After reading an article about everyone needing to live in China, I realized there was a lot to be said about it. I feel as though the article makes a great impression and is well-written, but I have different opinions on a few of the points as well as personal stories to prove the points. Here is the article if you would like to read it first.
China is a wonderful place to live, despite the pollution and various cultural annoyances you may experience often. I don’t think it is necessary for everyone to come here, but if you choose to come, there will be things that hit you right on your head & make you think “Wow. Did that just happen?” or “This is unreal.” Things you take for granted back in your comfortable life at home are singled out and make you realize how different life is in other areas of the world.
1. The Number of People
I have been to New York, but nothing can compare to the feeling of being pushed onto a subway train by other people and then having nothing to hold onto but just swaying with everyone around you. Rush hour is absolutely insane here. But hey, just like these dogs, everyone gets to where they are wanting to go eventually!
I value the mornings that I wake up early and notice the few amount of people who do the same thing. The elderly who are making lines outside the bank before it opens or exercising in the parks in various manners. The workers who are stiff and silent all in a line being talked to by their boss. The security guards who are trying their hardest to not fall asleep after a long night shift.
Being alone physically is something that is hard to come by especially in public, but feeling alone is not hard to do at all. Everyone else has their family to go home to. In spite of the strong individualistic mindset that shines through as everyone is fighting their way through the subway, collectivism prevails when it comes to family & their country. They would do anything for China and their family and never say a bad word about either one.
For me, not being able to fluently converse with all the random people I practice my Chinese with makes me feel as though people can’t understand my opinions fully which then makes a barrier between us. No matter how many conversations I have in one day, it never seems enough to make me feel that I belong here. I will always be in the category of being a foreigner.
Or when you cut your finger with a knife and freak out because blood is gushing from your body. You realize you have no idea where a hospital is, nor could you even communicate with the doctor about your issues, and so you call your mom who can fix everything. Right? She’s only 7000 miles away, and I’m sure she can talk me through how to treat a cut without going to the hospital.
It’s moments like these that create the feeling of being alone in a city full of 20 million people.
2. 语言 - The Language
So it’s a well-known fact that Chinese is a difficult language, and I definitely am not fluent by any mean. Yes, I can get the gist of conversations, but when it comes to talking about a topic which I don’t know the vocabulary for, a lot of gesturing is used to portray the meaning. Luckily, I know the word for bathroom so I don’t have to act that one out ever!
It doesn’t matter where you are; the world is becoming more and more technology focused. Every time I look around on the subway, over 70% of the people are using some sort of electronic device. The people who aren’t are either elderly or with a child. It’s kind of a sad realization that people are more obsessed with technology than making conversation with the people right next to you.
Going back to the collectivism and family oriented, grandparents are in charge of taking care of the child so the parents are able to continue working. This means they all live in one apartment – something that almost seems unbearable in our culture. Daycares or childcare don't exist to the extent they do back in the United States. This then takes away the chance for children to learn social skills at such a young age with other people who are similar to them.
Something funny that I just don’t understand is that people think it is necessary to shout on the phone when they’re on the subway or anywhere in public. One time, there was a lady across from me who was practically shouting into her phone in a Chinese dialect. I was with my friend who is fluent in Chinese, and she could not understand anything she was saying. One of the other struggles of learning Chinese – the many dialects.
My favorite thing when it comes to the language is the look on their faces when they realize that I can speak Chinese. As that look is fading, they are bound to then say how good your language skills are which Americans would automatically say, “Thank you” however, if you are truly trying to be Chinese and take in all of the culture, you should be much more modest and say something to the extent of “Now, now, it is not that great!” Then, you can proceed to have a little argument on how great your language skills are.
3. The Traffic
After getting a bike, I have started to understand how traffic works here. If you want to cross the road, you just go for it. As long as you don’t run into the car/bike in front of you, you’re following the laws and doing it right. Besides following speed limit and stop light rules, I haven’t noticed many other official ones.
There was one time I was waiting to cross a fairly busy street. After 5 minutes, I saw a brave biker next to me, just go for it, literally stopping the traffic just to cross the road. Sometimes, there isn’t a way around this. Same goes for walking, which is a little easier. You cross one lane, then wait between the lanes until the next one is semi-free.
Having a horn or a bell is so important! If you hear a honk, don’t think that someone is saying “Hello” or “What were you thinking?!” It’s more of “Hey, I’m right here” or “I’m passing you so watch out.” If you are not aggressive and proactive about your driving, you will not get anywhere.
Their ability to navigate their cars without hitting anything is astonishing to me. They truly know their car's size and how to park it in the tiniest of places. I oftentimes catch myself staring at the cars trying to park while someone tells them how close they are or when huge buses try to squeeze through the numerous anxious taxis and make it through with an inch to spare. They make it look so easy.
If an accident does occur though, don't be surprised if police don't end up coming and instead money is just exchanged in order to call it even. I actually saw this happen yesterday!
Moral of the story when it comes to traffic – just go for it!
That's only half of the story - the rest will come in the next post! There's just so much to say about this!