Opinions from a local

So my opinion can be a bit strong sometimes…

Yeah, my parents taught me to have opinions and express them! So I will! Growing up in my family was much like a shouting contest sometimes. Whoever speaks the loudest has the floor, and their opinion is the most important. Although I know this isn’t true (and we didn’t/don’t always shout to talk), sometimes that’s what a debate was like in my family. Being the middle child however, created some obstacles in allowing me to get those opinions out there. My two oldest sisters definitely always won when it came to voicing their thoughts; and I remember my dad being concerned about this. But my sisters were always just more outgoing than I was! And while maybe my dads concern about my quiet personality, mixed with such a loud family was a nice comfort, I rather enjoyed it be . I got to hang out more with my brother, which created so many fun memories, and I think him and I ended up being the more internal, contemplative type. I think the way things worked out helped us to step back, observe, and think about what’s going on. (However, this isn’t to say my sisters aren’t able to do the same!)

I really enjoy hearing other peoples opinions;  I like to hear what other people think and know what’s going on in their mind. I also like to see how people’s opinions or behaviours change when they’re around a different group of people. For example, my opinions on China aren’t always the nicest, and sometimes I have problems dealing with these differences in my day-to-day life. I can easily express these opinions to you, but I would be really hesitant to try explain my opinions to someone who has never left China. I think it would come across hurtful and even rude, because it’s everything they know. While I don’t intend to imply that one culture is better than another (because it’s not), I am just more used to my culture. But these are my problems, and considering I’m the new-comer to China, I’m the one that has to change! Of course, my opinions really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, it just depends on who wants to read them.

BUT something I thought would be really cool was for you all to hear the opinion of someone else. Finally, right??  🙂 I thought it would be a bit of an eye-opener for you all, as well as myself, to hear the opinions of a born and raised Suzhou local.

This wonderful human being’s perspective is someone I met in Canada shortly before my departure here to China. Camilla and I were beside each other on rowing machines when I decided to strike up a conversation with her. She was a new member at the gym I went to at home (which I am missing a lot right now…) and thought I should get to know her! While it was difficult to try speaking during rests of rowing workout, Camilla and I were able to do it (She’s a pretty fit girl!).  I found out that she was from China, only about 1 hour away from where Ryan and I are living! She then told me her dad’s home town was where Ryan and I are right now…just a cool coincidence. What was even MORE cool was that at the time, she told me she was going to be visiting China when I was going to be there. So of course we had to hangout.

Camilla was born in Suzhou, China, where she was sent to a boarding school at the age of 5 until she was in grade 10. She then arrived in Canada for high school, for grades 11 and 12 in Thornhill, Ontario, followed by her schooling at the University of Waterloo. While she has been in Canada for 8 years of her life so far, she visits home frequently to see her family and friends. So what better opinions to hear than from someone who has a lot of experience of both China and Canada!! Now we can get a bit of a more well rounded opinion.

Even with me having experience of living in China, I was still shocked to hear some of Camilla’s perspectives. So here goes our ‘online interview’ of Camilla’s views on both Chinese and Canadian cultures.

What was it like being raised in China, and then being sent to Canada? Did you notice a big culture difference? If you did, what was it like? Did you find it difficult adapting to Canadian/Western culture?

I’ve been very lucky to be raised in a family where my parents have always encouraged me to voice my opinions. My parents encouraged me to try anything I was interested in when I was young, and they never forced me to learn anything.

However, I know a lot of families in China, in which the children’s desires are usually suppressed by parents.

Instead, children in these families are forced to learn instruments such as piano or violin, or sports such as swimming or ping pong, or even Olympic Maths at very young age. Therefore, children start to suffer from peer pressure even prior to them understanding what suffering is. Children raised in these families were not taught how to enjoy life, so some of them have been pushed too hard that they become intense and anxious about almost everything. They do not want to miss any second or any opportunity because they have been pushed to try hard for everything. I think this could explain at least a portion of the reason why people in China are ALWAYS cutting in lines. As a result, at least some of the children will turn into the same kind of parents as theirs, and in turn apply the same rule of educating to the next generation. Haha I think I have deviated too far from the question you asked! Well, I notice a VERY BIG culture difference between Chinese and Canadian. When I was young, the importance of sports were always ignored. In school, when sports time and study time have a conflict, sports always has to make space for study. I remember I was on the municipal swimming team in elementary school, so I had to train for two hours after school every day.

