I am not much into travelling as I am more of a stay at home person, who enjoys comforts of home and tunes away from entire world during my vacation. However, two years ago I went to Shenyang in China for three weeks for a teaching assignment. It was an interesting experience to be in city where barely someone could speak English. Have you ever had that experience? How did you cope with that?
Shenyang, is located in the central part of Liaoning Province, is a beautiful city with clear air and natural scenery. This city bordered by the Liaodong Peninsula on south side and Changbai Mountains on north side belongs to Bohai economic circle. It is a relatively small city in comparison with China with population of 8.29 million (https://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/liaoning/shenyang/)
I wouldn’t lie, for the first week, it was bit nerve wrecking to go out on own without fear of getting lost and unable to ask for directions as no one would understand. I was hesitant in going out as even hotel staff could barely speak English. The Shenyang city does not see many foreigners and every time I would approach someone with a smile gesture or hello, they would run away!
Finally, I came with an idea of using a translator app and I had a screen shot of translating so I could show the taxi driver and locals of which hotel I was staying. Another interesting experience I had was that no social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) or Google worked in china. Can you imagine your life without Google considering how much we depend on Google for information?
Beside teaching, I had evenings and weekends to stroll around the city. While strolling, I was surprised to see how active the senior population of this city was. Every day and at every few blocks, they would do square dancing, and anyone could join. I joined two groups on two separate occasions, and it was a lot of fun. What a creative idea to get socially and physically stimulated.
Have you ever crossed a road that is full of busses, cars and no one is letting you cross? How would you cross? Well, that is how roads are crossed in China. Group of people get together on one side of road and then they all start crossing the roads at same time forcing cars to stop. It was scary!
Imagine ordering food from a menu that is all in their native language and you are unsure what to order. When I would walk to a restaurant to eat, I would look a menu and see if they had pictures as I am a picky eater and cannot try everything! Eating out is very popular in China as food was cheap and fresh at same time. My favorite place was a small noodle restaurant that was operated by a husband and wife and they would even make fresh noodles. At one restaurant, another patron even bought some beer for us as we were foreigners visiting his city and he decided to welcome us. Isn’t that sweet?
When I reflect my experience of being in a new country, it was bit scary but an interesting one and I would do this all over again.