Instead of a usual sharing of the experiences that happened this week, i thought i would change it up a little and explore some of the thoughts that i have had since i have arrived in China. After exploring around Hangzhou this are some of the thoughts that i have had.
Rich and Poor
While in China we often see sights of how affluent some people are. it is not uncommon to see Louis Vuitton bags out in the streets people dressing in branded goods. However, it is also not uncommon to see how poor some people can be. Everyday at the hostel i would see an old lady picking up cardboard from the dustbins outside the hostel. She would arrive early in the morning and return at various odd times within the day in order to collect cardboard from the dustbins. It is always a little upsetting especially since the main source of said cardboard is usually the boxes that come with people’s orders from Taobao. Hence we are able to spend some amounts of money on goods yet the old lady would have to survive from the waste generated from such goods. This sight is also not uncommon in China and while cycling around i would see more of such sights.
Difference in spending power
One of the first things you will notice as a Singaporean is the difference in spending power between the locals and you. Delivery fees for food cost a mere dollar at most and taxis to nearby places cost only 4 dollars. The list goes on but i guess you get the picture. However with all this low costs, we can also see that while it is paradise for us, the locals are just like us back in Singapore, with limited spending power. The wage for a bubble tea store part timer is a mere 20 yuan or 4 dollars. Hence while we enjoy the cheap food and Taobao, we also realize that we are only able to enjoy such benefits because in a sense we are luckier than them. Being born into a more affluent country, with the ability to spend money much more freely that they are able to. The work culture of their workers is also different with them trying to adopt a more friendly approach with bubble tea stores like 一点点 trying to greet every customer. Hence it feels like they work harder to earn a lower sum of money than us.
While travelling around china it is easy to see the future. With bike sharing and mobile payments being the norm everywhere. Of course such systems have also brought about new inconveniences such as the need to bring your phone everywhere and it needing to always have a charge. It is not uncommon to see people having 2 phones or more. But it definitely is a step in the right direction with the government willing to experiment with such technologies in such a massive scale. It is definitely something that is a huge risk yet can be a huge boon as other countries look towards it. However it is a country with a lot of secrecy too such as the great firewall. This prevents information to easily travel between its borders. Which is something that is a concern. Of course the rise of technology is also helping enforce this as the government is better able to track and be informed of all its citizens. Hence is the great predicament with technology and the debate between ease of use and privacy. Will citizens be willing to sacrifice their privacy for the sake of convenience and security of the country and would that be the right choice? There are many questions that have yet to be answered. But it definitely is interesting to watch here in China.
Different Societal norms
While exploring China it is not uncommon to see sights that are a little odd to us. Like the locals washing their apples in the pond before eating them and the locals wearing shirts while fishing in the lake. The people here also wear prim and proper clothes for their daily lives which is of course different from how us Singaporeans sometimes come into class in shorts and slippers. Slippers to them are a rare and uncommon experience outside. I received strange looks for while walking along a nearby street for my breakfast, probably due to their unease that such attire should be worn outside. Hence prompting me to never dress so lightly when venturing outside school.
Of course the food here is also exquisite and unique to us. Food such as duck necks, 臭豆腐(fermented bean curd) and innards are sold along the streets quite regularly which is definitely uncommon to the common Singaporean.
The bicycle culture is also very strong here in china with almost everyone being able to cycle well, controlling the bicycle with one hand while carrying an umbrella on rainy days. Also there are lots of electric scooters around. This is in stark contrast to Singapore where such modes of transport are usually declared unsafe. Having a motorcycle license myself, i definitely understand the risks of motorcycling. Though i understand that Singaporeans also exaggerate them to certain extent. I guess part of the safety here comes from the dedicated bicycle lanes along most roads. This contribute greatly to the safety of the cyclists as well as low speed limit for such scooters. This could be a interesting idea that Singapore could adopt from China.
The older generation in China also tends to be more stoic and unresponsive to greetings as we have learnt from trying a challenge of greeting the citizens while we trekked around a park. They also tend to be less welcoming to other people,such as when i tried to ask them for directions.This could be in response to the different levels of affluence china had while growing up.China was likely less affluent while they grew up, hence they had to learn depend on themselves more. This is in contrast to the levels of affluence china has enjoyed in the recent years.
I think that I have opened my eyes up quite a bit while living in China, learning about how different it is from Singapore and trying to adapt to their differences. It is definitely something that i will continue to try over the next 10 weeks as i slowly learn to adapt and try to blend into Chinese society.