Jul 29

(Letter) Hospitality in China

Written by guest on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 at 10:58 pm
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A first-person account of a trip to Beijing: I’m pretty amazed by the hospitality in China, especially how it keeps getting better and better. It’s not just the hospitality, it’s all the little things of general people behavior.

People AND cars are following traffic rules. I was eating in the food court in the mall and of course it’s crowded. It’s hard to find a place to sit. I’m saving a seat for my husband. Tons of people came by to ask if the seat was available. Years ago, people would have just sat down. People would have just towered over you until you were done – not making lunch enjoyable.

I went to use the bathroom in a mall and everybody let me go ahead because I was pregnant (well I assume because I was pregnant). That was pretty nice. I was riding the subway and a guy gave up his seat for me. I was at the Beijing Zoo and random elderly grandmas were giving me advice about my pregnancy (“don’t share a bed with your husband”, “start rubbing your nipples”)… feels just like an extended family. So far every cab ride has been pretty enjoyable. The taxi drivers have been all like “welcome to Beijing” (one cab-driver was singing the Olympics song with that title).

I had a pretty bad initial impression of China. The first time I visited China was visiting my dad in ShenZhen back in 2001. I remember as soon as I crossed the border, a group of guys surrounded me and as pulling on my bag. Of course I was a bit disoriented from the travel and later I realized they were “black taxis” just trying to bid for my business.

I was only there for a couple of days, but I remember shopping was a pain. If you touched something and didn’t buy it, people yelled at you. Initially I didn’t know how to barter and even without bartering, I’d think the prices was already pretty cheap anyways. When my host would hold me back from spending too much, she got yelled at by the seller. There was just lots of yelling wherever you go. And of course, lines – people just don’t line up for anything. Oh and the cigarette smoke was inescapable.

That’s probably why I don’t like ShenZhen much, because that was my first experience with China. But every visit since then to China has just been better and better.

I think it’s also easier to notice the change when I don’t live in the environment. So each time I come back I get a stark contrast. I think it was my second visit that I noticed the cigarette smoke was pretty much gone in doors. I think my third visit when I noticed everybody lined up and gave you mean looks if you didn’t.

Since I’m from Taiwan (well born in Taiwan, 老家 is still mainland) I tend to want to compare the mainland and Taiwan. It was easier back in 2001, when I used to visit both places. I’ve gone back to Taiwan maybe 7 or 8 times in the past, but I’m sure things have changed as well since 2001. What I can say is that the mainland is definitely catching up to Taiwan and fast. I remember a Taiwan that was very much like mainland and in some places even worse. I hope littering has gotten better, because there used to be garbage in every corner that I walked by in Taiwan. You don’t see that in the mainland. I remember every time I went back to Taiwan, I also noticed “change” or “improvement” but I feel like it was much slower than it has been in the mainland.

My fondness of the mainland people is definitely growing. I feel very comfortable here and I’m very happy tha people are so welcoming.

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26 Responses to “(Letter) Hospitality in China”

  1. Buxi Says:

    Full disclosure, xiaotaibei happens to be married to yours truly. 🙂

  2. BMY Says:

    hahaha, no wonder
    xiaotaibei has been “brainwashed” by you.

  3. Chops Says:

    “I was eating in the food court in the mall and of course it’s crowded.”

    Seems now more people have expendable income and are eating out rather than cooking at home.

  4. K Says:

    Generally, on my current visit I’ve found that there are some definite improvements compared last time I was in China (6 years ago) – general politeness, less smoking, cleaner – but I have to disagree about the traffic. It was still total chaos up until they introduced the car restrictions (and I live on an official Olympic road). The taxi drivers are very friendly though – their radio station keeps reminding them they are the first point of contact for Olympic guests.

  5. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “giving me advice about my pregnancy (”don’t share a bed with your husband”, “start rubbing your nipples”)” …that’s probably more hospitality than you were looking for 🙂

  6. AC Says:

    And I thought it will at least take two generations. 🙂

    I have been going back to China (and spending a few months in Beijing) every year since 2002, the improvements are definitely noticeable.

    As to following traffic rules, well, maybe people are putting themselves on their best behavior for the Olympics. You have to put yourself behind the wheel in Beijing sometimes, it’s scary. 🙂

  7. wukong Says:

    Mrs and Mr. Tang, thanks very much for taking precious time out of your trip to write up your experience for us, I am sure everybody here appreciate it a great deal, I know I am!

  8. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Have a good time in Beijing.

    The real problem is the air pollution. It is the problem all over the country. It is the biggest thing that makes me hesitant about moving back (if we ignore the even bigger problem – the lack of a job offer).

  9. Wukailong Says:

    I can only agree with bxbq – I’m staying in China on a more or less permanent basis, and what really worries me is the pollution and what chemicals might be in the water and foodstuffs. Pan Yue said that if there’s no improvement in ecological standards and you quadruple the size of the economy, you quadruple the pollution as well.

  10. Nimrod Says:

    Pollution will get better as well. Even in the 60’s and 70’s there were rivers in the US catching fire because of pollutant chemicals in them, but then the environmental movement happened and things got cleaned up. People are getting very concerned about the problem, and that’s always the first important step. It may be hard to notice, but some cities have actually gotten better since the peak pollution days of the 90s.

  11. FOARP Says:

    @Nimrod – The problem in China is that organising an environmentalist group is in that shady territory between ‘banned’ and ‘charity’.

  12. KL Says:

    The environmentalists didn’t save the earth, the technology did.

