Ni Hoa !
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Ni Hoa !
American perspective of Chinese culture and Chinese way of life.
Focus on Items for a visiting American to consider.
Personal obserservations and experiances off the tourism path and more for an actual Chinese living situation.
American Observes China/No-Spin Blog
Posted on May 5, 2010 by amerinchina
I’m living in China for the next 7 weeks, with my fiancée . I am in a city called Wuxi, about 40 miles west of Shanghai, approx. 3 or 4 times the size of New Haven Ct. All though developing rapidly, the generally gentle Chinese people are socially isolated, partially because of their deep historical roots (arguably the worlds oldest).
Anywhere I walk, people whisper to each other to “look at the foreigner”. I actually had one young lady ask to take a photo with me. If you are not in Beijing or Shanghai, international integrations are still somewhat up and coming. My pre-conceived notion was that was that this, was a bit farther along. This is my 2nd time in China, but staying in my fiancées apartment and not a hotel, I’m a little farther away from the main tourist track and closer to actually Chinese life. Also the environmental conditions here would make you appreciate a swim in the Hudson river (see Cosmo Kramer) and a jog, while breathing air in Los Angeles. From what I understand the vast countryside’s and suburbs are drastically cleaner, hopefully stop #2 in this trip for me.
I recall recently fishing in the rivers of the city of New Haven, I don’t think you would find an ameba living in these city waters. Also, they boil their tap water here prior to being fit for consumption. I’m not getting into any human rights issues or the total lack of middle class, I figure some less popular items would make for more interesting reading. Having said that, even in the city, the rate of violent crimes is significantly lower (maybe because the fear of the brand of Chinese incarceration). The people, again, very gentle and very approachable. They actually approach me, often, because of the novelty opportunity of talking with a foreigner. Especially the younger people. AS strange as it sounds, its almost rock star status, which is totally off the wall for a working stiff like myself. Its…definitely NOT China town, all though many similarities. Everyday is an adventure, I love it. The food is great. (with some good selectivity) Such a richly deep culture.
Do I Have a Third Eye?
The staring is getting old. the other day it was almost a mob scene at McDonalds, some children just started waving to me and it just starting breeding more curious onlookers. The foreigner factor for these folks, is just way too compelling. the young folks are quite charming, at times, they just want to start a conversation…but many Chinese men give my fiancée and I bad looks. Once some(Chinese) people break the discrimination barrier and start to communicate they are nicely inquisitive, kind and gentle. but my observation, is it is a generation thing, where as the internet generation…smile ..and old china, well I’m lucky if they DON’T frown. regardless, I’ve become comfortably used to it all…I must admit a little pissed off at the Chinese men who seem bitter with the dirty street looks, as I walk with my fiancée, but.. it is what it is. ..and don’t look at the Chinese police the wrong way…unpredictable results there. BTW don’t we have a whole sub-city in Brooklyn devoted to these folks?(New York City’s Chinatown)
The food, Wow !
….They have sidewalk vegetable markets, all over. if you like your veggies, you will love china. if you are a vegetarian, you should immigrate to china. the food in general, after decades of American cuisine, is quite a new adventure. But after a couple of meals of duck tongues, chicken gizzards, hog mountain (very long) potatoes and bamboo, cooking in a wok and using chopsticks, I have to admit, I feel a bit healthier. they call breasts of chicken, “chicken chest”. A simple convenience store is almost as detailed as our Stop and Shop in America. the fish markets contain live tanks with live fish, complete with live frogs and turtles. you can easily find butcher shops to kill chicken right there (in front of you) to bring home for dinner. did you know chicken have feet? This all might sound a bit outlandish for an American meat and potatoes person, but I really mean it when I tell you I felt healthier then I have in years after eating in china for a few weeks. its definitely worth overcoming any squeamish barriers. Most of the meat, poultry, produce, dairy does not have the growth hormones and chemical additives we in America use. my fiancée loved it when I prepared a long simmered tomatoes sauce with pork, served over “Italian noodles” everything is Italian noodles, there is no spaghetti, penne, ziti, rotelli, shells, etc., just Italian noodles. if you like Chinese noodles there are many kinds (potato, rice noodles) sold in raw and packaged form. BTW I have acquired a great liking for ducks tongue, then my last word on this….rice. need I say more?
