I’m about to elaborate a little on my experience studying abroad and connecting with people. Before I start though, I must state that a lot of it has very little to do with being abroad.
I think it is hard for people to grasp the kind of person I am. There’s that thing about reading people’s atmosphere before even knowing them well, and that allows people to find connection. Based on my past experience of making friends in the States, I thought I would connect better with people in China, but I learned that there is much more going on. My difficulties in connecting with people, for most of the part, has nothing to do with their nationality, ethnicity, and cultural background. The main reason for it lies solely on personality. This is what it means to find oneself overseas. There are things people don’t understand until they are away from their normal space, in a new unfamiliar place.
Before studying abroad, I already understood that not only I don’t connect well with the majority, I also need a lot of space. Little did I know, though, how important that space is to me.
When I just got Chengdu, I socialized a ton. With my classmates, and my fellow exchange groupies. Every time of the day I would be engaged in some kind of casual or formal gathering. Usually I put more effort in participating the more formal ones. The casual hangouts is the real challenge for me, believe it or not.
Everyday, my roommate at that time, would be talking to me, and inviting me to do something, find out what everyone else is doing. We would go out and do activities such as, going to someone’s place, going somewhere for a walk, having meals, drinking, clubbing, doing movie nights, all the normal stuff. It was very nice to have so many friends. The more friends I had, the more people I meet everyday. A daily social routine was formed.
I never had time to myself. I enjoyed doing all those activities, but I have other things I should be doing. Things that are more important than sitting around on other people’s couches and talking about things I don’t
care about. understand. I’d rather be writing Japanese entries on lang-8, studying Chinese, practicing songs on my guitar, and writing songs. All of this requires me to be by myself.
And so everyone got close very quickly, and it seems that I got familiar with all of them. Familiar, but far from really getting to know any of them. Nobody understood the kind of person I really am. I couldn’t really express myself entirely to everyone, so they only grasp bits and parts of my real personality.
To them I came across as random, childish, quiet, open and honest, well-prepared, awkward, gullible, naive,
innocent creepy, and ‘sex’ craze for making perverted jokes and reading gay porn comics. (Disclaimer: I DON’T read anything like that. I am a fan of a few Yaoi titles, and no matter how many times I’ve explained the genre they don’t understand. In fact, they don’t understand anything about manga genres AT ALL). Alright, all of those points are partially true. I probably should also add stingy and party-pooper to the list as well. This looks like a very random personality list, no?
One thing I would like to deny is that I am not gullible. I don’t share much of common interest with many people in my area, so whatever people tell me, I take it as possibly true. I don’t like to act like a know-it-all, and question the truth in other people’s stories, especially when I don’t even actually know in-depth about it. If they told me ke$ha is married to Brad Pitt, I would probably believe them. I know almost nothing, and would even careless about these 2 celebrities, so why should I waste my energy to deny it?
Anyway, my point is connecting with people is not easy, and the way I express myself really makes people misunderstand my true feelings, my atmosphere. People have different world views, and interpret people in ways that I often cannot comprehend.
Later, I grew distant to everyone. I meet everyone at a less frequent pace. They began to think I dislike them, “Why aren’t you hanging out with us, are we not cool enough for you?” Of course, that is not true. I just feel uncomfortable, out of place, and it really wears me out to be with them so often. They are all great people, and fine the way they are. It is I, who can’t keep up with their social expectations.
They were concered I’d be lonely by myself, which I am aware of, is very nice of them. For many, the more the merrier! And for me, most of the time I feel the opposite. Isn’t this just a question of compatibility?
I have learned in-depth how important it is to be true to myself. It does everyone a favor, and saves people the disappointment (for those who expect too much, and the type that expects everyone to be think like ’em). I’ve also learned that good friends only come around in intervals of 2-3 years for me. For the good friends I have today, it is a mix of spending time and effort, and the matter fate, that brought us close.
I hope it is not too impudent to say I’d rather be doing something else than being with people. We all have different priorities, yeah?