However, there was one day my teacher suggested to my parents that it was better for me to quit the swimming team.

My parents asked for my opinion and I decided to quit – because I did not want to swim in winter. My parents were not like other parents to just withdraw me from the team without asking my preference, but you can still get the idea of “sports are always second to study” from my teacher’s suggestion. When I came to Canada, I was astonished that sports are so popular that the most popular kids in school are all on sports teams! I started to learn English when I was in grade 5 so by the time I came to Canada, I was able to start simple conversations with other students in school. Although I found it was a little challenging in the beginning to understand thoroughly what was taught in class,  I adapted to it after one semester. I also joined the school swimming team and thus made several friends in high school. They were very helpful and super nice to me.

How did Canadian people treat you? Did you find a lot of them were kind or rude?

I found that most Canadian people are super nice and I am fortunate that almost every Canadian person I have run into are kind and helpful.

The thing that I like the most about Canadian people is that they care about privacy.

In China, people do not care about privacy as much as Canadian people. You will have strangers sitting next to you peaking at your phone screen; acquaintances asking you how much you make annually; relatives questioning why you don’t got a girlfriend/boyfriend, are you gay? OMG you are gay, you are so sick you have to go to see a doctor! (I know that there are still many conservative families worldwide not accepting LGBT. I think you can choose to not accept LGBT, but it is rude to say stuff like this). Before I came to Canada, I was actually worried about being discriminated and I read some articles written by Asians overseas saying that they have been discriminated. I have never been discriminated until this April; I was making a phone call to TD insurance to complain that I had not yet received my auto insurance in mail. The representative was very rude (at least I think so). She repeated every sentence of mine as if she did not understand every single word I said, and then after I asked her a question, she said “what” and started to laugh out loud. I was very upset and I hung up on her. I hope that it was me being too sensitive and she did not intend to be offensive, but I still thought I was discriminated because of my accent. But she is the very first rude person I have met in my 8 years in Canada, so overall I would still like to rate Canadian people a 5/5 on a politeness scale!

Can you explain your best experience with people in Canada or North America?

I had a lot of good experiences with people in Canada. Here I would like to share with you my best work experience with Canadian people. It took place in my last co-op term with my director. She talks very fast and behaves a little bit aggressive. So during my interview with her, I was very nervous because of her. (She later told me that she once made a girl cry during interview, so you could imagine how nervous I was when interviewed by her) When I accepted the offer, I prepared myself for a tough term because I knew I would work with her. When the term started, she was very picky and she seemed not easy to get along with. However, as the term went, I started to see another side of her. I learnt a lot from her and she was always willing to answer my stupid questions and helped me out when I was having problems. She involved me in a lot of meetings which I did not need to be involved. She told me that she wanted me to meet more people so that I could build my network. Although she was very picky with me, she never blamed me for making silly mistakes and I could tell that she tried to teach me instead of just treat me as a labour force. After that coop term, I myself for the first time, wished the co-op term could be longer. I think she is more than a director to me, I would like to think her as my mentor.

Would you say you notice a difference between Canadian people and Chinese people? If so, name the differences.

Canadian people Chinese people
More independent overall The young generation is more dependant on their parents; wives are more dependant on husbands
Love playing sports Would rather stay at home watching drama series/playing video games instead of going outside to play some sports
Love reading Love watching dramas
Work-life balance No distinct line between work and private life
Have strict rules to follow There is vagueness in rules: loopholes

What are some things you really dislike about Canada or Canadian people?

Well, the only thing I can think of is the cold winter! Every year when it approaches the end of October, I feel like “Winter is coming” as if I were in Game of Thrones haha

I grew up in eastern China where the lowest temperature I have ever experienced was around -4 degree Celsius.