McDonalds, KFC, Wal-Mart
…and to a lesser extend Subway and Starbucks have all made 7 figure profits this week in china. there is a McDonalds and KFC in almost every couple of blocks in the city of Wuxi. The new china is quite a market place for these blue chips, BTW a soda Big Mac and Fry’s run about 8 – 10 American dollars after conversion.
I really love it here in China I visited several museums and parks. the history and culture here is mind boggling. because, among other things it goes back 10,000 years (human history) and they have the artifacts to prove it.
Chinese Lunar New Year – Spring Festival Begins
Chinese Lunar New Year lands on the Full Moon usually end of January early February, on the western calendar . In 2010 it was just before Valentines days, in 2009 it landed on January 26th. It’s celebrated with the importance of Christmas for the Christians in the western world. It begins the period known as Spring Festival, which is almost equivalent to the holiday period equivalent to between western Christmas and New years. It lasts from the full moon on Chinese lunar new years to the next full moon (several weeks later) which is know as the Lantern Festival. Lantern Festival in so interesting to a visiting westerner, because in some cities they celebrate this night (of the 2nd full moon of Spring festival) with flying these square shaped night kites, with little fire elements within, all over the night sky, its quite a sight. AS one might think, they are not 100% safe, but it’s part of the mystique of this exclusive Chinese holiday. It usually takes several attempts to get one airborne, (like a kite) but once there’re up, they take off like a big helium powered flying balloon. In the failed attempts, sometimes they come down in oncoming road traffic, etc. The entire Spring Festival is filled with fireworks, sometimes 24 hours a day (like our July 4th’s ). The New Years day and that initial week period, the Chinese are compelled to be with family and/or significant others. The culture dictates these days are filled with their best meals and people in visiting family and friends getting “The Red Envelopes” with cash gifts. The Red Envelope receivers are the younger folks of the congregating Chinese Holiday parties, the older are the traditional givers. Other common token type gifts to honor your spring festival guests are cigarettes (2 or 3), watermelon seeds (which the Chinese eat like our Pumpkin Seeds), hard boiled eggs and various fruits. Sometimes Spring festival traditions last a full month or so after the initial Lunar New Year.
In many ways, the traffic flows in Shanghai like its does in Manhattan, but because there are so many bicycles, mopeds, scooters and electric powered and conventional powered motorcycles in China, they have different needs. The style of driving itself is actually a notch up in aggressiveness from NYC. Where as pedestrians (should) have the right of way in America, it is the opposite generally in Asia. It seems to me the bigger you are, the more right of way you have. They give the numerous pedestrians much grace,, instead of walk and don’t walk signs they have not only red and green lights but in the cities they have numeric countdowns to both. The only problem is, no matter what, you need to look because not all drivers (especially hurried taxi’s) follow the laws and for the most part are too numerous to be efficiently enforced. SO, (also in the city) , the cars truck and buses have the road and general right of way, IF you’re a car you better get out of the way of a bus. The manual and auto powered bikes have an exclusive outside lane of the sidewalks. But it could be all shot to hell, because both motorcycles and cars will drive on the sidewalks, where they fit and if your in the way, you’d better move! Some narrow streets barely fit a car but they(the cars and motor bikes) come flying down them anyway, with little regards for pedestrian safety.
Starting to get the picture? Maybe you’re feeling a little better about that walk down 5th avenue ??
