Being Cool – a Clarification

Once again, folks, it seems I’ve ruffled a feather or two (thousand) by not being completely clear in my claims about studying abroad. So please, sit back, relax and let me redeem myself.

Last week I discussed how Chinese kids studying in Western countries should be “cool.” That was my way of saying that, in order to be a good global citizen, you’ve got to be outgoing. Ten thousand applicants write essays every year saying (but not illustrating) how they want to bring Chinese culture to a Western university campus. Well you can’t do that without opening your mouth, can you?

Guess what though…the very same applies to all of us yahoo foreigners living here in the doorway to China.

A good friend of mine, who’s spent the better part of two decades living in China and Taiwan, once described to me how local parents loved sending their kids to his hockey team practices. They said his much-better-than-fluent Chinese was a good example for their children in a global society. “When you go to another country, you learn their language, you join their culture” he said. You can’t be an ambassador without getting down and dirty with the local flavor. My friend is “cool.”

My friend is more Chinese than half the Chinese people I know. For that reason, his friends really dig Canada. Funny, huh? He’s always the most popular person at group dinners, and you know what they say about group dinners ’round these parts. The man who can dominate a Shenzhen dinner-table can dominate the world. Or something like that.

So just as I urge you to get in there and scrap with the local cultures of the US, UK, Australia or elsewhere as you wind your way through college, hold your foreign friends in Shenzhen to the same standard. When you meet a random white guy on the street, don’t say “Hi, how are you?” Say “你好,帅哥 !”

Hey, it’s your country after all. We’re living in your world. When that goofy foreigner looks confused and says “uhhh…nice to meet you,” just shake your head and say “哎呀,很傻,很天真…nice to meet you too, captain!”

Then, just walk away with the confidence that you’re a cool kid, and one heck of a global citizen.

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