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A near neighbor is better than a distant cousin

Updated: Apr 7, 2023 By Kwon Daeryung chinadaily.com.cn Print
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[Republic of Korea] Kwon Daeryung, Anhui Normal University

In Chinese, there are phrases and proverbs such as “close neighbors separated by only a strip of water” and “a near neighbor is better than a distant cousin” to describe very close neighborhoods. In my opinion, people in a neighborhood, whether they like each other or not, live together as an inseparable community.

As a South Korean student studying at the Anhui Normal University, I did not choose to live in a dormitory room but rent an apartment at local community. As a result, I’m more concerned about what’s going on in my neighborhood. I had the impression that modern neighborhoods are composed of high-rise buildings, where neighbors are mostly strangers and relationships between them are lukewarm, and neighbors who don’t know each other rarely say hello to each other. But the city I live witnessed a “static management” after a sudden and unexpected epidemic outbreak in April. During this period, I fully understand the saying of “a near neighbor is better than a distant cousin.”

Kwon Daeryung [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Firstly, it is a “shared community of neighbors living together.” The outbreak of the epidemic has created unprecedented difficulties, especially the lack of supplies. But the belief in “coexistence” quickly united neighbors who were usually estranged from each other. Everyone was mobilized to work together and help each other, making the community a harmonious place to live. An important way to achieve this goal is the establishment of the “WeChat groups.” In the chat groups, we exchanged latest epidemic news, shared information on nucleic acid testing and channels for purchasing household goods and helped each other to deal with the difficulties we encountered... I was impressed deeply that these “WeChat groups” have brought the whole community the sense of coexistence, security and happiness. The original panic quickly dissipated.

Anhui Normal University [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Secondly, it is a “shared community of giving neighbors.” In the face of an abrupt outbreak, many people were unprepared at the beginning, but some of them took the initiative to work as community volunteers for the sake of everyone. They faced not only physical hardship, but also a much higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus. But they still rush to the front line without the least hesitation; they participated the measuring and accounting for acid nucleic testing by organizing the crowd; they helped distribute supplies among residents. When the medical staff were short hand, they put on protective clothing to conduct tests... I didn’t know each of them, but I have enjoyed their free services very well. The spirit of dedication and self-sacrifice has moved me time and again, making me understand the real meaning of “a near neighbor is better than a distant cousin.”

As a person living in a foreign country, I am very grateful for the “shared community of neighbors” in my neighborhood, which has helped me feel safe in times of hardship and receive assistance from others.

The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).

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