The drivers themselves basically live on the horn. IF you’re a passenger bus or car trying to get by a slower working truck or taxi, you’re on the horn as basically as soon as the slower vehicle is in your sight. They do this to pedestrians too, if they are in the way. It’s actually considered somewhat courteous (well, I’m beeping at you so I wont run you over) What we consider “wild weaving in and out”, avoiding oncoming traffic, Chinese driving considers doing what you have to do to make it on time. Oh and basically they have body shells that fit on motorbikes to taxi customers. Unfortunately there is no pedestrians courtesy to other pedestrians. In the stores, in the sidewalks, it’s all self serving and all for yourself. If somebody’s taking up room where everything is crowded, there is NO sense of urgency. I know I sound like NYC on holiday on this, but trust me, it’s a notch down, no consideration for fellow man on this. …and sometimes I gave it (courtesy) out of habit and I got an expression like I was an idiot or “oh yeah, just a stupid foreigner”. It’s not uncommon to see 3 or even 4 people on one bike or motor bike, often with young children……! I like the Chinese concept on this: on sidewalks, there is always a walking lane with raised dashes for the blind and a special symbols for when an obstacle is approaching.
The Foreigner Factor in China.
Really redundant subject from my initial post on this thread, but so dramatic of a subject, it still deserves multiple references. The Chinese people until recent times , for being the largest population group on our planet, are really so isolated within themselves. Its not until recent history outsiders have started to trickle in. The recent Olympics were so historical, largely because it was the biggest (peaceful) presence of outsiders known to the deeply historical Chinese. Walking down the street, I would say the way most people looked at me, it was like seeing a Westerner was either something they have never seen or seen very rarely. The element of shock was almost equivalent to you seeing a Tiger or Lion in Central Park. The question is not IF people will be shocked or surprised. The variable is only how friendly they’ll be to their subject of the “foreigner sighting”. There are some definite patterns to this. As expected, the younger the native Chinese, the friendlier the reaction. The countryside people, vs. the “urban Chinese”, oddly enough would be a bit more shocked . but treat you with more respectful curiosity. Several times, as I separated from my fiancée for a little while, I was approached by younger people, mostly female, wanting to learn about me, even with an obvious language barrier. So many times they would say hello to me and I would say Ni How (hello in Chinese) back. Then would come the inedible “what do we do now” look and smile. Many times they would take the over zealous curiosity and just start talking away in Mandarin, just making me wish my girl was back to translate for me. Because English is taught like French and Spanish in their primary and high school years, there was the occasional Chinese who spoke a varying amount of English, for whatever reason, 90% of the time, they were of the female gender. The older folks, even some of the 30 or 40 something’s, tended to have hostile facial expression. Often pairs or groups of native Chinese would sadly gossip or say things very prejudice, especially regarding the association between my girl and I. I felt especially bad for her, for the simple reason that she was able to understand exactly what was being said, as opposed to my oblivious ears, not understanding the language. It had reached a point where I didn’t care what they were saying about me, it was what it was, but we are in my girls homeland and I wasn’t putting up with her hearing these insults. Subsequently she would wait till we were 2 blocks away before she told me some jerks just called her a “bitch for being with a foreigner” to protect me from getting my ass kicked by some kung fu guy, while trying to protect her honor, LOL. But having said all this, all kidding aside its every bit as dramatic and more. Many of Chinese have an element of disbelief when they see a Westerner, again it’s the subsequent reaction that’s a variable. The countryside or working class, may be just as shocked, but usually with these folks, it’s 8 out 10 times a more of a positive flavor extra encounter (beyond passing acknowledgment). It’s like “gee these westerners are so oddly different in the their looks, walk, and talk, but there they’re not too bad or actually pretty good”. Some people its good from the start, they’re smiling and trying to have a limited friendly conversation with you. Having said that, the dirty looks tend to never get resolved. The one thing you can depend on, is getting stared at 60 –70 % of the time. In the many train stations I visited in my recent trip, in (often crowded) waiting area, every row of seats there was always a person sitting there just totally staring. Bottom line you could depend on the constant staring, but the flavor after that is a crap shoot and I advise all traveling to China to just be thick skinned, because its only the (native) people who want to pursue some extra contact or communication, were things usually continue. The negative continuations just don’t exist and usually end right then and there, unless your compelled to really want to start trouble from your end, which I wouldn’t advise in mainland China. Having said that don’t be afraid to stand your ground and keep your chin up., The Chinese in general are a gentle race of people and usually avoid any confrontation. (even among themselves). Even among each other, the traffic events, aggressive business transaction that easily turn into some verbal altercation (or worse) in America, just usually result in annoyed people walking or driving away from each other. THE CHINESE ONLY SEEM TO GET SO MAD. Its of this factor, I really have to give much praise to this culture. Is like they do a solid year of mandatory anger management in the 8th grade or something.
