On Monday, after my university classes were over for the day (at noon!), I went to visit a Chinese friend before she goes back to the UK for university. It was a somewhat impromptu visit, scheduled so that we could meet before she returned this week. I was not so surprised to find similar etiquette and behaviour as in the Indian culture I have been raised in. Swapping my shoes for slippers by the front door, I was greeted with a hug by her grandmother. She playfully scolded me when I gave her a small gift – what my friend said ‘shows my 心意 (xīnyì)’. I can’t think of a good English translation, even though I understood what she meant. Internet results translate it as kindly feelings, intention and affection.
We snacked on fruits, some sort of sesame bars, and pan peanuts, which reminded me of East Africa! , (it was interesting for them to find that eating peanuts this way was not just exclusive to China) while we talked about family, culture, rude subway passengers, whether or not I could understand the series on the TV (mostly, no), whether or not I could read the subtitles on screen (also, mostly no), and whether or not I could understand what she was saying (yes, because I had a translator).
I was shown the house, and her grandmother was very interested in taking lots of pictures of us!
She even put a shawl over her head for my benefit to show me that she (in her words) “can also be Indian”.
I can honestly say I felt so genuinely welcomed, so a special thank you to Jessica and her grandmother for being such lovely hosts!