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Published: September 27th 2014
I have loved China and Chinese culture for a very long time now and once again I visited my country in August –yes, it’s really as if I was coming back home when I am in China!-. It was the 4th
time I was coming to China, so my goal and way of travelling was much different from the last times: I visited friends, went to job interviews and took time to spend at least 4 days in each place. Yes, you read well, I went to job interviews!! I am indeed planning to realize my 2nd
biggest dream –for the ones, who are not following my stories, 1st
one was to do this world trip 😊!) and to move to China next year. I am ready to go back to work but it doesn’t mean I would accept any job offer: I control my life now, am feeling happiness in me every day and I will exchange this for nothing! I will probably write about that point in another post later this year.
So let’s come back now to my trip in China. I stayed there a month following the Eastern Coast from Beijing to Shenzhen.
Below is a list of things that are characterizing China and Chinese people, some that I like, some that I don’t like. It is obviously not representing the whole China and even for the things that I point out and which aren’t that good, I don’t say it as a critic but just as a comment. When you are visiting China or living there, you have to know those points and be ready to accept them, as I do, to fully enjoy all the wonders this country as to offer. So be open and go to China. It’s worth it. This country has milliners of history, incredible landscapes, delicious food and nice people. The list below is not ranked between good and bad. 1. 1. The pollution
The pollution is still a problem in some parts of China.
In Beijing and Nanjing, the level of pollution are very high. The worst is in Beijing, where you will not see a blue sky except after a raining period. When you look at the sun, it seems like the moon under the smog… In Nanjing, I could see the blue sky and the sun sometimes but most
of the time, there was as well a light smog in the sky. I have to add that when I went to Beijing it was a short while before Nanjing Youth Olympics Summer Games and for that occasion, all the construction works and factories had been asked to stop their activity, to lower the level of pollution. Well, looking at the sky and knowing this information, I was really wondering how it could be, when the situation was normal…
Beijing and Nanjing were the 2 cities of my road trip around the Eastern Coast and I was hoping to find places, where pollution would be lower.
My wishes were satisfied: I went then to a smaller city (only 100,000 inhabitants living there – my hometown in France has only 7,000 inhabitants for comparison 😉). There, I could see blue sky!!
The rest of my trip was with low pollution, which made me get more optimistic about China’s current situation on this aspect. Reading this, you may think, yes it’s normal that there is less pollution if you are going to small cities. However, it was not the case: I went afterwards to Xiamen (2 m. inhabitants),
Dongguan (6 m. inhabitants) and Shenzhen (7 m. inhabitants). In the latter, I was myself quite surprised to see the very low level of pollution. In my mind, Shenzhen was an industrial city, where pollution would be very high. Well, it isn’t the case at all. I saw blue sky every day there and the city is one of the greenest I have seen in China (when comparing with cities of this size obviously, not with the ones in the countryside).
So, to conclude on the pollution in China, yes it is still a problem in some parts of China but it’s not the case everywhere and China is taking more and more initiatives to lower the level of pollution. 2. 2. The rudeness of Beijiners
As in most of the busy capital cities worldwide, people in Beijing are much ruder than people in anywhere else in China. They would for instance not let you get off the subway and push you to enter it, when you are trying to get off. After a while, I was quite pissed off by such uneducated attitude and I pushed back a woman to find my way of the subway.
The woman reaction was even more surprising: she got angry because I pushed her!! Well, if you don’t let me get off and stay on my way, that’s what will happen. Maybe, next time, she will understand, but I honestly doubt it, as I am sure that in her mind, I was the one, who was rude.
I understood at the end of my trip in Beijing that people living are acting that way as it is their way to survive in an overpopulated this. They have to be stronger and better than the others, if they want to be considered there. It’s a shame that that they are coming to some extent, but after being in this crowded city for 4 days, I can understand how people can turn mad there. 3. 3. The huge importance of guanxi –network-
Network is important in any place of the world but there is nowhere, where it’s more important than in China. I could experience it again from day one there: we went to the park with my friend’s brother and because he knew someone, who knew someone here, then we could enter the park for free and use
the boats to ride from one place to the other for free as well. And this was just because we handed people a paper with the name of that person written, saying “I am from his family”!
I experienced so many similar things in the next days and weeks there: being invited to people’s home because I knew someone from their family, having the possibility to enjoy a water park facility for free because I knew a friend of the owner, getting job offers from friends of friends,…
The guanxi in China has no limit.