Socialism Method of Dealing with Domestic Instability
If the neighbors hear a couple arguing and they report it to the authorities or local “public security agency” They stand a good chance of being visited by the local couple counseling officers. It doesn’t do a whole lot for privacy for a couple needing to work things out, but it seems for such a populous society, they seem to have low incident (per capita) of domestic incidence. Also nobody but the police and politically affluent own fire arms (legally). To me, this is great. I know part of our constitutional freedom, here, in our democracy, is the right to bear arms. But is just my liberal opinion as to “why get the domino rolling?”. Case in point, there’s just (again, per capita) never to high of a violent crime rate in China and how can that ever be bad? Just my peace loving opinion, maybe yours too. Please understand, I love my democratic homeland, especially with it’s religious freedom and a constitution based on human rights I just hate violent crime, especially where the innocent are constantly in harms way.
Street Announcements and General Utilities
One thing common to their culture was the Junk man or public safety calls, going by in the street. I can be on the phone (in America) with my girl (in China) and still hear this. This is people going by in the street (mostly on bicycle) either calling to collect a certain kind of throw away junk, from the general Chinese public (say like all old electrical appliances) or public safety messages (i.e.,) like, turning off you gas hot water heater, before you leave your residence. The safety calls are usually with endless loop announcing machines on a very loud megaphone. The junk guy (usually) just relentlessly goes around yelling as loud as he can. BTW if you wash dishes, take a bath or anything using hot water in China, there is a small (3′ x 2′) mounted unit on the (kitchen) wall that usually has to be plugged in, first thing in the morning or when you 1st come home after being elsewhere. This is equivalent to our big oval unit we usually have a room in the basement or a closet, off the kitchen, along side our various types of furnaces (usually not used in China) They are very frugal about running their heater in the winter. They generally have less efficient combo electric heaters/air conditioners mounted up in their bedroom only and supplement it with little electric heaters that become your best friend on the colder days of winter.
They know this is very primitive for westerners so most hotels have western style (keep on all the time) type of heating and hot water systems. ..along with conventional toilets. Oh yeah, all restaurants, public rest rooms and many homes have Asian style toilets. This consist of no raised bowl, just an outflow plumbing, coming to a hole in the floor. it efficiently carries waste away and is more sanitary than you might think, however if you are a westerner encountering this for the first time it can be awkward, It’s better to be expected and also, bring your own tissue to the public facilities. It maybe tacky for me to mention, but necessary knowledge if your visiting China or maybe anywhere in Asia. Most stoves are gas, which you manually light and as you might know they use woks, not too many frying pans and limited sauce pans. Yes there are microwaves, but…they always unplug after every use. There refrigerators are generally smaller and they eat less frozen food, (more fresh meats, etc).
Outdoor Barbeque Vendors
They have BBQ vendors off the sidewalks and street, usually several congregated together. They tend to sell their product aggressively, especially if they see you’re a foreigner. They show their meats, poultry/foul, fish/seafood and vegetables on a frontal display. You select what you want, the spice to be cooked with and they cook it right there on a charcoal unit. It’s VERY popular among the natives and a nice treat if you’re visiting. Be careful, use your best talent and judgment to select a vendors using fresh product, unfortunately there are several of them out there trying to sell stuff that didn’t sell in the previous days. If you know your fresh meat, foul, etc. it’s a healthy, tasty snack, certainly better than late night at McDonalds or Taco Bell. As in many things, (like art or various product stands), if you are a foreigner, you may be seen as an opportunity for taking advantage of, in the price. I think this can be avoided by bargaining for EVRYTHING and just not appearing like a typical tourist or just naïve in general. Be on you toes, in all aspects of taking that wallet out. If you’re in China and your European or American, the preconceived notion is that your rich!
