Here in Shanghai, although I have friends, teachers, and a Chinese host family, I am ultimately on my own. I can choose to leave the house in the middle of the night to go get a snack or early in the morning to take a day trip, or I can choose to stay in bed all day (although those days are super unproductive), and no-one can tell me I can’t. At home, although I’m 18 and technically an adult, my parents make all the rules. So, I’d say the biggest difference between living in America and living in Shanghai is in my homes.
Since my host parents here in China treat me as an adult tenant, rather than one of their own children, they have very few rules for me to follow. Of course, I respect their privacy, help them keep the house clean, and am conscious to not disturb them if I come home late, but for the most part, I am on my own. It’s refreshing to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, since I am an adult and they do not have the power to tell me I can’t. Plus, living in a big city is crazy! There is so much to do and I constantly want to be out on my feet exploring.
However, at home, my relationship with my parents and family is very different. I live in their house, and therefore must ask permission to do most things, like to watch TV, go for a run, or meet up with a friend. Since I live in a small town, there aren’t many opportunities to ~do~ things outside the house, except maybe go for a walk in the woods or bike around, so I generally stay inside and spend time with my family.
Being so independent does have its downsides though. I love the feeling of being on my own, but it is disappointing when my host family goes out to dinner or does other family activities without me. My not treating them like true parents has resulted in them not treating me like one of their children, and I find myself excluded quite often.
Recently, Thanksgiving happened in America. This holiday is my family’s favorite, and we spend the entire day together in the living room eating snacks, watching the Macy’s Day Parade and dog show, and setting up our dining room with our fanciest plates and silverware. This Thanksgiving, my family Skyped me and promised to remake my favorite Thanksgiving foods when I return home for winter break, but the holiday was still quite lonely on my own. I’m excited to see my sisters and parents, and together watch cheesy Christmas movies, do puzzles by a lit fireplace, and spend entire days baking holiday treats.
Maybe this independence is less about being in Shanghai and more about being an adult, but it was a bit of a shock to me all the same. This winter, I will spend lots of time with my family, and then return to Shanghai for more solo adventures!