It’s a few days before the Chinese New Year and I have lived in China for just over 1 year. The time seems to have past so quickly!I thought I would post some general comments about my life in China along with a few pics thrown in for good measure. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…BAM!, something else comes along you see here. In a nutshell, living in China is always full of surprises. It must be that the culture here is so different from Western culture. Chinese people just process information totally different from what we Westerners would consider logical.
I was just reading a news article about an incident that happened in Beijing. This is a good example of Chinese logic. A man called the ambulance service after becoming very ill. The hospital dispatched the ambulance to the man’s house. En route to the man’s house, this ambulance struck and killed 3 people in two different locations. I guess he was a new driver. Anyway, he continued to the man’s house and finally got him to the hospital. It wasn’t long before the families of the accident victims contacted the hospital and demanded the hospital compensate them for the deaths of these victims. The hospital responded that they are not responsible and would not pay. They said that the party responsible is the man who called the ambulance out in the first place! This case is now going to court for review.
I have come to know that China law is a very new concept here. This is all part of the process of China’s development and transformation from a 3rd world country into a major world player. China is on the right path of change, but like any government, change is slow. More important, billions of people in China have to somehow be made aware of these changes. It will take generations before the social awareness in this country updates itself. Until then, you have to be very careful of getting into situations that can go in very unpredictable directions. Things just don’t play out with what I may conceive as a “logical” conclusion. I personally have not had any major issues to deal with, i.e. car accidents, confrontations, or “misunderatandings with anyone to speak of. Still, I am ever vigilant to keep myself out of trouble as best I can. You cannot rely on being able to have the police intervene on your behalf. Another example is I have seen several fights on the street. My guess is they seem to be about someone caught stealing from a store. The process is always the same. Several people beating the hell out of some guy while the police stand and watch. They allow the store employees to pound away delivering “street justice” while more or less providing crowd control duties. After a short time they whip out their notebooks and take down the appropriate data, usually also arresting the guy in question. I suppose this guy ends up in jail somewhere. A traffic accident (of which there are many) is handled right on the street. The police arrive and make a report. Normal enough process. They check to see if anyone was drunk or who may have broken a traffic law. Other than that it is up to the parties involved to reach an agreement as to who and how much they pay each other for the damage. The police help the parties come to some sort of agreement, money is exchanged and everyone goes their own way. Case closed. In defense of the police, they must be careful how they intervene in a dispute. It is very common that people will attack the police. They have no laws protecting them as police officers. They can arrest you sure enough, if there is enough of them to fight off the people involved first. So usually they take a very passive approach to implementing law. Basically one cannot blame the police for their seemingly lack of action in these cases. I learned to not assume that they will come to my aid should I get into a fracas with some locals. That being said, luckily crime is not pervasive here at all. Petty crime is very common and you need to be careful with your bags and pockets. Other than that, it is rare violent crime occurs here. I certainly feel a lot safer in China than I would feel in the US. People tend to leave you alone and the encounters I do have with people here are always friendly. Chinese society does not permit child abusers, sexual predators and the like. People here are just not wired for such behavior. Talking with my Chinese friends, they cannot even begin to understand that there are people who commit crimes like these. Having “face” is all important to people here. They would be outcast from family, work, or friends for even thinking of such things.
On the other hand, most common people here have little to education. They are naïve about the most basic things. One cannot “assume” that the guy walking on the street will not quickly begin crossing the street right in front of your car. They usually won’t look beforehand. In their mind they want to go across, so they just go! When you slam on your brakes, they look like a deer in your headlights. Completely surprised that they were almost hit by a car!
I spend a lot of time observing people here and I think I can sum it all up this way; Each person here truly believes that they are in their own world, with everything around them only there for their own use. They make no consideration for anyone else around them. From the outside one could see this as acting in a very rude way. But really, it is only that they have never been taught to consider other people. This explains why if you are standing in line, at say a bank, they will walk up and stand in front of you. Hey, they want to get serviced, why wait behind you? Or you are talking to the teller and someone will lean over in front of you and start talking to the teller. Better yet, in the doctor’s office, someone will walk in and start a discussion with the doctor like you are not there. I’ve even stopped them and motioned them to wait, where them they politely smile and remain right there not only listening to me talking to the doctor, but also reading my medical papers while they wait!
China is slowly recognizing this as bad social behavior and trying to educate people. Most banks have lines drawn on the floor where people must stand behind while another customer is being helped. Also’ many now have a number machine and you sit in the lobby to wait for your number. In Beijing the government is working hard to educate people on proper conduct before the start of the Olympic games.
The Chinese have a world wide reputation for “being rude”. The travel agencies now give classes to customers traveling out of the country on how to act. Things like spitting and clearing your nose, talking loudly, waiting in line, and table manners are all addressed in these classes. As frustrating as this behavior is to me, I do my best to remember that it is not rudeness on their part, rather it is simply not being educated about what is acceptable to most other countries in the world. The Chinese are really nice people that are being pulled into a new modern world for which they have little experience. Things are changing all the time in China on every level.
I encounter many things here that just don’t make any sense. But I say to myself that the Chinese have been around longer than anybody, and they are still going strong. That says a lot about the way things are here. Maybe we have a lot to learn from them as well. Patience is really the key to enjoying your experience in China. Do not use your Western ideals as a benchmark to comparing China. It is, after all, what makes China unique to anyplace in the world.