China’s Countryside – Agriculture and General living With a Chinese Family.
When I first came into the countryside of China, it became all new again. The farmers with the pointed bamboo hats, the balanced carrying polls with their raw farming harvest (on each side), the flooded rice field, the ox, the layered fields for water to flow (high to low), the very modest shelters, the sharp mountain peaks. Everything you seen on Television documentaries, just all came bursting out in live 3 dimensional, almost surreal form. The town of Guangxi.is set in South-Central China, is where my fiancée was born and grew up. I stayed at her uncles apartment where her Aunt and Grandmother also lived. Her father also lived in town , but on the outskirts, where he managed his own farmland. In a time when Americas farming seems to be a dying entity, Chinas farming in these countryside areas is just so strongly thriving. The layered farm lands is so interested to view. This is where you start with a higher piece of land, but layer down in stages, mostly to manage your water supply. Its usually the top layer you keep your holding water, then manage the layer selection, amount and time where you want the water to go. It’s VERY efficient. Unfortunately northwestern China is suffering unprecedented drought, and the central farming areas have very low water tables, which has had a negative effect on the agriculture.
Regarding family living her grandmother, at 80, is as healthy as most 50 – 60 year olds in America. Walks up 6 flights of stairs to the family apartment like its nothing, usually carrying the produce and meat for the family meals, cooks for the family, cleans the house. When I met her, beside my fiancée, it was the warmest personal relationship I had while being in China. I grew up in New haven area of Connecticut in an Italian family, but the Chinese family warmth, acceptance and commitment to take me as a family member, was incredible. The whole family was the same, particularly her one uncle, but also her aunts, younger cousins and father. The reason for the health of her grandmother was her life style. There not enough to be said for a diet with much FRESH vegetables. Additionally, organic meats, tofu, rice. Her grandmother cooks feeds and cleans for her family and never complains.
The tea they drink so much, every day is assume. They treat their teas with very high regard. You can go into a tea room, in the city and sit there for hours, trying different tea, with the expectation of selecting your favorite for purchase. The social aspect of the tea room is great, (talking with other customers and the host) is almost like some bars in America and the Tea itself is almost like an organic tranquilizer, its amazing. To fully understand it is to understand this aspect of the culture in China. It has been a very significant part of the culture for centuries and remains that way today. The tea that you drink tends to be unique for the area that you are in. For instance, Guangxi was known for having a brownish dominant common tea leaf that they like to mix with ginger and mushrooms. What I wouldn’t give right now for a cup of my China’s grandmothers Tea! She blend the tea ingredients with a “crusher” type spoon over the portable open flame, like what cooks the “family stew” at dinner time and adds the hot water in increments. Its less of a method and more of an art.
The family supper was such an experience to me. It helped that I am experienced at eating with chopsticks. If you eat with a Chinese family, chances are, to show consideration they will offer you a fork, spoon and knife, it was rewarding to refuse them, in that grace. The dining chairs themselves, only raise you about 8 inches off the ground and the table about the same. The more modern Chinese stoves are now electric with digital controls , but I imagine the older style used gas/open flames. There is a big pot in which the main coarse actually cooks while you sit there. Chicken, pork, beef, sometimes fish or tofu chopped up, always Bone-in (I have a hard time with the fish bones) are usually the staple items, then from there water, salt, maybe oil, mushrooms, a great variety of fresh vegetables and sometimes rice or potato noodles. …over a bowl of white rice. The food cooks as you eat and everyone helps themselves from the cooking pot with their chop sticks. I did the same, when I had a chance, because the wonderful grandmother was constantly putting food in my dish, with her chopsticks. I love it. I would say “Xie xie, li li” (thank you grandmother) and she would always answer “no xie xie, no xie nie” (meaning I shouldn’t thank her because I am part of her family).
