Culture is a combination of everything. For insiders of a culture, it means their commonly recognized living habits, beliefs, social norms, and knowledge. While for outsiders, culture means an essential approach for them to understand and empathize with insiders of the culture.

There’s a famous Chinese saying “Chinese culture is broad and profound throughout five thousand years” which manifests the longevity and richness of Chinese culture since it has been evolving for so long and has been impactful to many areas around East Asia. Every time I was asked to speak for my culture, I feel unqualified since I could not represent all peoples within the great nation. For example, similar to American geography people on the east and west coast have distinctive living styles, people from the north and south parts of China have many differences in terms of dialects, habits, and ways to interact with others. For me, Chinese culture is like an encyclopedia. It includes every wisdom that I need to deal with my life. Confucianism guides me on personal ethics and morality, hundreds of thousands of Chinese poems across 18 dynasties teach me to discover the unique aesthetic of the world, and Chinese traditional festivals such as Chinese New Year remind me of how important the family means to me and how important it is to show gratitude to people around me.

I was born and raised in Xi’an, China before coming to college in the US. I had never been living in a place with different culture but now. As an international student here at Duke, everything was refreshing for me the moment I moved into the campus. I remember writing down how many “first-time” things I did during the orientation week here and it turned out to be too many to write down. It might be surprising but I had never tried real exotic food other than Chinese food nor talked to people in English for more than a day. The first time I went to Panda Express, my friends were laughing at me because I ate the entire fortune cookie with the tape inside since I never saw and knew the existence of it back in China.

But more than these surface culture shocks that I had, the most significant difference I found between China and US are our perspectives of individualism and collectivism. Individualism brings diversity and creativity while collectivism brings efficiency and unity. It is fascinating for me to discover and compare the pros and cons of both isms when I attend classes, meet new friends, and deal with everything in my life. Moreover, the experience also reshapes my values of the 21st-century world amid the wave of globalization and makes me realize the importance of being a global citizen with genuine respect and comprehension of different cultures.