As the nominations for exchange just came out at Juridicum in Lund, a few friends have asked me about tips and advice regarding life in mainland China. So, here it goes:
Beijing is not an unconditional romance. You have to have a lot of patience and tolerance for that basically everything is done differently here, than what you are used to. Coming here is a risk and Europeans (especially Swedes) will have to sacrifice a great deal of comfort and re-evaluate a lot they take for granted. Internet is censored, you’ll have problems keeping contact with dear ones; you will tear your hair for not being able to understand / making yourself understood; you will be fooled and pay ridiculous prizes at the market, and you will have difficulties seeing the building next to yours because of the world’s worst pollution. Those things will happen.
On the other hand, I know this too: if you come here, you’ll be welcomed by a people who would rather miss 30 min of their lunchbreak to help you find that ridiculous address (which is probably misspelled) than walk past you; you’ll attend classes in a social context where the Chinese students- on the first day of uni- will use the word ‘friend’ instead of ‘class-mate’ to describe you; you’ll be a part of the history of one of the world’s biggest and most powerful cities of all times, and able to nonchalantly stroll by Tian’an men Square, The Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven; you’ll pay 50 c for 600 ml of beer on a midnight- street laden with rows of incandescent red lanterns above you and your friends; you’ll do things you never did before; you’ll meet the best people; you’ll get perspective; you’ll travel and see miracles and at least one of the Wonders of the World; you’ll be greeted by a place where there is a highly tangible sense of being able to do and accomplish anything you’d like; you’ll live in a place quite unlike any other on this earth, and you will have the experience of your life.
Never did I once regret coming here. Never did I regret choosing China over France. I actively appreciate this opportunity every day of being and living in this country. Truth be told: I sometimes think moving home again will be much harder than it was coming here- a place where I had no initial context and only one travel companion whom I truly knew from before.
If you are thinking about mainland China strictly as a strategic career-move: don’t bother move from the West. If you expect the idea of a swanky legal elite of the world, the culture will devour you before you’ll reap the benefits. (It can be a really good career-move, but you first and foremost have to be very open and appreciative of the culture for them ever being able to materialize.)
If you are thinking about China as the best thing you ever did from an experience- point- of- view- and a chance to take part of one of the most fascinating cultures there ever was: welcome to 中国 !