Well the air and river waters where clean in Guangxi, in contrast to (the city of)Wuxi. Fast moving traffic was just as impatient, basically living on their horns, aggressively warning the slower movers to get out of their way. Basically, (`I should have mentioned this in my first post about traffic) there is no such thing as a no-pass zone in China. Most people are even more shocked to see a foreigner, with a greater percentage of them, NEVER or very rarely seeing a foreigner, previously. The countryside people tend to be more eager to communicate with you. The late night/outdoor barbecues are just as, if not more numerous here.
Her uncle lived in town, but houses in the countryside (even of the rich) where modest at best, generally open doors , unfinished, uneven floors, you would thrown food, fruit or seed remains on the floor to be cleaned later. The dinner table and central food heater would be typically in the living room. With live chickens roaming around with no fear at all, (not knowing that they may lose their head at ANY time!)
Cell Phones, Smoking, Manners(or lack of) in Public Settings
For the older school folks, remember life without cell phones? If you were meeting someone, somewhere you had to relay on your original plans? No up to the minute status reports on fishing trips, concerts or sporting events. No texting little funny thoughts of the hour. The cell phone, like the PC’s, like video games, etc. etc. has totally changed the way our modern society lives. Well, in China, its like an technological epidemic. In many cases Chinese families went from having NO land line to a cost effective cell phone with every family member. In the “downtown” streets of China you can look around and see, at any given time, 25% of people looking at their text messages. In China, not only is text messages, person to person, but is a staple method of advertising and receiving up to the minute news and weather information. The Chinese are ADDICTED to their cells. My fiancée included. She wakes up, if I’m not there it’s the first thing she reaches for. If she has a free moment, in traveling about the city, it’s the cell phone. Its not even so much the phone call functions, but the texting is so over-used, in my opinion, it’s less generally efficient and of an overall distraction. Especially when you add in the advertising functions. You know, in an (American) pubic setting, its an overall courtesy to try and keep your voice down when communicating, but some people unconsciously have their voices get too loud, while the others in the general area just look at each other and imply or say “how obnoxious?!?!”. Well in China, there not even a thought to be polite about this. If I didn’t know better I’d say it was a contest who can shout louder or tell more of there personal lives more clearly. In restaurants, public transportation, streets, stores, etc., you can always observe people either looking at their text or shouting some aspect of their business or personal lives. Once (if) you get over the annoyance of it, it’s really quite comical.
In general, even though we have observed and adapted ways of each others culture, there are an overwhelming amount of social habits that separate the east and west, drastically. Like smoking. People light up, many times without ANY consideration for the recipients of second hand smoke. There is yet to be any laws in China about restricted and limited smoking areas. Including public areas (inside) and public transportation. Its like America in the 70’s, cough, cough.
At times the polite factor in China is drastically absent, to the point of being expectantly rude. Then again, there is much to be said for the gentleness of the Chinese culture. In times of being around train stations, upon arriving in China, as a foreigner, I just tried to be respectful and humble. Well…for the first 15 minutes, LOL. I consider myself to be a gentle and polite person. I can even walk around in the city ) and usually maintain this (NYC). But in the Shanghai train station I found myself turning into someone else. AS a foreigner, as a foreigner with a Chinese Girl and the fact that my fiancée is small, I found myself being fair game for every Chinese bully within a 30-foot radius. My natural defense was pushing off in several areas, just to establish boundaries of not getting pushed around. In many cases, I had to keep close watch on my girl, particularly in urban train stations, I asserted myself to those real heroes who had no problem with giving my girl pushes and shoves. I was lucky I didn’t get my ass kicked, by some masters of Kung Fu, but for the most part, I believe one of the basic disciplines you learn as a martial arts student to exclusively use your great skills as defense and not otherwise. I assure you, much of the time I enjoyed the kindness and gentleness of the wonderful people of China, but as in any place globally, I got educated fast on where I had to be on-guard. Please know I mention this less as a matter of pride, but more as to be informative for anyone with future travel plans to China. For the most part, once again, I find the Chinese society, in general, quite gentle and “non-confrontational”. I just believe human instinct takes over anywhere where it’s just too crowded, thus some of panic type pushing and shoving. I know mine kicked in when I saw my little lady being pushed around, not so much for my own personal boundaries. Just try to anticipate some of this as you enter crowded places in China, as to not be so shocked when it all happens. Being prepared will improve the quality of your reaction and general personal safety.
