‘When I arrived in India, I understood what culture shock really means,’ says Yuanyuan Guo, a Chinese student who moved to India in 2013 to work as an intern for an international organisation.
Her first internship abroad was definitely a life changing experience. Guo, a 22-year-old Chinese master student in Euroculture, describes her first impression of India as disappointing. ‘I was stuck at the airport for more than two hours. The guy who was supposed to pick me up was late, so I had to wait there,’ she recalls. ‘I was very annoyed,’ she adds.
Although she visited tourist attractions in order to explore the country a little bit the next day, Guo was still in a bad mood. ‘There was nothing there, let alone the fact that it was full of garbage. I couldn’t really understand why this place was in the list of the country’s tourist places.’
After the initial shock wore off and despite the fact that her stay hadn’t gotten off to a very promising start, Guo tried to focus on India’s positive side. The family that she stayed with also helped her adapt quickly to the new culture.
‘They were very nice and they treated me as if I was part of their family as well,’ she says. ‘They actually made me realize how friendly and nice Indian people are.’
Soon, Guo began to enjoy her time in India and the Indian lifestyle. ‘They are very relaxed and they have a lot of free time, whereas China is developing so fast that people are just working without enough free time to meet their friends or to relax in general.’
She also liked Indian music. ‘We went dancing with my friends very often. Even when I went back to China, I was constantly checking if there were any Indian dances or concerts that I could go to.’
Although Guo enjoyed her stay in India in the end, she couldn’t help but notice some of the country’s problems. Poverty is common and many Indian people don’t have an adequate standard of living, ‘I was surprised when I found out that even the fact that their living standards are very low doesn’t seem to be a problem for them.’
However, the most striking thing for her was how many people relied on begging. ‘The majority of them were mothers with their kids. I think many of them have turned begging money from others into their profession. I felt really bad about this part and I think it definitely needs to be terminated somehow in the near future. The organization I was working for was planning to implement some strategies in order to fight this problem, however it is high time the government did something about it.’
Although many of her Chinese friends were having a really rough time in India and wound up returning to China earlier than planned, Guo didn’t. ‘I was trying to enjoy every single moment and I even kept a diary to write down all the amazing experiences I had there.’
Guo hopes to go back to India one day. ‘I miss those days a lot. I know that such a trip isn’t ideal for the majority of people. However, for me, it was a unique experience and I learned how to behave in a multicultural environment.’