Thursday, June 29, 2017
Observations From The Middle Kingdom
On July 12 I will have been in China for 4 months. With 8 months to go and the initial overwhelming excitement now a thing of the past I thought it was a good time to review my time and what the future may hold for me here in the Middle Kingdom.
Make no mistake coming to China to live for a year was a great decision. It's China! That being said I have made the choice to only stay for the length of my contract. Initially you think this place is easy and I could settle in nicely, maybe spend a few years here. The longer I am here the more I am happy to experience all China has to offer then pack up and move along. Asia is big, exciting and diverse and I was to drink it all in.
I have met quite a few long term expats that live here. One of things I hear constantly is "I need to leave China every 6 months or so", " If you do not leave China to regroup you will hate it here" or something to that effect. I was of that mindset after a few months. China is a great adventure and as easy a country to live in as you can find. We are treated well and there is so much to see and do but if I was to describe this country in one sentence it would be "This country has no soul".
Please do not take that as me hating it here because nothing could be further from the truth. Let me give you my thoughts which when talking to other foreign teachers it is amazing how similar our observations are. So here goes.
1. This is country of robots without the ability to have a creative or critical thought. They smile and go through their daily routine. However 5000 years of repressive history plus 80 years of hard line communist government rule telling you what do to and how to do it and the culture is inbred with obedience. If you speak with anyone educated in the West they will say the same but when you ask them why they came back to China if it is so restrictive the answer usually falls along the lines of "it is an easy life here".
2. Fear. For all the good things that have evolved in recent times the Chinese still live in abject fear of the police and the government. Mention to anyone that you are going to call #120, (our #911) a look of sheer horror crosses their face. "Ken, do not even make jokes about doing that!"
3. Pollution is an accepted way of life. Don't get me wrong nobody likes "the winter fog" but "it does not matter because what can you do?" "It does not matter" is something I hear every day. Basically it means we can handle anything (as it was explained to me). Why worry about it because nothing will change. Breathing masks have become both a necessity and a fashion statement. Designer face masks are as common as new running shoes.
4. Conformity. Everyone does the same thing, wears the same clothes and goes through the same motions. Most girls leave the house dressed quite nice and not sporting "active wear" but everyone under the age of 30 wears the exact same thing. Freaks me out really.
5. Disrespect for woman is not something from your evening news. It is real and the results are dramatic. Young woman have zero confidence. They are not pretty enough, smart enough, skinny or beautiful enough. They need constant reassurance and I mean constant. Again this is 5000 years of woman being treated less than dogs. I know a teacher who just had her second child, another girl. When the child was 4 months old here husband divorced here because she did not give him a son. The government accepted this he has no obligation to the family. Men will leave their families if they are not given an heir. With that being said you will find many woman over the age of 30 who are indigent of men for all the obvious reasons but will cower and succumb to them at a moments notice.
Secondarily you will find that most woman under 35 act like they are 16. I can not explain it but once you are here you can experience it for yourself. It is an agreed upon observation by most western guys.
I will stop at 5 but you can add "lack of personal space", "drivers that will run your ass over", "cars that drive on the sidewalk (yes you read that right) and lay on the horn when you do not get out of the way. Parents who scream and embarrass their children in public and people shitting in the street. The Chinese also take the obsession with cell phones to a whole new level.
Now before you thinking I am becoming unhinged, don't. Moving to a different county is all about learning and exploring their culture and society. The Chinese as a people are kind, giving and generous. The society is efficient (almost Orwellian like) and historically they are second to none. There are fantastic experiences to be had here and I am taking advantage of everything that I can. Life in China is very easy for me and any Western person that comes here.
Now all that being said there is a reason people who live here for any length of time feel the need to leave every 6 months.You must never forget that the society is a bastion of Communism and repressive thought. When you visit it as a tourist you can brush it off. When you live it and see it every day with the locals it can wear you down. That is about the easiest way to explain it. A great example of this is the Great Chinese Firewall. The Internet is restricted and may of the sites from the West are blocked, including this blogging site. Free VPNs are everywhere are an easy work around but that is exactly what Chinese life is. An easy work around.
Finally, this is Asia and China is only one country in this vast expanse. Live Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador during my Latin American adventure I constantly remind myself what is possible and where I can go. There are so many other options and China is just a stop on this journey. Do I hate China, Fu** No, China is fantastic. Would I live here for an extended period of time, FU** No.
If only because one day a Hello Kitty Smog Mask would be an accepted accessory.