When you have relations there, then people will be very hospitable with you and welcome you with open arms, lot of food, tea and alcohol 😉 That’s however, with Mongolia, where I had been before: most of the people will welcome you to their home, once they know you or know someone you know. They will not tell you to come to their home directly after meeting you, as I experienced in Mongolia. See my post about this point here: https://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Mongolia/blog-855573.html
This is in fact again because there are much more people in China than there are in Mongolia.
that I noticed as well with Chinese people, but in fact with Asian people in general, is that even after one week spend with you, they will not give you a good-bye hug when they send you off… It was quite frustrating for me to know be able to give a hug to someone and in most cases, I wouldn’t even get a handshake, just a hand sign and an oral bye… 4. 4. The love of food and great cooking skills
Another fact about Chinese people: they love food. There isn’t a single street in Chinese cities, where you will not find a restaurant or some street food stand. For a food lover, and especially of Chinese food, like me, China is paradise on this point. It’s even a better paradise, when you know that you can eat good food for very cheap here! For snacks, I could spend maximum 0,5€ for a meal. For a more complete meal with noodles or rice, I would pay 3€ for a huge plate or bowl!!
Chinese people don’t only like to eat but they like cooking –this is more true for people born before 1975 than for younger
generation-. For each meal, they would cook a lot of different dishes, offering a wide range of vegetables, fish, seafood, meat dishes and soup. The most amazing thing in this fact is that they take maximum 45 minutes to cook all those dish, when I could take more than one hour to cook only one big dish in France!
After a month in China and being invited to several houses there, I am proud to say that I can now cook the traditional jiaozi –dumplings- 😊 5. 5. The over population
As I already said in the 2nd
point, China is a very populated country. I could notice and experience this “problem” often in my trip.
I noticed it especially when I was going from one place to the other: most of the time, I couldn’t get a sleeper or even a seat, in night trains or in day train. In day trains, it’s not such a problem, as it lasts 4 hours and I can seat on my backpack for a while. The only problem was that I was paying the same price to have no seat than the price that people seated had
paid, which is quite unfair according to me, but that’s another subject.
In night trains, it was a bigger problem. The first night train I took, I had no sleeper and no seat!! I thus had to change every hour of seat, which was very annoying, as I was tired. I was however lucky enough to be travelling with a nice Chinese that I had met in the bus before and who was staying awake to look for seats, while I was sleeping. He then even paid for us to have seats in the restaurant wagon (for 5€ more per person…), so that we wouldn’t need to change seats until 5am. In the following night trains, I had a seat but no sleeper, so when I didn’t have the window seat, I would not sleep the whole night… This was in a normal season, so I can’t even imagine, how it is in the high seasons like Chinese New Year!! Checking online, I could notice than 3 days before the sleeper would be full and 1 day before the seat would be full as well. Not very convenient, when you are travelling without a schedule and are quite spontaneous…
Even though, having no sleeper and seat in a train, can be a problem, the worse moment, when you can see how crowded China can be: in touristic places. The worse was when I visited Gulangyu Island near Xiamen. I knew it was a touristic place but I hadn’t imagined it would be that packed!! It was my worse day in China. It turned me in an angry person so quickly, that I decided to go off this island as fast as possible, to find peace again! In such a situation, you can see the worse in people: they would push you to be sure to enter the ferry, they would not let you go through the line, just by fear of losing a cm… That’s why, I am not going anymore to touristic places in China anymore or at least go in the lower season, to enjoy it.
The overpopulation can also be noticed with the huge lines in some places. For instance, in front of Beijing railway station: I had never seen such lines before. They are trying to reduce the problem by having more than 20 counters to check your identity. However, this
doesn’t mean that there will be no line at the station! There is indeed a line of several meters to go enter the station… I got lucky to see that some time before my train, otherwise, I might have come not early enough to enter the station, do the luggage checking and go to the platform. In China, there are indeed luggage checking in each subway or train station. It is a safety measure obviously, but it is taking again sometime, as it is creating queues of people…
You might think that this situation has been taken care of by the government with the one child policy. Well, after going around China for a while now, and meeting many people, I could notice how this policy is not changing so much. A lot of Chinese people are indeed not respecting it: they would find ways to have more than one child. They would either go abroad to deliver the baby –most of the time to Macao and Hong Kong-, so that the baby has another nationality; or they would pay the fine to get a 2nd
child –the amount depends of the parents’ salary and the number of babies
you get, but it can be 20 000€!!. In the worst cases, only one child has official documents, leaving the other child without access to school, health assistance or the child is abandoned at birth.
Why do Chinese people don’t respect this policy? For 2 reasons, the 1st
one is that Chinese people are still traditional and want to have a son. So, in the case, the 1st
child was a girl. The family will very probably consider doing one of the above. The other reason is a quite natural one: they don’t want to have only one child, they want at least a 2nd
child and consider it good for children not too be growing up alone. I have too admit that the last time I came to China in 2011, I could see how the one child policy can be bad for this generation: the only child is then considered as a little “prince” at home, can do whatever he wants and he is becoming even a “king” in the house very quickly. This will be a problem in the society has they will soon get problems at work or at school, when they will have to
follow rules… 6. 6. The constant development
Another fact about China is that the country is developing at a very high pace. You can see it in the big cities: they are construction works everywhere, Beijing is changing so fast, that I couldn’t recognize most of the places, I had been 3 years ago! I will always remember the funny comments of my host Jenny in Xiamen, while walking around the city: “oh, there is a new bridge there”, “oh, here we had to make a U-turn to go around the lake, now there is a new crossing”,… She is walking around the city often, so it really show how quickly the cities are developing!
