Cultural Differences In River Town

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Often times when living in a disparate/antithetic? country, foreigners find it hard to assimilate due to cultural differences. In his memoir, River Town, Hessler encounters these difficulties while living in Fuling; his lack of Mandarin and knowledge of the Chinese culture result in awkward encounters between him and the locals. However, as his stay lengthens, not only does Hessler’s knowledge of the culture expand, but his own character begins to change. With Hessler’s improved cultural understanding and proficiency in the Chinese language comes increased confidence and comfort among the locals, giving him the chance to become a new identity within the Fuling community as demonstrated by the use of his alter ego, Ho Wei. When he first arrives in Fuling, Hessler finds it hard to acclimate due to his ignorance of the Chinese language and his cultural differences with the locals. He has only studied Chinese briefly, for two weeks during his Peace Corps training, so Hessler is not yet fluent enough to be able to converse comfortably with the townspeople. Whenever venturing into town to buy food using his choppy…show more content…
For example, during an English class at the college, Peter and Adam ask each student to explain the meaning behind their English name. After a girl named Keller presents, Adam thanks her, adding, “You have very nice freckles, Keller” (19), unaware that the Chinese consider freckles ugly. In a later journal entry, one of Hessler’s students writes “[Peter and Adam] also make some students embarrassed due to their absence of Chinese custom” (19). Although he intended to pay Keller a compliment, Adam indirectly insulted her by making a frivolous remark about her appearance, revealing the initial challenges Peter and Adam face in Fuling in acclimating due to their cultural differences and

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