I’m an American who recently made the transition from living in Thailand to living in China. This is my first time in this country and I’ve only been living here for a few days. Here are a few of my first impressions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Rizhao, a beachside city in the Shandong Province of China, is my home. It’s not a city saturated with foreigners and english-speakers like Beijing or Shanghai. The white man is rare in these parts of China. Especially an American white man. Like my previous community in rural Thailand, I get curious stares from all passersby.
The urban planning in China is stunning. Powerful symmetrical buildings on every street, and new buildings are emerging by the dozens in all directions.
China is rapidly expanding its urban population. As far as the eye can see, cranes are stationed next to the tall skeletons of future high-rises.
The Chinese government has a hefty plan. Over the next 12 years, it plans to move 250 million people from its Chinese countryside into its cities. The government and investors are dumping gobs of cash into the development of new cities, skyscrapers and high-rise apartment buildings.
The first thing I noticed about Chinese people is how quickly they walk. Chinese always have somewhere to be. When I’m exiting an elevator, a few people will enter and start pressing buttons before I have a chance to leave. And good luck getting off a packed bus in China before 10 people resist you on their way in.
Chinese men are spitters. Seriously, they spit unnecessarily often. And it’s not discreet spitting. It’s like they want people to hear them hocking up phlegm and snorting it into their throat before unleashing it on the reluctant sidewalk.
As an American living in China, I receive mixed stares. Younger people smile, giggle. Sometimes they say hello to me excitedly. Old folks just silently look at me like I’m an alien.
Weather-wise, I’m fortunate to live in an area of China that isn’t close to Russia. From what I hear, the winters are mild, like winters in the southwestern United States. I’m like Goldie Locks: it’s best when it’s not too cold and not too hot.
All four seasons exist in this region of China. I still have a few weeks to enjoy the pristine autumn weather. Seriously, the weather is perfect right now. Walking to and from work is a pleasant stroll through an immaculately maintained park.
I knew how to count to ten in Chinese before I arrived, but it hasn’t helped me. Not one bit. This language is so different, it’s stifling.
Luckily I’ve made English-speaking Chinese friends who are just as eager to practice English as I am to learn Chinese. I will learn to speak this language, at least on a basic level.
If Thailand is the land of rice, then China is the land of noodles. Noodles are everywhere, in every dish. Ramen noodles are king. If you can dream it, China can noodle it.
The food here isn’t spicy at all. I was semi-adjusted to Thailand’s scorching heat in every dish, so now my palette is left dissatisfied when I’m not breaking into a dripping sweat after meals.
The good news is that Chinese actually eat vegetables, so it’s not difficult to score some vitamin-and-mineral-rich greens. Thailand’s vegetable priority fell a little short in my book.
Welcome to China
I traded the ancient mountains of Thailand for the new high-rise towers of China. I exchanged a slow-paced culture for a fast-paced one. I traded a quiet rural town for a rapidly expanding city.
Things are very different from my life in Thailand one week ago. Living in China is going to be a big culture shock. One that I hope I’m ready for.
I’ve observed a lot these past few days. Much more will be posted on Monkey Abroad soon. For now I’m still getting my feet wet while I let my senses roam free. Zao shang hao (good morning) China!