I was super excited the first time I saw snow in Canada, but it was only for like one day.

What is it like coming back to China? Do you find it difficult to adapt back into Chinese culture?

Like what I have mentioned above, rules/regulations intentionally leave vagueness for different interpretations under different circumstances.

However, Chinese people are “too smart” that once they find out about the vagueness, they will take advantage of it and the vagueness thus becomes loopholes. Consequently, bad money drives out good.

I would like to take myself as an example. When I am in China, I do not dare cross the roads even when the pedestrian lights are green. And when I drive, I choose not to use my turn signal when I switch lanes because once the other lane knows my intention from my signal, they will speed up and never let me switch the lane. When I am in Canada, I drive strictly following the rules; but when I come back, I have to drive like all drivers in China.

Is there anything you miss from home when you’re in Canada?

I miss the convenience here in China. You can get different kinds of food whenever you are hungry; you can get alcohol from lots of stores; you can get foot massage at a lower price… I cannot think of all of them at one time, but in general, it is more convenient to live in China than in Canada.

Is there anything that you have in China, that you just can’t get in Canada?

Local Suzhou food of course!

How would you describe Chinese people in general?

Most people are kind, polite and helpful. Chinese people have a very strong bond with family members. This is good in the sense that most of the elderly are well taken care of by their children. Because of the strong family relationship, family members are more dependant on each other than Canadian people.

Although I do not want to admit, I have to say that discrimination is a very big issue in China.

People earning less income are discriminated by richer people; people who are not locally from Beijing/Shanghai are discriminated by local Beijing/Shanghai people; women who have not gotten married in their late 20s are discriminated by the society. This is certainly not true of all Chinese people, but there are indeed some people who are like this. However, as an increasing number of young people have the experience of studying abroad, the Chinese young generation (people who were born in the 1980’s till now) are more fair and open to diversities than previous generations.

Do you have a preference over Western or Chinese culture?

Actually no. I would say they are different and each of them has both pros and cons. I love the discipline in Western culture but I also enjoy the vagueness in rules in China sometimes. It is hard to simply state a preference. I was born in China and raised in China up to 16, and then I moved to Canada and have spent 8 years there.

I would say that I have been deeply affected by both cultures and I really appreciate the impacts that both cultures have made on me.

Have you ever had a very bad experience in China?

Driving experience of course. Like I mentioned above, I HATE driving in China. So now I choose to use public transportation instead of driving haha.

Are there any ways in which you wish Canada were more like China? Are there any ways in which you wish China were more like Canada? In what ways?

Although I complained about some aspects of China in the questions above, I do not wish either China or Canada to be more like the other. China should improve in some ways, such as raising people’s awareness of environment protection and food safety.

I think both countries should be developing in a sense that would make their people’s lives better and feel better, not in the sense of being more like other countries.

Each country is like an individual person, they have different personalities and you cannot simply say a personality is good or bad. A personality which is good for one person might be of no use to another person. So I sincerely hope that China can be a better country in the sense of benefitting Chinese people.


I really liked what Camilla said here at the end about each country needing to be an individual country, and one country doesn’t need to be more like the other. It seems so accurate though for myself as well as others, to complain about a country we aren’t used to, just like when we complain about people we interact with every day. It’s so easy to complain about what they do that’s so different and strange, rather than just accepting and welcoming the fact that everyone is an individual and is different. This isn’t to say we can’t complain…because I can say for myself that I find it therapeutic sometimes. BUT I think there’s a fine line between complaining, and not accepting. Complaining enough times can not only get annoying, but also come across unaccepting of others. I think it’s time for me to stop whining, right guys?? (Oopsies).

But now we all know that Canada is a pretty great place eh!! Although that TD lady needs to smarten up…she’s letting us down.

I hope you all enjoyed this Q & A as much as I did! If you have any questions about anything Camilla wrote, or about China in general, Camilla has kindly offered to answer these questions for me. So just contact me through my blog and I will get Camilla to respond 🙂



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