Researching our trip to China on the blogosphere there seemed to be what I would call a “marmite” reaction to the country. People either seem to love it or hate it. I can see why people might hate it, after all it is:
– Dirty: the pollution leaves you feeling grimy at the end of the day, it turns the water brown when you wash your clothes and it clogs up your lungs.
– Noisy: there is a constant din wherever you go. Traffic, people shouting into their phones, music blaring from shops all trying to outcompete their neighbour. Peace and quiet is rare.
– Hygiene: people spit everywhere. I mean everywhere. On the train, on the bus, out a moving bus window. Wherever they feel like it really. Parents allow their children to pee on the metro platform. People don’t cover their faces when they sneeze. The list goes on!
– Being an object of interest wherever you go: we are starting to feel like minor celebrities, especially since leaving Beijing. People ask for a photo to be taken with me, people follow us saying “hello” whilst quietly laughing to themselves, we get stared at. We can hear the stir we create just walking down the street. This could be uncomfortable if you let it bother you.
– Food: trying to work out where a restaurant is can be the first challenge. The next challenge is working out what there is to eat and if you want to eat it. I admit I have gone into my shell and skipped meals or eaten shamefully Westernised food as I’m not coping yet with the food situation.
– Manners: we are used to orderly queues at home. These don’t exist here. It is each man/woman/granny/grandad for themselves. It is acceptable to push and shove whoever is obstructing your path even if doing so saves you a whole 10 seconds of your day as you trample past them to get to where you are going first.
– Language barrier: we have learnt some basic phrases (thank goodness, otherwise we would be very stuck!). This isn’t a country where you can expect people to talk English or for things to be written in English. It doesn’t help though that China and Google aren’t exactly friends. Our Google translate app we were relying on can be a bit patchy if it needs to connect to the internet. And on the subject of Google…
– Restrictions on Internet: Facebook, forget it! WordPress, supposedly banned and patchy as to when and how to access it. Google maps, useless. Searching on Google, you must be joking! We decided not to get a VPN due to it being a bit shady on the legal side of things, this means we cannot get and find information as we would do usually.
So where do I fall on the marmite situation of China? Well, like marmite I love China!
So what if it’s dirty and noisy, they are not material things that will spoil my enjoyment of this country.
The hygiene issues can be bypassed, just check where you are sitting and what you are touching and remember to wash your hands frequently with lots of soap.
I understand that some places don’t see a lot of westerners, so if people find us interesting that’s ok. They have all so far been friendly so I am friendly back. We want them to have a good view of us in their country so we try to be good advocates where possible and try and speak to them in Mandarin where possible.
When it comes to pushing and shoving I just stand my ground. A granny has her elbow in my kidneys? Fine. She can do that all she likes. It’s part of their culture and I should accept it being in their country. I just need to make sure I get to where I am going and try to sustain minimal bruising in the process!
As for food, I am going to have to get a grip and try and get used to it. Otherwise I’m going to be hungry and not enjoy myself for the next few months which would be rather stupid having come all this way.
China for us is a fascinating country, it is so different from home. The people we have come across have been very friendly and helpful. We have only been here a week, but already feel quite happy and comfortable travelling around it.