Occupation : Teacher / Professor at Xiamen University School of Management
Years in China : 7 years
How did your journey in China begin?
I planned most of my life, however China was never on my radar. Living and working in China was totally unplanned but incredibly fascinating and worthwhile in every sense.
I’m one of the millions of people whose lives were radically changed by the global financial crisis. I worked as a head of a department of tourism and culinary arts in an academic college in Jerusalem. It was interesting, satisfying, fulfilling… and I thought that was a career for life. But then… Bang! The global economy collapsed and 50% of the departments at the college closed, mine included. Two years later, that was it!
Now what? One of my brothers, David, had a couple of friends who worked in Xiamen at the time. I was a little hesitant at first, but I contacted them, and they highly recommended coming over for six months to teach. I wrote to some universities in Xiamen and was amazed that they all offered me a teaching position! This was so refreshing in comparison with the vast majority of the world. I was very excited and enthusiastic about this new undertaking.
I chose Xiamen university due to various recommendations and its beautiful campus and location. It’s such a different experience from my previous teaching in Israel and Europe. It is quiet, disciplined and respectful; not that things are chaotic in Israel or Europe but the Chinese classroom culture is certainly unique. An initial period of one semester has currently developed into over 7 years! So, in retrospect, the global financial crisis was a positive game changer for me. One door closed and China opened up opportunities that I never dreamed about.
我之所以选择厦门大学，是因为有许多人推荐，而且厦大校园风景怡人，位置优越。这与我之前在以色列和欧洲的教学体验不同。厦大的环境非常安静，师生守纪，互相尊重。并不是说以色列和欧洲的学校很混乱，但中国的课堂文化肯定是有其独特性的。我已经在厦大待了 7 年多！回过头来看，全球金融危机带给我的是积极的改变。一扇门关闭了，中国为我打开了另一扇门，这是我梦寐以求的机会。
What do you like most about your city and China as a whole?
Xiamen is a truly beautiful city, a blend of old and new. It has fascinating markets which I adore, the smells, the huge varieties of foods are so different from the Mediterranean. The surrounding seas, mountains, terrain and general ambiance of the area is wonderful. I just find being around absorbing the atmosphere soothing and pleasant, even in the hustle and bustle of the city, the temples, street food, etc. are a continuous stimulation. Xiamen is perfectly situated in China, with great infrastructure, open spaces and cleanliness. The weather is almost ideal, except for the hot humid summer months and the occasional tropical storms, but it’s all part of the experience. I even experienced mega typhoon Meranti back in 2016 which was scary at the time, however with immaculate alacrity and public enthusiasm the city was repaired with such precision and speed. Unbelievable!
厦门真是一座美丽的城市，现代和传统在这里交融。这里有迷人的市集，我很喜欢。空气中弥漫的香味、各种各样的食物，与地中海地区是如此不同。周围有海洋、山地，还有这里的环境都很棒。我觉得置身于这种环境之中会感到放松，令人愉悦，即使在喧嚣的城市中，寺庙、街头小吃也能带给我持续的兴奋感。厦门在中国的地理位置非常好，基础设施完备，空间开阔，环境整洁。除了夏季炎热潮湿，偶尔会有热带风暴侵扰，这里的气候几乎是理想的，这些都构成了我在厦门的别样体验。我在 2016 年甚至经历了超强台风莫兰蒂，当时的情况是非常可怕的，然而政府迅速响应，人民齐心协力，厦门以很快的速度恢复如初。这简直难以置信！
I’ve met and befriended many many great locals and foreigners too from such diverse countries, cultures, religions and even ages! It’s refreshing! Essentially all people have similar aspirations, dreams and ambitions irrespective of their backgrounds. Stereotypes are stereotypes and untrue. Many people associate mega and overcrowded cities to China which is true, however few people are aware of the natural beauty and vast geographical areas of China, the tropical versus desert zones, the ethnic diversity with their corresponding dress codes and cultures, the ultra-modern buildings in comparison to the ancient architecture, the ease of electronic payments, online life in general and the determination to achieve, advance, progress, obtain and succeed in life. There is a beat in China which defines the country in such a contrasting way to the West. It is amazing how many Chinese people want to learn English and how much the Chinese know about western culture in comparison to how little we know about Chinese culture. What a country!
What fascinated you the most about living in China?
In short almost everything! Everything is different in China in comparison with a western culture, the food, the lifestyle, habits, body language, communication and values, etc.
I try (I admit it, perhaps I ought to try harder) to speak Chinese, but I try! The tones and pronunciation in Chinese are essential. Often Chinese people say to me TING BU DONG, meaning they don’t understand me, it’s SO frustrating. Communication is a challenge to put it mildly, but with the help of friends, we always find a way to work things out.
I’m vegetarian and teach about food. I find the food delicious in China, but it took a while for my stomach to adjust to these new flavors. However, today the Chinese diet ranks very high in my books, I’ve even mastered the art of using chopsticks without the food dropping on my clothes, that too took a while.
Culinary differences do exist! To my Mediterranean culture, people here eat so early, especially lunch and dinner which I eat at 14:00 and 20:00 respectfully. I enjoy iced water whereas here in China people drink hot water in the scorching heat. I love raw vegetables, however everything is cooked here and we are a coffee drinking nation in comparison to the love of tea here. Finally, I’m asked countless times every day “if I’ve eaten” and then numerous times “if I’m full” How can one not fall in love with China?
What is your unique China story?
I think China is a place that one literally grows to love and appreciate. After an initial period of culture shock, adjustments and resetting one’s mind, China becomes for many people a second home.
At the end of each academic year, I often said to myself “Time to go home, it’s been fun”, but I’m a guest in China and when is it enough? Obviously I haven’t reached that point yet! For me at work, via my department and students there is a sense of gratitude and appreciation for my teaching which I truthfully value. The diversity of people I meet and befriend encouraged me to extend my stay in China for a longer period than I initially planned – significantly longer!
About Bernard’s hometown
介绍一下 Bernard 的家乡
In a way Israel and China couldn’t be more different! However, apart from the obvious differences in size and geographic location; Israel is a tiny country with a population of about 8 million in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Looking at this again I believe there are considerable similarities. Both China and Israel speak ancient old languages, both value education to the extreme, both are technologically advanced, Chinese and Israeli culture value common factors such as families, care for the elderly and young, the list goes on and on. In China, I’ve never experienced any hostility towards me and that is truly a wonderful experience.
When and if anyone asks me, so Bernard would you recommend visiting or working in China? My answer is an unequivocal absolute YES, go for it, you’ll never regret it! Have an adventure in life!
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