Learning about Unity Over Dinner

By Kenae Hughes

This summer I was given an amazing opportunity. I was able to travel to Chengdu, China, as a cultural exchange student for the Sichuan University Immersion Program. I had many great experiences while traveling abroad. I was able to learn about a different culture, learn a few words in the Chinese language, try different foods, meet new people and most importantly, receive a different perspective on life.

The most transformative experience I had in Chengdu was going out to dinner and eating with Chinese friends. This experience was the most meaningful and transformative for me because during the process of ordering dinner, no one orders individually. The Chinese culture is a collectivist culture; one does not only think about oneself. When ordering dinner, everyone speaks on what is wanted and needed at the table. Before the final order is submitted, everyone at the table has to agree with what is being ordered. With that said, everyone’s preference is taken into consideration. One is not only concerned about what is on his plate but concerned about what is on everyone’s plate. As a person of African American descent who has unconsciously adopted many Western ideologies like individualism, I have discovered I am more drawn to collectivism.

Observing my ideal way of living with the people around me was such a beautiful experience. Even though going out to dinner may sound so simple, the value of unity and mutual respect is what ordering dinner and eating together exposed about the people. I would like to implement this way of living in to everything I do, especially when raising my future children. I appreciate this beautiful, yet so simple experience in Chengdu, China.

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