  13. Nimrod Says:


    Using technology isn’t free. There needs to be a will to spend the money.

  14. KL Says:

    Yeah, the money issue kindly reminds me of the efficiency problems of NGOs. Maybe I will vote for solutions in the private sector rather than take my chance on “environmentalists” who I usually find haters of the human beings.

  15. Daniel Says:

    Sometimes, I get the feeling why technology or spending on R&D is quite expensive is partly due to greed and bad accounting. I remember my chemistry professors mentioned that unless you are working for a company that is willing to centralized their efforts, they often have to find ways of saving so they could use the money for their work. I noticed that science in general can be quite specialized yet the work involved is spread out. However, that money is going somewhere. Interesting story…one of the physics professors at my university was doing project years ago with another team with NASA. They were supposed to get 3 million dollars for funding, however, one million went to “paying” the materials, equipment…another million went “missing” according to his words, and finally after several other incidents, the team ended up only getting 70,000. Not only did they have to split that money but the work’s results done was shunned by their superiors because it didn’t support a particular goal.

    However, I’m have to agree with KL that the impact of these environmentalists groups regarding pollution won’t be as effective as technology. So much of it has to do with our modern lifestyle rather than bad regulations. Even in places that “appear” quite clean… someone out there is doing the dirty work.

  16. Buxi Says:


    Hmm, I think there are probably numerous people here with some exposure to research at the university-level…. my feeling is that basic research is truly very, very expensive. You need numerous groups working on parallel research even for minor breakthroughs, because you never know where that spark of creativity combined with luck is going to happen. For every significant conclusion coming out of MIT or Berkeley, you’ll have a significant research result coming out of Utah State or Arizona State.

    And paying for the education of thousands of basic researchers in every discipline… it’s extremely expensive, especially since you’re basically dumping in cash into a black hole with no hope of return on the near term.

    By the way, on the being pregnant on the subway thing… in the first few days, we were about 50% in terms of having people voluntarily give up their seats to my wife on the subway (we’d never “ask” for a seat). But we’ve figured out that people weren’t giving up their seats partly because they couldn’t even *see* my wife on crowded trips… so now she knows to push her way away from the door and closer to the seated sections. As soon as she does that, probably 4 times out of 5, some very kind Beijing’er volunteers to give up a seat to her.

    Major applause to all the lovely people of Beijing.

  17. ericxhj Says:

    I live in BJ, if there is an election for the major of the city, I vote for the candidate vowing to improve air quality, with every good and encouraging improvement being said, the air, the no-air-conditioner line 1 subway really push me to feeling like live in hell…

  18. ericxhj Says:

    I’m just wondering why dont they just save some bucks from the historically huge olympics budget to put the air conditioners on for those poor line 1 subway facilities and trains, it’s freaking hot in there, and it looks nobody cares, those officials never take a subway anyway. Take my word for it, it feels like you are in hell…

  19. Buxi Says:


    I’ve ridden line #1 about 10 times this week, and unless I’m completely crazy… I believe the stations and trains are now air-conditioned.

    I remember when they were not air-conditioned last time I was in Beijing for an extended amount of time (4+ years ago)… and all they had were large fans in the stations.

  20. KL Says:

    Line 1 and Line 2 has two generations of trains, the new ones have air-conditions while the old don’t. You just missed the old ones.

  21. Wukailong Says:

    Line 1 is a bit worse than the other lines since it’s older (and Line 2 even more so, though it might have gotten better). The new lines are great.

  22. ericxhj Says:

    They don’t have the station space underneath air-conditioned… It’s very hot in rush hours…

  23. ericxhj Says:

    BTW, thanks to last night’s heavy rain, we can see the buildings “clearly”… the authority should use some advanced technology to make rain every night at 0:00-4:00… Good air quality can then be guaranteed…

  24. ericxhj Says:

    About the Line 1…… All I’m wondering is why don’t they just spend a few bucks to put air conditioners on… It doesn’t cost that much… but it turns a lot of people’s work days from being frustrated to happy…

    I’m reluctant to go to work because of the Line 1… if it’s cool on the way…I would be more than happier to get up early and hit the road…

  25. Buxi Says:

    You guys are completely right. I hadn’t really paid attention, I just knew the subway trains were more comfortable than I remembered. Today, I paid attention (took about 4-6 trips on line 1 today)… and definitely, two different subway trains.

    I’m almost positive they’ve added *something* to the stations too. I remember the last time I took this line 4+ years ago, the stations were incredibly uncomfortable in the summer… there were fans, and that was it. I think the stations right now have poor air-conditioning, but there’s definitely something there. Anyone know if I’m right?

    ericxhj, I think even line 1 in Beijing is more comfortable than most world-wide. Many (most? all?) of the lines and trains in Paris also have no air conditioning, and in my opinion the trains there are probably 100x more uncomfortable than line 1 in Beijing. Why don’t the French spend a few bucks to put air conditioners on…?

    The very popular (and oldest) “Green” line in Boston also didn’t have air-conditioning, at least until the late ’90s… I don’t think it’s that easy making a change.

    If they have a limited budget, I’d rather they spend the money on finishing line 4 first.

    PS. Today, Mrs. Tang is 100% (probably 8/8) on getting a seat on the subway today. Beijing’ers are great!

  26. ericxhj Says:

    I myself give seats to those who need, simply because everyone else is doing that and it is as if that’s the way it should be and I nevet give a second thought on this “regulation”

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