Whenever I’m in new a country and presented with a new culture, food is the one bridge that always helps me with assimilation. I really love food and prior to coming to China, I’ve had several opportunities to try Chinese food, both from my Chinese friends and from chain restaurants dotted around NYC and Ann Arbor. Prior to arriving in Beijing, I knew the food was going to be good but I was also excited for the experiences that went along with the food.
The community style of dining was the first thing that stood out to me. I know that family style dining is common throughout the states but it’s not that common at restaurants since everyone orders their own meals. I noticed that a lot of the restaurants had a revolving server, which made it easier for everyone to share the different types of dishes in a communal way. It felt like a marathon of food and I appreciated that Prof. Lin usually ordered several meals that met everyone’s dietary needs. Although we didn’t do this in our group meals, I noticed that many of the people in the restaurants ordered some cold dishes first and then moved on to a variety or main dishes such as rice and noodles. The soups always came last which was new to me because in the U.S, people typically have the soup first instead of last.
The environment of the restaurants was really enjoyable to me. People were loud, laughing and just having a great time, which goes to show that food in China is a social experience. I am usually loud and joking around with my friends when I’m at restaurants and being in China was no exception.However, I did enjoy my solo food-outing in Guangzhou when I went to exploring around Beijing road. There were sit-down restaurants but I was more drawn to the small restaurants along the roads and alleyways. When I went to order noodles, the language barrier was obvious but I was able to nod my way into ordering a delicious plate of noodles and dumplings after the lady next to me pointed and gave me a thumbs up. The folks in the restaurant seemed curious if I was actually enjoying the food and it was personally satisfying to see the smile on the restaurant owners face when I finished all my food. I haven’t fully assimilated here but I’m pretty sure that following my stomach will help me on this course.
**P. S ** this experience cannot be found at Panda Express. Also note to self: Thou shalt not eat Panda Express again!