Less than 48 hours into my adventure in Hangzhou, China, I have realized that this will be a much different experience than anything I have done before. While I have lived in Korea for a year and traveled around Japan, Indonesia, Southeast Asia; China is a completely different animal. Here are a list of my “woah I am in China” moments.
1: Hello Smog. Yes, the smog is a very real thing. While in Hangzhou it is not so bad (yet?), Shanghai was absolutely terrible. During the Spring time in Korea, we were advised to wear breathing masks because of the “China Air” coming south. I thought that smog was bad, but nothing compared to the real thing in Shanghai. Incredible, and frightening.
2: A very, very small amount of people know English. Again, i was being naive but I thought in a city of 2.5 million people that it would be more common. How wrong I was. This leads me to my next point….
3: I do not know Chinese. I have been studying Chinese for year and felt somewhat confident I could hold my own. How wrong I was (this will be a common theme). I thought reading was my strength, but it actually seems to be speaking surprisingly enough. Listening, however, is my biggest weakness. Great excuse to watch more Mandarin love movies.
4: China’s English translations are hilarious. I am sure you have all seen examples of this but the English translations in China can be very humorous. It can be quite popular (hipster) in China to wear a shirt with English (vice versa in America). Here is an interesting example…. “Pretty decent” …..who are you trying to convince China???
5: Everyone spits. Chinese people have the unfortunate stereotype of having a lack of hygiene, particularly with spitting. This is completely true. I have seen everyone from old men and young boys to hot girls and older moms. China.
6: Chinese people are incredibly kind. So far I have experienced incredible kindness. From a young man who offered to translate for me to buy a bus ticket, to the local older taxi man who drove me back to my apartment for free when I was clearly lost. We all know how Americans react when someone does not know the local language smh….
7: China is constantly being constructed. Amidst all the high-rise buildings are…more high-rise buildings being constructed. Modern China is constantly evolving and growing and it is so completely clear how true that is. Everywhere you see within the city is construction cranes.
8: Chinese people love exercise. This was true in Korea, but I have seen even more examples of it in China in just the first couple days. First off, in the mornings outside of my apartment a group of older women (and some men!) get together to do morning tai-chi.Also they have exercise equipment, just like Korea!
9: Not all Chinese people like Westerners. Contrary to popular belief, not every Chinese person is fascinated/likes Western people. I was aware of this (experience similar things in other parts of Asia) but there seems to be a myth in America, and the West, that white people are kings when they come to Asia and everyone loves them. This could not be more wrong ( I am looking at you, white man privilege). Yes sometimes the curiosity factor comes into play, but most of the time Chinese people (like everyone else) do not like when you try to take pictures of their homes.
10: Modern China is still very spiritual. Even though China gets a lot of bad press for dumping traditional culture in favor of modernization (somewhat true), China is still very spiritual. The traditional Chinese knot is everywhere and there are still existing temples that are hundreds of years old around Hangzhou. At one point you see high-rises, the next street is traditional housing. China.
11: I am loving this adventure. For all my travel junkies out there, you know that there is no better high than living in a new culture, country, city, etc. China offers that and so much more. I know I have only been here for a few days, but every passing day reminds me of how much I love/missed feeling.
Stay tuned for more posts similar to this style. I will be doing occasional “personal” updates, along with more public, informative, and questionable posts similar to this. Up next…. “Beauty of Hangzhou, China”.