A Sad Situation
In China, people are provided internet service a bit different than here, in America, in that, instead of an on going item on your cable or phone bill, in most cases in China it is done on a “pay as you go” basis. My Fiancée had made a recent payment to keep her internet going, which is a significant lifeline for her, because, among other things we use it for our essential (and non-essential) day to day communications between her and I (Skype, Yahoo, MSN, etc.). She keeps a pretty tight hold on it for that reason, so recently a payment WAS NOT credited to her account. Being just another routine planned stop for the day, she had arrived at this local utility customer service office to resolve this. When she brought this up to a clerk at this office, this person had not only become defiant to her simple issue, but abrasive by personal insults to her. (not uncommon in China, especially with public servants) My Girl held her own ground, but tried to stick with the bill issue and suddenly three woman clerk went way over the top and ran around the desk to basically physically assaulted her. My fiancée is a small woman and was not a large obstacle for these uneducated, bullied, Chinese woman. Amazingly, this was done in full view of several other internet customers, in which these terrible female customer service clerks justified their actions to, by shouting out(in Chinese) that my girl is a criminal and they are doing a some sort of lawful duty by their cowardice assault, to falsely put themselves in a positive stance of the onlookers. Let me say that my fiancée has absolutely no criminal record of any kind and is a law abiding (and well educated) Chinese citizen. Absolutely nobody at the scene qualified these violent actions, which consisted of physically restraining her, hitting her in the head and choking her. She was NOT severally injured, but several days later has difficulty swallowing food, a sore neck and back area AND is very emotionally traumatized. She then went to the police station to report this incident, who (the police) were basically a non-factor. In America, especially with witnesses these woman would be at least fired and in jail waiting to be arraigned on assault and unlawful restraint charges. Additionally, this would be with a potential strong civil case in our homeland, in these ominous circumstances. I was awoken to a phone call at 5am (5pm in China) to her sobbing and scared in a Chinese police station , telling me of this horrific event.
To those know of me, you know that I like to offer my opinion/input on most items of this very different culture, but in this case my own personal emotion and anger is so overwhelming, it would not make for appropriate subject matter. I just want to say, I am extremely saddened and feel very helpless (being so far away). Also, on a logistical level, of how much I appreciate the men and woman of our American law enforcement and judicial system, even with all of its own flaws and imperfections. It seems to me, in China, adequate police protection is limited to friends or family of the police department, the politically (Communist Government) affiliated and the rich. In a bureaucratic system with so much “micro-management”(running all media, financial institutions, churches, etc.) I would think there would be a little more care is security issues of the less independent (elderly, woman, children, etc.). If you are in any occupational position of public contact in China, there is not only no incentive or guideline, to have basic manners, but also, the quality of customer service is at the random discretion of the service level person, without being subject to any corporate/company level quality control. This often results in sub-par support for Chinese clients seeking basic transactional support to their utility bills, etc. In China, there is no tipping or gratuity (food service waiters and waitresses, taxi drivers, bell hops, etc.). The taxis often try to take advantage of native Chinese and foreigners, by taking longer than needed routes and if confronted, respond in a very aggressive, defensive manner. All being said, I still stick with my assessment that the Chinese, in general, tend to be non-confrontational., but the o section of the society that has even a basic amount of clout or authority are often not too interested in being helpful or fair, with a lack of a caring management to monitor this. Often this result in multiple abuses of (or lack of) the system. On a business level, there is just not much incentive to expedite satisfactory customer service in China.
