South Korea was a blast. The people were warm, friendly and even if most folks didn’t speak English, they smiled, had a laugh at my attempts at Korean and tried to communicate. Not so much in China.
In fact everything that I really loved about South Korea is totally absent in China: the delicious food, the crazy nightlife and the fun loving people. I’m trying really, really hard not to let China bring me down and I’m not doing a great job.
In Korea respect was a big deal – respect for elders, respect for unspoken rules, and bringing respect onto Korea. For example, on the subway in Seoul a woman started incessantly poking me and trying to tell me that I had broken a rule by sitting in the “infirm and elderly” section of the train. Don’t break the subway rules! Koreans themselves prevent foreigners from being ripped off by invoking the “What will the world think of Korea if you overcharge this innocent person” act. And don’t ever, ever disrespect the bathhouse rules. Jumping into a tub without showering is case for explusion.
So with that in mind, I’m finding China to be the exact opposite. There is no such thing as respect on the road – cars, scooters, bicycles all fight for supremacy and the right to run over pedestrians. There is no such thing as a safe crosswalk, there is no such thing as a green light, there is no such thing as a sidewalk. These concepts just don’t exist.
It feels like restaurant, store owner, cab driver – everyone – is out to rip you off. It’s demoralizing to pay $30 for a meal worth $5 in the US. Everywhere you walk someone is there to repeatedly poke you, asking you to buy fake watches, purses and iPads. If it’s not the poking people, it’s people screaming at you over a microphone to come into their store – “EVERYTHING 10 RMB!! EVERYTHING!!!”
And then there’s the spitting. I just can’t handle hearing someone begin to gurgle in the back of their throat, getting their saliva nice and thick, then hawk a massive logie onto the sidewalk. In fact, this might be OK if it were just outside, but it’s everywhere. In the train station people are spitting into waste bins, on the train people spit into bags and IN RESTAURANTS people prepare their spit at the table and then walk outside to let it rip.
The repulsion isn’t just the dirty streets, the spitting and the outright deceit – the food is not good 🙁
I was so excited to feast on real Chinese food with exotic names like “two fish dancing at midnight” or “The smell of sunset on a plate”. In fact I’m eating oil cake covered in oil after being fried in oil – price is only 9 dollars! When I say everything is covered in oil, I don’t mean like deep fried KFC (which are everywhere btw), I mean oil broth soup or pork with oil sauce.
I’m absolutely frustrated, disappointed and want to crawl into my dumpy hotel room bed and pull the covers over my head.