Too Stressed for the Land of ‘Zen’: How China Taught Me to Be Chill

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China is Zen. The aspect was the most striking when I arrived. Chinese people are calm. They go with the flow…and have grey hair later in life. My own husband’s grandfather has more obsidian hair than white ones and he is in his late 80’s.

I come from a country where you have to take weeks, months, or years of appointments in advance and God forbids you miss that exact appointment time. If you do, you go back to the waiting list.

In China, things are slightly different. When I first went to my father-in-law’s electric car dealership, the employees were openly taking naps on their prolonged lunchtime. I also remember the moment I opened a bank account in my husband’s hometown. Employees and customers alike gathered around to meet the only foreigner before going back to business. And if you’re late for your scheduled appointment, well, they’ll still serve you when you arrive. Oh, and lunch break lasts from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. No pressure! It’s time for good food with great people before taking a midday rest.

I always made a point in being on time to an extent where my mind stressed out my body with stomach aches if I was a couple of minutes late. It was how I was raised…but apparently, I’m too stressed for China. I used to rush my husband to eat faster not to be late, only to get turned away with a classic ‘it’s okay’.

Recently, I had to get tested for Covid-19 the next few weeks after the end of my quarantine and when they called, sometimes an hour before their office closed (too late to arrive on time), they just took the sample on the next day. It bothered me all night, too anxious to properly rest, asking myself if it was okay.

Funny thing is, their system works better than the one in my country. You can get a complete medical check-up in one day and results on the same day or the same week. Not something I would see back home. The less tense the country, the more efficient the population.

I truly found myself in another world when I arrived in China. Now, I am progressively learning to compose myself. I watch videos of pandas who are eating bamboo without a care in the world. It’s how I feel here-safe and calm. My new motto: “Chill, you’re in China”.

Are you someone who worries over simple things in life? How do you deal with stress?

Sabrina Mailhot

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