Even before going to Taipei and Beijing for roughly eight months, anyone I told about it said essentially, “wow, that’s a long time.” And they were right, but it also gave me the time to get truly adjusted to a completely different culture. My understanding is that most of Europe has a similar culture to the United States; there is a smaller adjustment period and there simply aren’t as many cultural barriers to overcome. Having the opportunity to live in a place with one of the most different cultures from my own was an eye opening and challenging experience.
I think that in terms of advantages towards my future employment, this time abroad was extremely beneficial in giving me the opportunity to understand a country that many Americans still do not understand. There almost always seems to be a business article on “How to Crack the Chinese Market,” but now that I have lived there, I don’t agree with everything I read. I think that many Americans’ understanding of Chinese society is wrong or flawed, mainly because they have never lived there. When you nearly only talk with Chinese people for eight months, you get a better understanding of a culture than reading a plethora of books could provide because much of your understanding is unspoken or intuitive.
My understanding of Chinese society was also greatly increased by my having a very open Chinese roommate. He was always ready to speak on Chinese society, politics, or economics, even if the topic was controversial and I gave him the save treatment. It made for fantastic opportunity to better understand China’s political or economic motivations; how the citizens see their government, what they condone, what they approve of, and what they don’t. Understanding Chinese culture is important in many businesses, but it also allowed for me to think about why I believe in things and reevaluate.