IN the past weeks, I've joined several Christmas parties in Berlin, but what I am really longing for is coming back to Shanghai and celebrating the Chinese New Year with my parents. I need a short break from my doctoral thesis in Berlin.
I have been asked so many times by both Chinese and German friends about the plan after achieving the doctoral title in Germany, to stay or to return. I have never hesitated to answer - I will go back to Shanghai. Definitely! Home is sweet.
But what if home is not always sweet? I was surprised when my German supervisor at the Humboldt University of Berlin once seriously suggested that I might need two to three years to get readjusted in Shanghai. But how can this be true? I was born and grew up in this metropolis, and everything in Shanghai is familiar to me. I first just regarded this as a joke, but later I asked myself, is the process of readjusting to Shanghai that easy?
Nan M. Sussman, a renowned American professor, focusing on exploring cultural transitions among sojourners, wrote an article, The Dynamic Nature of Cultural Identity Throughout Cultural Transitions: Why Home Is Not So Sweet, in which she analyzed the relationships among self-concept, cultural identity, and cultural transitions.
The well-known U-curve hypothesis vividly depicts the process of acculturation in a new culture as a curve with four-stages (honeymoon, conflict, critical, and recovery). Later, the return into the home culture is suggested as another U-curve and the whole process of cultural transition was described as a W-curve.
Frankly, I did expect the cultural difference before I left Shanghai for Berlin, but it is frustrating to imagine that I even need to prepare for another round of cultural shock to my own culture.
Nevertheless, on second thought, it is logical and reasonable that one should never take the readjustment for granted, as home is never the same home it once was and the person himself is never the one he once was. Everything at home changes, more or less, during one's absences. One cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh water is forever flowing towards him. The better one has adapted to the foreign culture, the more difficulties one will come across when he returns to his own culture.
Pressure to succeed
Then, what I am worrying about in going home? Definitely, it is the high social pressure on and expectations of young people. We are all familiar with the standards of "successful" young professionals in Shanghai, who are expected to have a "white-collar" job, to purchase an apartment of his own (a bonus if it is downtown), to own a car and to be able to afford a "golden-week" holiday abroad (in Europe or in Japan) once a year. I am sure I will be excluded from this "promising" group when I come back to Shanghai.
Clothes and trappings make the man in Shanghai. I always turned off the tone of my old mobile phone, as my old-fashioned one made a monotonous noise when someone called me; people around me on a bus would cast their eyes upon me, wondering how could I, being a young people in such an information era, be that out-dated. I didn't bother to purchase a new one and just switched the ring tones off, to avoid the peculiar eyes.
In Berlin, old-mode mobile phones are sometimes still seen and one doesn't necessarily have to feel ashamed for only owing an old-fashioned one. Believe it or not, the new interior decorations of my friends or former classmates in Shanghai are more luxurious than that of most German families I have visited.
Cultural transition is challenging and demanding. As a sojourner, I both suffered and benefited tremendously from various cultural shocks in Berlin. When I finally get used to the German language, culture and lifestyle in Germany, it is time to return, and I am actually more than happy to return.
But how shall I encourage myself to be brave and determined? Maybe one of the easy alternatives is not bother to think too much, but when in Shanghai as the Shanghainese do?
Home may still be sweet as we thought, who knows?
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Chinese companies plan to pay out larger discretionary 2010 year-end bonuses, as a percentage of base salary, than companies in Hong Kong or Singapore, according a quarterly survey released Thursday by recruitment firm Hudson. About 20% of China companies surveyed will pay bonuses equivalent to 20% or more of base salary, while only 16% of firms surveyed in Hong Kong, and 15% of Singaporean companies will be as generous. China companies also outpace their counterparts in terms of the percentage planning any sort of bonus packets, with 92% of companies to offer the payouts, compared to 87% in Singapore and 82% in Hong Kong, the report said.
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