My Chinese Impressions – Part 1

Now that my China stint is winding down, I think I can think more clearly about my experiences. This is the first in series of many to come of my Chinese impressions and adventures in China – so keep watching this space for more…

My first impressions when I landed in Shanghai, early last year, were the following:

1. Something that looks like the US, strikes you as being very modern and cosmo on the front, but really is not….look at the crowds bustling about, in the subway or otherwise, look at the people peddling the stolen goods on the main streets, look at the bleary look on people’s eyes which shows they are overworked and tired, you would know immediately that it is not, its a community struggling to establish it’s identity. Trying to learn the best from the west, yet trying to keep a tight reign on the minds of it’s people, hide the worst from the visitors and project the best, the Government is visibly taking a lot of pains to go through the motions of freedom and apperances of liberty, but is it inching anywhere closer to be that? Just wondering…

2. People generally are kinder to foreigners – not too much cheating going on with them. I guess they have been drilled to be conscious of the image that a foreigner sees of the country and takes away with him, so they are careful, or maybe its part of the culture to be good to them…but a culture which was closed to foreign cultures in the near history (memory of a few generations), which when is opened to different culture’s how does it react? (Food for thought, here…) I guess Shanghai has weared off in its reaction because of years of incoming foreigners and moving to the inner provinces will give me a better glimpse of how they really treat foreigners….though, i do get bewildered glances from people even in Shanghai, not too many Indians on the street as it is…if you can speak good English and you look different than Chinese, you are assumed to be from the US!

3. People smoke everywhere from hotel rooms and lobbies to restaurants and roads and just about anywhere you can imagine, there are no restrictions and any place could be thick and smoke filled…I don’t know how long it will take to register that SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH!!! As I was writing this, now that I think about it, I did not see many women light up vs. men – wondery why? Are there any cultural taboos? Or have i been looking at the wrong places

4. People dont speak English and get embarrased that they cannot and hence they don’t, which is kind of a vicious cycle. Speaking and understanding English (even the Chinese version of it!) is a sure ticket into highly paid jobs, interfacing with MNCs as an interpreter to the CEO position and foreigners as travel guides to high end hotel managers….

More to come…

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