What I’ve learned about China: Week One
We knew months ago that moving to China would be a life-changer. I’m not sure we knew what we were really getting ourselves into!
After 9 days in Beijing, I’ve learned a few important things. This is, of course, not everything. We’ll expand on some of these later too, but I wanted to share some highlights. I’ll list them out, because that’s easier:
I know very little useful Mandarin. What I do know is almost useless, also. Apparently the tonal language thing is simple in theory, but difficult in practice. On the other hand, grammar is crazy easy! No verb conjugation or changes in tense. Only need to know how to pronounce everything perfectly.
- I feel far safer here than I ever did in Houston. People are just not interested in hurting anyone.
- Though a lot is different, so many things are the same. Life is the same – people going to work, eating, drinking, socializing, shopping, appreciating great history and culture, and spending time with family. Ultimately, people are deep down very similar no matter where you are in the world.
- Traffic rules? forget ’em. You cross the street at your own risk. And Beijing taxis are either the worst or best drivers in the world. I actually applauded a sneaky move one of my drivers pulled off to get out of gridlock.
- I say gridlock and I mean it. When traffic gets heavy, drivers are less inclined to let ANYone through in from of them. Intersections get locked up. No one moves for several light cycles. Engines turn off. And you wait.
- Most things are less expensive here, except coffee shops, wine and luxury goods. Cocktails? Cheap- had a Bombay Martini for $5 yesterday! Full Peking Duck dinner at an award-winning restaurant and leaving stuffed with food and drinks? About $40/person.
- You know those cans of teeny little mandarin orange slices? They have the real thing! And they’re awesome! (and cheap!)
- The pollution can be bad. Also, it has a smell, like bonfires. However, when the PM2.5 is low like it has been for most of our time here, it is gorgeous. Beijing is a really beautiful city. If it’s been more than a few years since you’ve visited, chances are a lot has changed.
- On the other hand, I’m grateful for the things that seem to have remained the same for centuries or even millennia. I love the attention to detail and how so many places are the perfect amount of picturesque.
- The practicality of the Chinese knows no bounds. a) Why would I wait for you to get off the subway before I get on? The doors are open! b) Why would I hit another car in traffic? That would be so inconvenient! c) Why would I swallow this spit, when I can just hack it onto the street? d) Why would I pay so much for something when I know I can bargain it down to almost nothing?
We hear that Chengdu is a few years behind Beijing on the integrating-with-the-world front. Beijing has been a great place to start out and get over the initial “oh my god I moved to China” hump. Looking forward to many more posts over the next year!