Curious Things I’ve Heard Folks Say About China…
“Silence is a true friend that never betrays” – Confucius.
Silence can sometimes be an advantageous card to play; although I’ve seen that option abused to the extreme in my line of work. Have you ever noticed that when people speak about a place they’ve never been, it’s usually from the assumption that life is not as good there? Sometimes, in a condescending, head-shaking way, as if “we’ve got it all here, how do those poor souls struggle from day to day?”.
Folks mean well. They chalk up some points for attempting to discuss. But bless their hearts; in not knowing what to say, sometimes they grasp at straws. On the other hand, many folks think they do know what to say and, what they say, speaks volumes.
Here, in a fun way, is a look at some of the random insights I’ve heard from others while discussing my connection and past with The Peoples’ Republic of China.
Fast-Paced Life: As I sit in a city of approx 8,800 residents, I remember a conversation I had whenever I was still in China, towards the end of 2011. I let one contact know about my impending homecoming.
This person said, “I think you’ll be surprised about how fast-paced life is in the States”.
I lived in 4 cities in China and traveled to a multitude of others. I never visited a place that had less than a million people (the cities I lived in all had over 4 million people, 3 of the cities closer to 10,000 million), cranes speckling the skyline, a small, unknown city would have more skyscrapers than what’s considered in the states to be a large hub, people dotted the streets well-late in to the evening, food vendors, clothing vendors, international companies flooding the market with facilities, goods, etc… I could go on and on.
Many folks who’ve never visited another country, especially a developing one, consider by default for it to be “backward” or not as fast-paced.
I think this is why buyers think a Chinese factory is sitting around, playing mahjong and sipping tea, just begging for an inquiry.
Blue Jeans: One character, in hearing about my life in China, said if he ever had the chance to go, “he’d take a whole stack of Levi’s with him.” The insinuation being that Levi’s are a scarce commodity and the poor, ignorant Chinese are thirsty for some fashion relief in blue jean form.
I saw Levi stores there. There are obviously jeans everywhere and I’m not sure most Chinese are too concerned about what brand of jean they are wearing.
Military: When informing folks of my past 10 years living in China, one of the first questions I’d hear was “Were you in the military”. I never tired of that question and it always made me want to do a spit take (if I had been drinking something). I always wanted to reply, “Yes, I was in the USA army base located in Beijing…close to Tianamen Square.”
Holidays: It never fails, that every year, buyers are amazed about how much time the country takes off during Chinese New Year; especially those in the manufacturing sector.
“They take how much time off?”
“How can they do that? We have to work here….” shaking head and clicking tongue…. indignantly as if they never received the luxury of time off. If I add up all the Christmas holidays, Easter Break, July 4th, Thanksgiving and not to mention, Saturdays, we’d find the Chinese factories log in much more actual work time.
I can remember back around 2006 talking with a contact from Spain; I told her that we couldn’t quote because of the Chinese New Year. She said, “that’s all well and good, but we’re a serious country and we work.” This is coming from the land of “descanso en la playa”, the land that closes the whole month of August and has a “Saint’s Day” multiple times throughout the year. If they worked as much as the Chinese, they may not be in current…never mind…I’ll leave that comment alone.
-Did you see a lot of Kung Fu? I’m not very familiar with this art and practice, but, no, you don’t see much over there comparatively. This may be something that was squelched with the Communist rule and I think most “Kung Fu” themed culture that’s exported to the West actually comes from Hong Kong or Taiwan. I may be wrong.
-Are there any skyscrapers over there? Similar to the “fast-paced life” comment…there are just a few skyscrapers over there.
-How many Dollars to the Yen? I don’t know but they use the Yuan in China.
-How do you say (__) in Japanese? Whenever you mention China, folks seem inclined to switch the conversation to Japan for some reason….
Lastly, I recall one situation earlier this year when my family and I first came back to the States. We were in the DMV working on my wife’s ID card. One of the DMV gals was admiring my wife’s scarf. She was telling them how it was from Suzhou, the city we lived in and how it was a famous place for silk.
This led to our recounting about our life in China. The DMV lady kind of whispered into my ear, “China; how far of a drive is that?”.
I questioned what I heard and had to recalculate in my lightening fast mind what she had just asked. I just said, “well, it’s a really long flight”.
…But for sure, it is a long drive….