As a foreigner in China, I’m used to having people stare at me and look at me. But I’ve realised, that sometimes I’m just like the Chinese, in the fact that I stare at them too. Whether it’s because of the bad English scrawled across their t-shirts (my personal favourite at the moment is this ‘Lonely’ one)
, the crazy combination of clothes their wearing, or just to stare back for fun.
I made this realisation yesterday when I was out running in the morning. I went straight to the running track as there’s something quite nice about the feel of running on rubber rather than stones and rubble. There were two other men running around the track, like me and also three students trying to perfect their flag raising. There was no wind, but they wanted the flag to fly as it was being raised up the pole, so they’d throw it up into the air, before it limply flopped against the pole. They repeated this for about 20 minutes with no success.
Anyway, after a while, a Chinese woman came to work out. She was briskly walking up and down alongside the sand pit for long jump and each time she’d alternate different movements. These included:
- walking backwards
- holding her hands in fists and twisting her shoulders from side to side
- putting her hands on her hips
- putting her hands on her shoulders and rotating
and other things that I can’t remember now, but I remember staring at her and wondering, what is that movement going to achieve? I think the walking backwards was the strangest, as she might’ve missed her step and fell into the sand, but I guess if you think about it, walking backwards probably improves your balance and spatial awareness. It also prepares you for when you need to back out of an awkward situation I guess.
After my 5km run, I did some strength exercises, following a set I’d seen on Instagram.
As I did them, the lady above stared at me more than before, wondering what I was doing. Just as I’d never seen anyone walking backwards in the UK, I doubt she’d seen anyone doing jumping jacks in China. It was funny because when I was doing the wall sit, she compassionately looked at me as if to say “that’s nice, you’re having a rest”, but a wall sit isn’t a rest as those who’ve done them will know!
The exercises that we see as perfectly normal in our own routine and countries can be seen as totally alien in other countries and cultures. Have you experienced anything like this? Should I 入乡随俗 (when in Rome, do as Romans do) and incorporate backwards running and arm twisting into my fitness routine?