The Life of Ashley Gerlach

This is information about China and my time spent in the country.

My experience

I was fotunate enough to be able to live in Beijing, China with my family while I was in high school. My dad works in sports ministry, so with the Olympics that Beijing hosted in 2008, my family felt like China would be the perfect place to serve.

Beijing is such an amazing city. So often, in America we forget that there is so much more to the world than life as we know. The vast majority of the world lives a completely different lifestyle than we know as Americans. China is a culture that is so rich and unique that I couldn't help but fall in love with it. The people are friendly and incredibly welcoming. Chinese are so interested in American culture and are just as eager to share Chinese culture with outsiders.

Chinese Culture

One of the best things about Chinese culture is the food. American Chinese food has nothing on what you find in China. There are certain areas of the country that are known for certain types of food. For example, the Sichuan province is known for their spicy food. Beyond that, all over China you will find the best sweet and sour chicken, pineapple pork, egg-fried rice and egg rolls that you've ever had in your life.

Another thing that you are sure to notice in China is the profound eagerness that Chinese people have to learn about American culture. Chinese people make you feel like royalty. Everything that you tell them about life in America just amazes them. In my experience, the things that amaze them the most are the things that Americans don't even stop to consider.

For example, almost everywhere in American there is running water and electricity 100 percent of the time. Even very advanced Chinese cities like Beijing, Tian Jin, and Shang Hai have their water supply cut for several days at a time throughout the month.

Another thing that Chinese people marvel at are the number of people that drive cars in America. In China, nearly everyone uses public transportation, rides a bike, or walks. For a Chinese person to hear that families in America have two, three, or four cars is just crazy to them. When I came back to America it took me a long time to get used to not seeing people all over the streets. I remember the first time I went outside after being away for over a year I thought, "Where is everyone?"

Do's and Do Not's

Like anywhere else, there are things that you need to know that will make your experience a lot more pleasant.

First, it is considered rude to snub any Chinese food. If you eat a meal with a traditional Chinese family they will most likely serve you food that you're not accustomed to. Pig tongue, goat intestine, and cow eyes are common delicacies on a lazy Susan in China. Also, make sure to practice using chopsticks since silverware will not be available at most restaurants.

Always hand people money with both hands. It's a sign of respect and gratitude.

Don't ever serve rice of any kind with a meal that you are hosting. Rice is considered a "filler" and is considered cheap and tacky to serve to welcomed guests.