The problem in China –but it was probably the same problem in Europe 200 years ago- is that they are destroying old villages or agricultural lands to build new district, new cities all over the country. Walking around Dongguan with my host, she would tell me “when I was young, there were rice fields here”, “when I was young the water of the canal was clean…” In Nanjing, I went to an island, which was described online as a nice island of
fishermen. Well, what I found what very different from that description: a new set of building to build a new residential district… They were promoting this space, as a green, ecological place, but I couldn’t help not be pissed at the fact that to build this “so great and green” place, they had to destroy half of the island fields and old houses…
On the other hand, it’s true, that I was happy to see that China is building more and more green spaces, with lot of trees, bike lines, parks, which are helping to reduce the pollution and to make the life in the city better. In Shenzhen, especially, I was surprised by the number of bike lines and green district that I found! So, I guess it’s difficult to be saying the rapid development of China is good or bad.
I think that one of the other reasons, I want to live in China now: to witness this crazy very fast development. Going around Shenzhen and meeting people there, I could feel the ambiance there and it’s definitely the place to be now! 7. 7. The fascination for foreigners
Even though, Chinese people are
more and more going abroad and used to see foreigners, there are still kind of fascinated by them. In Beijing, I have been asked several times, whether they could take a picture with me. Am I a famous movie star? No, just a foreigner 😉 By the way, some of Chinese people are persuaded that all the foreigners are Americans.
Sometimes, I was even asked to pose alone. A guy, while I was writing my diary, asked me whether he could take a picture of me. Once I accepted, we talked for a while and he asked whether I could pose for him around the amusement park, we were in now. I usually don’t like it as I am not natural on such pictures, but that time, as I found it funny, I was laughing for each pictures, which was very natural 😉 And for once, I will have pictures of me!
Another thing that I got privileged to get as a foreigner was to be invited by a lot of people at their home to eat. Some were very pleased to show off their place, as the possessions are very important in China (you want to show
off how much money you have with the things that you buy). Each time, I was received very well. They would either cook a lot of dishes for me, or I would cook with them jiaozi –a kind of dumplings-. I always had a great time with them, but once another Chinese person told me that I got this opportunity because I was foreigner and that they would not open their house so easily to other people. Well, I was happy to have this privilege anyway 😊 8. 8. The control of the internet
As we all know, China is not the perfect country for freedom of speech. I could notice it every day during my trip. They were the blocked pages or the very slow speed access to international websites, when able to access them. For instance, when I tried one day to look at information about the Ukrainian crisis online in a public internet place, my browser was immediately closing by mystery each time… After a few attemps, I understood that they were preventing me to access to such pages! It got me crazy to thing, that I couldn’t access all the information I wanted.
I don’t know how can the Chinese people accept it or not notice it. For information, some Chinese, who have been abroad, are using a VPN, which enables them to act as if they were connecting outside of China and access to all the websites. 9. 9. The amazing landscapes and old villages outside of tourist areas
When you go to the touristic places of China you might find that there is no authentic old places anymore and that the country is overdeveloped. If you think that way, I advised you to go out of the touristic places and there, you will have the opportunity to discover gems of China. I went for a couple of days in the countryside in Zhejiang and I could see how they are cultivated the rice fields, see farmers take their sheep back home and see wooden houses, which seemed as if they were from another century. It was amazing and people there were so friendly. They were for sure not used to see foreigners and they took me to see the biggest tree of their village. It was like their pride to have such a tree there. I felt so
privilege again to see that and to witness the village life in the rear of the road!
When I was staying with a local family volunteering in a village in Dongguan, I could also see the old houses. As my host was born there, she told me about the stories behind the houses, behind the choice of materials to build them, behind the celebrations of New Year in China. It was an amazing time! After 4 times coming to China, I could learn such stories, I felt very happy and lucky. 1 10. The importance of activity for old people
The last thing, that I wanted to talk about and which is typical in China, is that the old people are always out. It’s nice to see that they don’t stay at home, as it can be the case in other countries. In China, they will dance in the evenings on some public squares with a group of people, do tai-chi training in the park, play badminton and other ball games in the parks and go to do their morning and evening exercises around parks as well. The park and main square are very important in their life. They are going there to get some positive energy and do some exercises. No wonder that they are living longer with such lifestyle and eating a lot of different vegetables.
I hope you enjoyed knowing a bit more about this country. As I said, I love China, I feel at home there and I tried here to depict typical situations there, without judging. I am open to your comments, I am for the freedom of speech, so don’t worry 😉
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