Being in China is quite a strange experience, especially in a big city like Fuzhou. For a start, it would be easy to mistake yourself for being in any major city in the world. The cars are noisy, the swathes of people are endless, and the apartment buildings are grey and lifeless. Granted the signs and people are all Chinese, but to make comparisons on a superficial level everything seems rather similar. There is even a street dubbed ‘London Street’ purely because it does a great job of mimicking Oxford Street in once the centre of the industrialized world.
Underneath this veneer, however, there are many cultural differences that both endear and annoy you in the same amounts. Striking and minute differences can be easy and hard to see alike. Sometimes, you need to have lived here a while to really make an unbiased assessment. So do you want the good news or the bad news first? We’ll start with the bad, because there’s probably not so many. As such however, this theme will be carried on over two blogs, so I hope you can be patient for the second one!
Tip no.1 – Keep your wits about you.
It seems that as China has grown at such a fast pace, there has been little time for other things to keep up. For a start, automobile etiquette consists of whoever has the bigger car or louder horn has right of way. Although there are two lanes for most standard roads, this means very little. If there is a red light showing, don’t drop your guard and walk out in to the road, because there might well be a car about to plough you down from the left or right, or maybe even just on the sidewalk. Pedestrians seem really are at the bottom of the list when it comes to priority. Even pathways are chock-a-bloc with e-bikes, scooters and the odd taxi beeping its merry way right for you.
Tip no.2 – MP3s are essential.
Noise pollution is something that I have encountered in every city I’ve ever been to, but if you happen to be in a popular area for either eating, shopping, dancing or walking, then the noise level is off the chart. Daily performances of amateur singers can interrupt an otherwise calming walk in the park. So too can a quick trip to one of the numerous high streets. Competition is so stiff for customers that they will do anything to get your attention -loudspeakers, recorded messages blaring, handheld speakers and microphones. It all adds up to a cacophony of sound that will make you scream blue murder.
Tip no.3 – If you can’t beat them, join them.
The next one is both frustrating and great at the same time. Coming from nice polite old England where everyone automatically knows how to queue and wait their turn, things here are very different. You soon get the gist though after being pushed around for the twentieth time trying to weigh your vegetables in the supermarket, getting on a bus or waiting for a taxi. This actually gets turned in to a positive because if you become adept at it and don’t mind wrestling with an expectant mother, it can be hugely beneficial and time saving.
Tip no.4 – Do your homework.
News Flash – China has over one billion people in it. It’s crowded. You should have known this before you came here.
Tip no. 5 – Put down the knife and fork, pick up the chopsticks.
Another bugbear I have is actually with other foreigners who come here. I don’t know what they really expected when they first decided to move abroad, but things are substantially different here, both positive and negative, but to constantly compare it to back home would be a huge folly. I think, given this opportunity to immerse yourself in Chinese culture, it should be embraced as much as possible without the need to place everything against your own personal benchmark.