The question I’ve been getting nonstop since arriving in China: “Guan mm guan?” In Cantonese, it roughly translates to, “Are you used to it?”
“It” covers everything, including general living conditions, food, weather, transportation, work, and people.
To me, how can I answer that question with anything but an enthusiastic yes? With the exception of work, if I am not or will not get used to anything else here, then why stay? Sure, the question itself is a necessary one, a way to show kindness toward a foreigner, despite whose parents are from China, is basically assumed to not like China.
But why is it that so many people, both locals and emigrants, have so many negative things to say about China? I get it. China is unlike any other country, especially in terms of development. And it’s partly because of its unprecedented development from essentially entirely rural communities to the unrecognizable modern cosmopolitan cities that make people worried. As impressive as the progress has been, it has induced this sort of fear among them. Change frightens them. (A relative at dinner tonight literally compared China to Iraq.)
And yet, it is this change that has drawn and continues to attract so many wai guo ren to leave their “safe” Western homes and settle down to witness what we see as an exciting new life. Safety bores us.
I don’t want safety. I don’t want comfort—at least not now, when I don’t have much tying me down. Why spend the best years of your life worrying so much about stability that it prevents you from #adventures?
So to everyone who’s wondering, it’s not about whether I’m used to it—whatever it is. It’s more, “How excited are you to embark on a new chapter in such a fascinating country?”