A month in Asia
In the past month I have traveled back and forth to Asia 4 times…Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Nagoya, Macau..I may be forgetting one?! One morning I woke up around 4 am and actually had to scour my belongings and room info to remind myself what city I was in…Now it’s typical for me to wake during the night in a random Hotel room and forget where the bathroom is… But I usually remember the big picture- the actual location of my stay! I looked outside my window at the city lights below, and wondered if it was my memory that was going or my brain just blending all my destinations together…Passing through 15 time zones back and forth, 4 times in such a short period of time- Can’t be good for the mind or body..yet, every one of these trips have given me more knowledge, and mind opening/ altering experiences than I would ever find by reading a book or seeing a movie..
Aldous Huxley once said;” To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries”.
I agree. So many people I speak to, including my own family and friends, do not realize how ignorant they are when it comes to their ideas and opinions of different cultures. I know.. Nobody likes the word “ignorant”.. but the words definition fits. however, i know it’s not their fault.. You never really understand another culture unless you live within it. I have also fallen into the category of ignorance a time or two… Let me give you a couple of examples.
My first trip this month was to Hong Kong, China. I flew a large group of Chinese people to the US and then back again. On the first leg, I observed these passengers smoking up a storm, eating food I didn’t even recognize, and leaving a messy trail all over the plane. They didn’t knowledge me very much.. Besides the fact I don’t speak Chinese, I did expect them to attempt non verbal communication with me. A few did, but the majority did not.. There was a Chinese speaking flight attendant on board that had her hands full though.. When we reached our destination, I asked the other flight attendant ( the one that was part Chinese) why the passengers reacted the way they did to me. she said ” they don’t know you,and they know you can’t speak their language so they don’t expect much from you in termsmof communication But they do appreciate all your hard work”. I rolled my eyes at this last statement.. Until the lead passenger handed me a very large tip on his way out…hmmmmm ok…so maybe they don’t hate me? They were not being rude? Later on, I had a more in depth conversation with the other girl I was flying with and she shed more light on the culture and their habitual ways. And, on the next flight with them, things were a little different. They acknowledged me a little more and I even got a smile from time to time 🙂 Maybe I was also the one that acted differently…
The next trip I had was to Nagoya, Japan. Wow, what a difference between the two countries. At first glance, things looked alike.. The geography of the land and layout of the cities, the people ( physically speaking), and even the sound of the language. But at a closer look ( and listen).. There were major differences.
Onboard, I expected the same reaction from the Japanese passengers as I received from the Chinese. I was definitely surprised by how open and friendly they were to me. They were extremely polite, very neat and orderly, and tried to communicate with me despite then language barrier. I have flown all different cultures in my 12 years as a flight attendant, and I have to say..this group of passengers may just be the nicest people I have ever transported. Now they are not a tipping culture ( so don’t tip in Japan), but I would trade a big tip from a unpleasant passenger ( of any culture),for no tip from people like this, any day of the week!
While I was in Japan, I was told that some people are actually embarrassed that they can’t speak English..so their timid, shy behavior around Americans may even stem from that.
I also have to add that every person I came in contact with was so gracious and friendly. Even the wait staff in restaurants were amazing.. Why can’t the majority of people in America be this nice?!
And last but not least, I need to mention the food experience. There is definitely a huge difference between the food items and the preparation, all over Asia. First, I didn’t know that Chinese do not like to “waste” any part of an animal..now, not only do I know this, I will have visions of some dishes I served, in my mind forever…like the’ ancient egg’- Which is green and smells like formaldehyde ! And if you ever hear the words ” birds nest”- run! Its actually regurgitated bird saliva! ( iam not kidding).. Having said all that.. I also had the best dim sum of my life in Hong Kong.
One stereotype I will have to agree with is; the idea of Eastern culture having some very healthy eating practices. . I was happy to see that people do actually drink Green or oolong tea all day, and eat tons of fresh raw fish and rice (instead of pasta!). They eat small meals throughout the day and fast food establishments are few and far between. Hmmm.. maybe living in Japan would do me some dietary good!
* travel tip..If ever in Nagoya, go to the fish market early in am.. You will never taste fresher sushi in your life!
As the chinese New Year is fast approaching, I am sure to find myself back in Asia soon…and with a open mind and heart 🙂