After spending over two years in China, I think I have developed a love-hate relationship with most things there. Some days I wake up and absolutely love the beauty of the place. Other days, I hate it with a passion. The things that drive me insane are the same reasons why I’ll probably miss it so much. Is it possible to love and hate a place at the same time? I think so. That’s why in today’s post I’m going to explain why I love and hate China. Here are my five reasons.
- The Food
Going to a westernized Chinese restaurant back home is not the same as eating real authentic food when venturing in China. You will see, smell and taste some of the most exotic foods in the world. Dumplings. Spicy pork. Deep fried lotus root. Shark fin soup. Cooked simply and quickly, each mouthful is delicious, flavorsome and cheap. A portion of dumplings will cost you 3.5 RMB (ZAR 7) while a huge plate of noodles will cost 8 RMB (ZAR 16) and a sit-down gourmet meal with six different dishes that feed three people will cost somewhere around 124 RMB (ZAR 248).
On the other hand, there were days when I would crave something western but all I’d find would be noodles and rice… more noodles and rice… and even more noodles and rice. If I looked hard enough, I still found six more different kinds of just noodles and rice…
- The people
I have met some of the sweetest people while living in China. My morning and afternoon walks were often filled with smiles and friendly waves from toddlers and loving grandparents. Some of them were even brave enough to try and talk to me even though I couldn’t really understand them.
Other days, I felt so frustrated with the constant staring. I understand that it’s curiosity but when you go to a restaurant and are constantly stared at by an old man who finds it oddly amusing that an Indian girl knows how to order from a menu in Chinese and eat with chopsticks… it’s like I’ve blown their minds entirely.
- Traffic and driving in China
One of my favorite things about China was the subway system which made travelling to and from destinations both fast and convenient. Other days, I had to wait for close to 30 minutes for a taxi and then even longer when inside because the traffic was terribly heavy. A trip that would take half an hour by subway could sometimes take up to two hours by taxi depending on the traffic.
- The language
When I first arrived in China, one of hardest things for me was dealing with the language barrier. Walking into a supermarket to see signs and symbols everywhere was pretty overwhelming. Having local people try to talk to me, see that I could not understand them, yet still try repeatedly over and over again was very frustrating too. There’s only so many times I can say “Wo ting budong” (I don’t understand) in Chinese.
As time passed and after starting Mandarin classes, picking up the language became both fun and exciting. It seemed that learning to speak Mandarin was pretty easy after all. Many of the words are often repetitive and have the same meaning, so you often find yourself guessing a lot. The beauty of this is that more often than not, you’re correct. There are tons of apps to help out foreigners as well. Pleco and Baidu Translate both have options for you to speak into it, draw in Chinese characters, type in the pin yin (Chinese words in Latin letters) or even take a picture and scan for translation.
- The Internet
Ah. The Great Chinese Fire Wall. I do hate you. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, the Great Firewall is an intensive project set up by the Chinese government to achieve internet censorship. It’s pretty much a massive surveillance and censoring operation that monitors websites, electronic messages and emails in an attempt to search for calls to protest or negative messages against the government. If anything incriminating is found, police officers are immediately sent over to investigate. Sounds creepy and unreal, right? Oh it’s real, trust me. Whilst I understand the rationale behind this, two and a half years later I still cannot comprehend how a country so huge can block Google or Khan Academy. I mean, who blocks Google for crying out loud? Ah yes, China… you do.
That being said, the internet itself can still become your best friend in China. You can order pretty much anything online, from clothes to make up to groceries to dinner and have it delivered directly to your door and all for a fraction of the price. Oh online shopping in China – I do love you so.
I guess it is possible to both, love and hate China at the same time. What do you love or hate about China?