Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Final Thoughts On The Middle Kingdom

I have met quite a few Expats and teachers while living in China. Some, like myself are one and done while others have been here for quite some time. The interesting thing is that not one person actually likes living in China. They do not hate it but they honestly do not like it. The prevailing sentiment is the standard of living for a lao wei is really good so you can easily ignore what you do not like. Many people talk about and take vacations in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and all the other fantastic places of SE Asia. Upon returning the laughing questions is "why did I come back to this madness?". This confuses me to no end. The standard of living for an experienced ESL teachers is going to be pretty good anywhere so why are you not living somewhere that you actually like? China makes you want to like it. It lulls you into a sense of "I can handle it" almost as a challenge so you feel the need not to be defeated. I lived it and almost fell into it. China is a tricky lady.

First, as I have spoken about before, China is all about food. Food delivery is a 3 Billion dollar business. When you are hungry you grab your phone, open whatever app you have and within 30 minutes it will be delivered. The options for tasty and inexpensive food is everywhere. I hate to say it but I have put on 7 kilos since I have been here. One part food the other part lazy. Another trap that is easy to fall into and I fell hard. Thankfully there is a month of hard trekking in my immediate future.

The Chinese people are reserved, kind and all about family. A child is usually raised by the grandparents while mom and dad work or live their lives.

"Saving face" is a national sport with the result being people arguing loudly anywhere, any place and about anything. Insecurity "saving face" is a national pastime

The Chinese feel embarrassed easily to the point of aggravation. Again this is a "saving face" thing. For example if someone asks you to go for a beer, go for a meal or do anything and if you refuse, regardless if you have plans already, they will feel embarrassed. It takes a bit of diplomacy to keep it from coming off the rails.

They do complain about everything. If they are late to eat a meal or if they miss a meal they are going to die. There have been instances in the school where a few of the girls did not get their lunch by 12:00 and by 12:30 they were moaning that they did not have any strength and might pass out. The Chinese are always tired or hungry. It is either to hot, to cold. Everything, and I mean everything is "to far". From the restaurant on the next block to meeting friends across town that will take 20 minutes on the subway any response will always include "oh, its do far". A town 50 km away takes planning. When taking a 2 or 3 hour train ride you will be laughingly shocked by the amount of food people will bring on the train.

Noise and crowds. Enough said.

Conformity. Everyone dresses the same, does the same things, believes the same thing and does what they are told. A Chinese teacher explained it the best to me. There is the inability to have a creative  or critical thought due to a legacy of obedience. It is changing slowly but people are very aware that "The loose nail gets the hammer"

There is no such thing as  Personal Space. In a country of 1.3 billion people it is next to impossible. My apartment is my sanctuary, except for the barking dogs which at times can last for hours all day and night.

Moving money out of the country is next to impossible.. You can transfer from your bank account to a bank in the west as long as you have the proper swift code, bank and account information. However you must have a Chinese National to do it. So you transfer you money to that person in China and they can transfer the money for you.You can try Western Union (which is crazy expensive) or Money Gram. I tried Money Gram.
The Construction Bank of China is an authorized MoneyGram dealer. The signs are out front of any bank. Your excitement gets destroyed when you ask to use the service and they tell you that you need to be a patron of their bank. We realized that the people working there just did not want to help us. No way they were going to do any extra work

Using a VPN although not impossible is frustrating. If you like FB, the Gram, YouTube, Blogger or even CBC.ca you need a VPN. This slows everything down to a crawl.

110 is the 911 of china. Tell someone you will use it and they turn white as a ghost. Do
 not say bad things about me please. Ok, Please. People are scared to death of the govt
 AND THE POLICE, but they believe in their government and that China is the best place in the world to live.

I witnessed kids pissing and shitting on the street like dogs to often. Men, woman, young and old are constantly spitting. Not only on the street. In the subway people will hork into a garbage can, I witnessed old men getting up from their seat in a restaurant and walk over to a planter and let one fly. Not quietly mind you, loud guttural horking.

When kids do not get their way in public they will scream, cry, sit down and cause an absolute shit show. Parents are usually embarrassed and ultimately give the kid what they want. I have seen parents run into shop and return with toys to keep the kid quiet. I once say a girl of about 8 drop her school book. She just started screaming, crying and yelling at her mother to pick it up. Mom dutifully obliged.

There is always the attempt to butt in line, especially in front of a foreigner. The elderly are the worst but anyone will do it in a restaurant, grocery store, the queue for the subway whatever. You have to stand your ground and they will back down...well except the elderly. They are kind of scary and what they have been through in the last 70 or 80 years I am happy to give them a wide berth.

Not everyone wants to go to America or to the West. The Chinese think they have the best country in the world despite the illusion of freedom. Parents so want their kids educated in the West and to learn English at some point.

Air pollution is very real and so is the abuse of plastics. When the sky is blue people will take photos of it and post it on social media because it is a rare sight.

Here are 5 supposed life hacks from ChinaExpatHealth.com on how to beat air pollution. Yes they honestly think this will help you and people will believe it. It is not a solution to the brutal air that you are subject to for 3 to 4 months during the winter months.

1. Keep your distance from the road when walking. Even walking just 2 meters away is proven to reduce exposure to traffic pollution.
2. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Antioxidants in fruit and vegetables fight against the harmful effects of air pollution.
3. Wait away from traffic lights when crossing the road. Pollution at intersections can be 29 times higher than on the open road.
4. Get an air filter at home. A Xiaomi air filter only costs less than CNY 600 and in some consumer tests are shown to be just as effective as more expensive brands.
5. Rubber seals from Taobao added to your windows make a big difference to indoor air pollution levels

The illusion of choice. There are three phone companies, all owned by the government
The illusion of freedom

WeChat, Alibaba (Alipay) will one day rule the world.

I would have liked to have traveled and explored more of China but as with every country you can not see and do everything. China is fantastic in every sense of the word but it did not capture my imagination like Mexico or Nicaragua. Yes this post drips of negativity but do not let that stop you from going to the Middle Kingdom. You will find a fascinating culture with generous and friendly people. China can match any region historically and their contributions to the world are important.
If you keep politics out of the equation and ignore western news media rhetoric plus embrace the bizarre place that China can be, you will come away a better person for having come here.

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