No Labor Laws
There are no sexual harassment or labor rights laws in China. I have seen several occurrences with just my girl alone, being offered professional advancement for less than job oriented merit. …and she is an educator! This situation runs out of control in China, another great flaw of a “socialistic society“. It creates many circumstances where “kissing up to the boss” is a much too highly regarded professional skill.
Even our American society (pre-Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill) had more control over labor laws and rights, but we as a society recognized a need for lawful guidelines in the last several decades. I mean, (in my opinion) shouldn’t have to walk around like unsexed robots. But the work force relationships should always be based on basic human respect. Professional advancement should always be about working contribution and professional growth , nothing else. I’m not saying America is perfect, but we have employee oriented government branches to put things in check, which, on a civil level is subsequently tied to our judicial system. In China it really is out of control, but they find strict methods to keep production control at a very efficient status quo, but worker recognition and advancement very often lacks a true and fair merit system.
Panhandling, begging exists in all societies. In China it takes on a flavor all its own. In many cases blind, and/or missing limb people are put out for public collections. In more pleasant settings, there are musicians (often very good) playing /classical or folk Chinese music to collect. One of the saddest displays of this seemingly homeless very young children targeting foreigners and sometime native Chinese. Be aware that these are often children used, usually leased out to use (for a non-parent) to gain the sympathy of potential and unknowing donators. They are all over the place, it can be an 8 year old girl or boy, etc. They always have “a watcher” supervising this, watching the child and the collections. In both cases, similar to a prostitution operation that has a pimp. When I was first approached by this, in China, my fiancée, had to inform me of the reality of this. When the authorities observe this they are “sent away”, but always seem to Relocate. Very sad indeed, mostly for the child’s experience. They are well trained ( too act desperate and needy), but often part of a very profitable operation, but the public in becoming more aware, as time evolves. Be aware of this.
In Communist China, as a residing citizen, you are required to register your residence and
employment, with verification from your landlord (or proof of real-estate ownership) and employer. If all this is NOT in order, there are some negative ramifications on how you are treated by the government and/or local security office. There are significant update fees payable to the local government to process this. This is taken very serious of the Chinese powers that be, who have the right to prosecute those in non-compliance.
Chinese Radio Media/Chinese Folk Music
Chinese radio has seen its share of westernization. Also, much commercial music with great emphasis on talk show and the resulting hosts/speaker stars. The music consists of much commercial similarity of America, with a little more love ballet type music. There is the Chinese Flavor of Hip Hop all over the place, especially in the night dance clubs, to be talked about in its own section later in this blog. Some music lyrics are in Chinese, much less are in English. Then there is the splendor and deep cultural representation of Chinese Folk Music. This music has core influences many centuries back. There are several live festivals/concerts or (ad-hoc) city park jams usually available to listen to. It is eastern scale music, with Chinese folk melody of Eastern String instruments (Sitar, etc) occasionally lead by (mostly female) free style vocalists belting out notes delicately, yet rustically combining with often improvised string solos and rhythmic chords. Historic Chinese Folk Musicians are honored in most parks with elaborate statues and shrine type of visual and musical tributes. If my fiancée didn’t want to leave the Chinese Folk Jam on that festive (spring festival) Wuxi day, I would have stayed for hours. If you have a chance to experience a Chinese urban folk jam, I would aggressively do so. Regarding the Chinese Commercial Radio, they have a strongly present advertisement sponsorship, as in any enterprising area on this globe. In the past decade, there has been a increasing amount of call-in (audience participation) Chinese radio shows, a prime example of the gradual westernization of this Chinese media. Although strictly registered and monitored by the government, for some reason radio seems to exercise a bigger general freedom then Chinese TV which I talk about next .