb or beef, and sometimes fish, the major components of the Chinese food are vegetables. In my country, we have different kinds of vegetables for cooking and others for making salads. In China, the situation appears to be different. Also, in Sudan food is cooked thoroughly , while in China food is cooked very briefly.
In terms of staple food, Sudanese eat A lot of wheat bread , while the Chinese people eat lots of rice. As a result I often had to search around for the best place to buy wheat bread which is usually expensive in the campus neighbourhood but cheaper in other distant places.
One other thing that marks a difference between my culture and the Chinese is the mode of eating. In Sudan, we use our hands to eat or, better still, spoons or forks but since I went to China, I had to use chop sticks . It was a challenge for me, but I managed to cope successfully . Similarly, in Sudan we eat as a group (sitting in a circle around a table). In China people eat separately.
As China gradually opens to the World, I would expect that more international restaurants would spring up in Beijing and other major cities that will offer options for international tourists and visitors to have a feel of international delicacies during their stay in China.
Sudan and China share several similarities in many other aspects of life ; especially in terms of family bonds and attachments. During the Chinese new year celebrations , people elicit passion and travel to various locations to re-unite with their families. The Sudanese also use the holidays to unite with their relatives. A lot of people do travel from the capital city of Khartoum to their country homes during major holidays.
Also we share the culture of fathers taking care and responsibility of the sons, and teaching them the social morals and how to become good men in the future , while the mothers take care of daughters. I’ve also seen how the grandmothers and grandfathers adore their grandchildren, which is the same as in Sudan.
The respect of elders and ancestors is another similarity and also the respect of teachers and experienced people is another area where I’ve observed we share similarities.
However, what is quite different is that Chinese women are used to tough work . I got astonished when I saw the Chinese women working in construction sites, carrying loads of iron and other heavy materials. I’ve also seen women work as butchers, bus drivers and conductors and so on. These symptoms had amazed me because Sudanese women rarely engage in such tough jobs… the cultural, social and economic orientations differ.
The Chinese women are really strong and self dependent, while the Sudanese women are more dependent on their families, especially on their fathers, brothers, husbands or sons for economic and social support. Even those who are engaged in one form of work or another still look forward for support from the family members.
According to the population census of 2009, the Sudanese women in the public service in Sudan was equal to men where they both had the same percentage of 50%, all of them either engaged as office employees or in other professional jobs. And it is impossible to find a woman employee doing any tough activity other than an office job. This happens in both public and private sectors..But in China the situation is different.
But what I like to say is that; I love and like the old China. And I mean the old China with its oriental and colorful traditions, with its special flavour, taste, and aroma, China of the Great Wall and the magnificent city of Piang Yao, and the forbidden city of the great empires and the old town of Shanghai, China where the workers and farmers had sacrificed a lot to bring their country to its present glory and bright future when all will find their richness and opportunities of social dignity as the great leader Mao had planned, a China that will never allow the forces of globalization, capitalism and liberalism destroy her magnificent history.
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YH/ AS