Have you ever gone on vacation someplace exciting, different, “exotic,” only to find the first few days so disorienting that it scares you a little? Whether it’s Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, or Waikiki, the newness of it creates an intensity that can delay your willingness to just “dive in.”
As you prepare to live and work in China, the intensity of the experience at first may cause you to back away from direct interaction. People are wired to avoid uncertainty. There are two ways to reduce it, avoidance (you’ve moved to China, so no chance of that) or by learning about the new environment around you.
Day-to-day life in China is going to hand you lessons in the form of experiences. Things you are used to doing a certain way in your home country might be very different in China. One way or another, you’re going to learn to get around. Ask yourself—how do you like to learn in new situations?
Shunichiro Ito of Bunkyo Gakuin College in Tokyo, Japan, identifies two general types of learners: global and analytical. Global learners like to learn by experience, are visual and drawn to images, and usually feel understanding “hit them” in moments of inspiration. If you are a global learner, you want to blend into your surroundings and start observing them and learning the stories around why and how things work the way they do.
Analytical learners prefer to learn by reasoning, are drawn to text and reading for information, and tend to assert themselves in a group, ask lots of questions and express opinions. If you are an analytical learner, you will want to search for informational sites that explain the things you are seeing, you will not hesitate to ask people to translate signs or explain a process on the spot, and you will take pride in getting used to your surroundings faster and more completely than others might expect.
Think about your past learning experiences and try to decide which kind of learner you tend to be. Then be proactive in seeking out experiences and resources that will help you learn about what you are seeing around you in China and how to navigate situations. You will soon find that you are less anxious about plunging into life in China, and more excited by the richness of your new cultural adventure!
About the Author: Don Steiner
Don Steiner, MA, CPT, is a communication and leadership consultant with a specialty in intercultural communication issues. Don has worked with clients in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region to help them reach each other with more meaningful and successful communication. He teaches workshops on presentation skills, sales skills, and talking to people around the world more effectively. He lives with his family in Tempe, Arizona.