China Trip Report

If you aren’t reading Dan Washburn’s wonderful reports of his exploits, trials and tribulations as he traverses out-of-the-way parts of China it’s your loss. It’s great! The last one, about trying to buy bus tickets, brought back a flood of memories, and it actually forced me to wonder whether I really want to move back at some point.

I had my own nightmares when I went on a trip to Hangzhou, but I had one thing going for me — I was travelling with a native Chinese friend who was able to come up with solutions to seemingly insurmountable headaches. I don’t think I’d ever travel into rural China without a Chinese guide.

There were so many times when the most simple things became a veritable trial. Washburn’s story reminded me of my very last day in Beijing, when I needed to get my passport photocopied for the movers. I went to a local Kinkos-type place and they were out of toner. A photocopy business, out of toner. Here, the very idea wold be absurd. But there isn’t here.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

Let… let me get this straight. You went to a local photocopying shop, and they were out of toner.

The Horror, the Horror!

Dude. A little perspective.

October 4, 2004 @ 6:35 am | Comment

Example, let me give the perspective. I was racing to get a copy made, and the movers were waiting for me. I get to the copier, and they have no toner so they can’t make copies. It’s like going to a public pool and being told it’s open, but there’s no water in the pool. Or walking into a restaurant with an Open sign and being told yes, it’s open, but there’s no food of any kind.

I am not saying that this sort of inconvenience makes China a bad or unbearable place. It’s simply a matter of fact in China that things we take for granted, like being able to make a copy at a copy shop, can never be assumed. China’s a developing country and there are many reasons why its customer service doesn’t compare with service in Singapore, let alone England or America. But that doesn’t mean the frustration isn’t real when things get fucked up, and I have to consider long and hard if I have the endurance to put up with those frustrations again.

The photocopy memory was one of many. If it had been isolated and unusual, I’d never refer to it. But it was not at all unusual. If you read the post I linked to, you’ll see how simply buying a bus ticket became an all-day nightmare for Dan. It was a perfect example of the most mundane action becoming a nerve-wracking crisis. We are not indicting China by relaying what we went through and how it made us feel. It’s simply the way it is, and sometimes it can be a lot to deal with, even for those expat who have lived there for many years. They all have their stories.

October 4, 2004 @ 12:25 pm | Comment

Where you choose to live is basically a personal choice. After 7 years and many frustations, I can say it works out if you don’t stick too hard to what you are used to in the States or other Western countries.

I have come to look at it as adventure and I never travel with a Chinese person with two notable excepetions. These days China’s systems work better than earlier. There is an awareness of the customer/consumer and the obligations of a service society here. I can say I have never gotten lost, principally because there always seemed to be Chinese people willing to help a “dumbfounded soul,” and I have been cheated, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I have had some amazing and amusing experiences. BTW I have been to 14-15 provinces, around 25 cities of over 500,000 persons and many, many backwaters.

I still hate the way people drive here.

Just live China without too many inflexible/unchanging comparisons or judgments and you will do fine.

October 4, 2004 @ 9:10 pm | Comment

It’s true, I have been helepd by wonderful people in Beijing when I got lost. You have to be extremely flexible, that’s true — but there are times when no matter how hard you try, it gets to yu. There were a couple of times I really thought I was going to go crazy — one day I’ll tell more stories. They’re pretty wild.

October 4, 2004 @ 9:16 pm | Comment

I have lived in Fujian – a small, less-developed city for the earlier half of my life – back when the entire country was less developed. I personally never noticed any inconveniences.

Perhaps you have to be American.

For the last time: you will NOT refer to me as ‘example’.

October 4, 2004 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

hey example. i am pretty sure fujian is a province, hehe. you mean you lived in a small less-developed city in Fujian? Or you lived in Fuzhou?
Also, regarding the inconveniences of China, maybe you did not notice them because you were young. Here in Shanghai, everyone I know notices them, whether American, Canadian, French, Indian, Thai, Taiwanese, Hong Kong-ers, and even my Chinese friends. So, no, you don’t have to be “american” as you so stupidly suggest. But of course, that is the kind of thing I would expect from an example like you.

October 11, 2004 @ 7:24 pm | Comment

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