Alright so I am here to talk the truth about Beijing from my point of view. I don't intend to give the readers a false idea that Beijing is all shiny and beautiful. I will try to keep these blogs as realistic as possible. In this post I am gonna expand more on the last three "Interesting tips" I gave out in my previous post and also I will give a few others that I forgot. So lets get started!
1) People don't use car brakes! It is also true for pedestrians. I don't really know which one is at fault here but while walking around the city I have noticed that actually pedestrians are the major cause of why people in cars barely use their breaks or why they use horns so much. They actually have pedestrian lights to indicate when you should cross the streets but people in here walk even with red light. So it is a good thing to watch out for if you come visit Beijing.
Also one thing I forgot to mention last time is that even though they barely use breaks they do use horns. Not as an insulting way but more like "Watch out, I am here!". Kinda like the meaning of beep sounds golf carts use when going in reverse.
2) Sky is not blue. Well it is blue sometimes. very early in the morning and then later again right before sunset. Otherwise it is all very foggy. I believe it is because of air pollution but I asked a co-worker at IBM and they told me it is because at this time of the year there is a lot of sand coming from the desert. That certainly could contribute to the fog but it is also true that Beijing has a very high air pollution index. (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2009/08/04/a-year-after-olymp)
What does this means for your health? Well so far I haven't had any problems. At first it is a bit hard to breath but I did get used to it. I am an asthmatic person (my last episode was like 4 years ago) and it hasn't been a problem for me so far.
3) No drinks during lunch, in some places at least. I was told that in Tsinghua University it is like that and at IBM it is like that also. But the lack of water during lunch is not really so much problem. They do have something to replace it. You can get a free rice soup that taste like... rice. I know, not the best taste but at least it is something good to have if you have a need to drink something.
I only get chopsticks and a large spoon. If you aren't skilled with chopsticks you can use the spoon. No one will look at you strange. In fact, I have seen other chinese people using the spoon instead of chopsticks. It is not that hard to use chopsticks really. I got used to them by my third meal and I find them quite fun to use now.
4) Bicycles! There are a lot of them, specially at Tsinghua University. There are so many bicycles parked that it looks like a bicycle junkyard! I wish I had my camera with me when I was there. It is a fun sight at first but you do really need a bicycle to study at Tsinghua because it is so big. I haven't had any need for bicycles because I take the subway to go to IBM and it is all pretty close.
5) Plastic shopping bags costs money. I don't know if it is like that in all supermarkets but at Lotus Center they charge you per each bag. It is actually a nice idea. Then you would learn to appreciate those plastic bags. And actually the plastic bags here are better than the ones in US.
6) Shower and toilet floor are one and the same, no separation. It seems messy and it is. You end up with water creeping into the floor around the toilet. You learn to live with it but this is one thing I have yet to find purpose for. A small separation between them seems a lot better.
7) Manufacture date vs Expiration date - I went to buy some orange juice and to my surprise the printed date on the bottle was for 2010-05-05. I thought: "well, that orange juice has been expired for a long time" but then I learned that it is manufacture date, not expiration date. And it is not for orange juice only but also on other things. I wonder how we are supposed to know when something is close to expiring?
8) Walking after lunch. At IBM people are used to walk outside the building right after lunch just for the exercise, enjoying the breeze and talking with co-workers. Now I am not sure if it is just IBM or it is actually something chinese are used to doing. This is certainly something US needs to adopt.
9) Way too many people. Chengfu Rd (which is right next to the apartment where we are staying) seems to be very popular with all sorts of stores. During the day it is nice but after 4pm or so people start putting stuff out for selling, from clothing to jewelry and food. And then a lot of people come out to buy at those stalls and that is when things get really bad. Walking a block takes you 30 mins. But it is indeed something very local. Not all places are like that and you can take alternate roads to get where you want.
This is pretty much all the things that has taken me by surprise. If I have forgotten something I will make sure to post it the next time. Overall Beijing is a great experience (with some caveats, nothing is perfect) and I would love to learn more about the cultural differences.
Now I am leaving you with a view of Beijing at night from the apartment:
Keywords: International Experience