Currently, it seems easy for us to have negative thoughts about China – trade wars and all that. On a complete whim, I went to China November 21 – December 21, 2018, and want to share some of my impressions of the Chinese people and culture.
I have been a farmer most of my life near Rutledge, and so I went to visit rural areas in China. 90% of the time I stayed in Airbnbs in small villages (about 300 people). Eric, at Sandhill, and a partner started this business of putting bnbs in small villages to allow visitors to experience rural Chinese life; if not for this, I would not have gone. Eric since sold his part of the enterprise to his partner, Maarten, who still owns and manages it, and helped me to organize my trip. I stayed at all four of their bnbs plus another one in a national park.
I wrote a more extensive travelog about this trip and am happy to share it w/ folks who are interested. If you would like a copy, I will happily send it to you via email: contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be forewarned: it’s 20 pages.
This is a summary of my impressions:
The most startling is that the people are so kind/gentle w/ each other. My first night in China – a total stranger, Zhang, walks in to the hotel at 4 am and pays for my first night at the hotel (they would not accept either of my credit cards) and then takes me out for a drink and food at 4 am. And then the traffic: it is chaotic, but on my third day, I get off at the wrong train station in Guilin and a stranger, Chang, takes me to the correct station on his scooter – we are in the bicycles/scooters/motorcycles lane. At intersections, when the lights are not with you, you wait for an opening, dart in, and others drive around you. No one gets upset – the only time I hear horns is when folks are announcing that they are about to pass you. When folks get phone calls, they stop and the traffic flows around them, like water around a rock in a stream. Drivers in this lane are all ages, gender, etc. Many have children with them. No one is upset; the attitude appears to be: everyone is doing the best they can. I’ve always aspired to that mindset, but these folks seem to live it – such a civil society (what the heck, they’ve been at this for 4000 years… they seem to have it down).
Guardian angels: I had so many of them; eg, I can’t figger out how to buy a ticket on the Metro/subway system; someone comes along to help. I point at the station I want to go to on the electronic map. They punch a few buttons and then wave their phone over the monitor – I want to pay them back – they just wave me off.
Cleanliness: streets and homes are clean. City streets are cleaned by trucks but also by people with brooms – also at bus and train stations, airports, etc.
In general, I find that people talk loud and passionately. On the trains and metros, I sometimes find myself annoyed at how loud folks are – but there are a LOT of people here – perhaps they need to be loud to be heard?
Appropriate technology: the trains and scooters in the cities are electric: quiet and non-polluting.
Cell phones: it seems to me that they are far ahead of us with this technology – they pay for most everything with their phones.
The language barrier: this was my primary challenge; I did not anticipate it. I have travelled in various countries but for the most part, the local languages used the same alphabet as ours. Not here. Street signs, addresses, metro stations are all in Chinese characters; I do appreciate the art in the characters and seeing them on street signs, billboards, etc. In some of the metros, they announce approaching stations in English – but not on the maps so it is hard for me to plan where I am going. In many countries, I could find people who speak English – in my experience, there were very few in China. People kept telling me that many folks here speak English, but I found very few. Usually, as soon as I ask a question, they pull out their phones and go to google translate – which is helpful, but not conducive to real conversation.