We know that we our previews posts on China might have been a bit contradictory, which partly depends on us but mainly on the country. China is a nation full of contradictions. So now we will try to give a more general view and put some structure. First, after refuting so many prejudices about China, it is time to corroborate some of them:
- Chinese are loud: definitely true, and even worse when on the phone ….
- Chinese travel in groups: true, but the younger ones start changing that.
- Chinese follow the rules: true, but in the traffic, there seem to exist some rules we have not figured out yet!
- Chinese are consumption and status-orientated: true, but it would be an exaggeration to say that advertisement by European companies actively tries to change that. And by the way, this does not prevent Chinese from being curious.
- Chinese are always gaming: true. Always.
- Chinese cities are ugly: unfortunately often true, especially the suburbs and the smog. However, some cities have large parks and local neighbourhoods with a nice atmosphere.
- Chinese officers are terrible: often true, in fact everything in which state is involved seems rather unkind.
- China is overcrowded: true. For example, if you want to do a day trip to a small town on a weekday, you will travel with two to three thousand other persons in the train.
- Chinese are organized: true, in good and in bad. Sure there are some exaggerations, especially everything which includes government’s participation becomes cumbersome and people are inflexible. But we have also experienced that often it is necessary, see one point above. For instance, you have to check in at the train station as if it was an airport. At first sight this seems tedious, nonetheless, when seeing the masses, you realize that it is inevitable.
On the other hand, what is definitely wrong is that they always smile. Some do, some do not – just like in Europe. Still, the positive aspects of this country impressed us much more. Whether they smile or not, they are very helpful, at least if they are not working for the government. Even more, when they see we have problems with the language or handling things, they take their time to help us, are really tolerant when we do not behave like expected and are very creative in finding pragmatic or also unconventional solutions. For instance, in a restaurant, if they do not have an English menu, they would take us to the kitchen so we can show them with which ingredients they should cook the meal. In other situations, they phoned a friend who spoke English and many students have a translation app, just in case they lack a word.
Moreover, they were extremely interested and eager to talk with us, no matter whether they could speak English or not. At the beginning, they are often uncertain and shy, which is quite understandable given that after so many years of practising English, this may be one of the first opportunities to talk with a foreigner. Nevertheless, during the conversation, when they see that we appreciate their efforts, they’ll become more confident.
You feel clearly that the nation is open for about 30 years only and that the alien still has a really strong appeal. The country is developing very fast, in some areas they are already competitive or even leading. However, in a certain way it remains surprisingly pristine. You see: China really is contradictory.
Our impression of China also is reflected by the experience of other foreigners living there. Yes, there are many of them who seclude themselves, never learn a word Chinese and are condescending towards the locals. But we have met many other very different people, from the German music professor over the Austrian engineer to the “Wayne Rooney”-like British teacher. They all have in common that despite the disadvantages of the country, they are fond of it and are happy to be there.
To sum it up: although we are not quite sure whether we would like to live in China for several years, we somehow have an idea why so many different persons like it here – it is a pleasure to discover all these many things the country has to offer.