So I’m in China for 3 weeks for Canton Fair…sourcing products and looking for new business opportunities. So far I’ve received at least a dozen emails from friends and family asking me “What’s China like?”…including one from my dad.
What follows is my reply to him (slightly edited). I’ve only been here for a week, so this is far from authoritative and some of my opinions will no-doubt change before I leave.
But here it is (for now) warts and all…
What’s China like? Gosh, where do I start… :)
It’s more westernized than I expected, but still NOTHING like the U.S. It’s clear that this country has almost zero Christian capitol…but I was prepared for that. Still, it’s sad to see so many people with no hope in life.
But despite all that, the people are super-sweet. They lack a lot of basic, common courtesies (for example, they ALWAYS start to walk into your elevator before you’ve had a chance to walk out, and absolutely no one holds a door for anyone else), but you learn really quickly that they’re not being mean. This is just what a culture looks like when it hasn’t been touched by the Gospel. I’m sure in 1000 years it’ll be totally different.
Most of the food I’ve tried has been absolutely terrible. I can say, however, that I have now tried chicken hearts, chicken knees and a host of other indescribable things (that i probably don’t even want to know what they were). Fortunately I’m staying at a Swiss hotel so I can get more westernized meals here, but every “local” meal has been literally hard to swallow.
The pollution is also really, really bad. Every day is “foggy”…only it isn’t fog. I may need to take a road trip to a nearby province just so I can be reminded what blue sky looks like.
Apparently counterfeiting is a huge problem here. Yep, found that out the hard way. Fortunately I’ll be bringing home about $200 worth of “souvenirs” in the form of fake Chinese currency. (Hint: Don’t change money at Canton Fair…wait and do it at an actual bank. Lesson learned…)
The cab drivers are clinically insane. Why they even have turn signals on cars over here is beyond me, and lanes are merely a suggestion. Cars and especially motorcycles just drive where they please, including even the wrong way down a freeway in two instances (but at least they were on the shoulder, so I guess that makes it ok).
It’s strange being the minority for once in my life, and even stranger having zero ability to communicate with folks. In Mexico, I know enough Spanish and they know enough English to allow for conversational communication. Over here, though, there’s nothing. Even expressions seem to get misinterpreted. The other night I just hung out at the hotel bar and tried to be social. I wound up talking to a group of Argentinians because they at least spoke Spanish and a little English. :)
It’s odd to me how few Americans there are here. I assumed there would be a lot, but I found out after I got here that Americans only make up about 5% of the attendees at Canton Fair. Literally, besides Perry and Jason I haven’t met a single other person from the states, so if I come back with an Australian accent, I apologize. They’re just the only other folks here that speak English, so when I find one I latch onto them pretty tight.
Most of all I miss Emily and the kids. I’m thankful that we’ve been able to talk every day using video chat, so I can see them and they can see me. It helps, but it’s still pretty lonely at night. And knowing that I’m only 4 days into an 3 week trip makes me all the more homesick.
I’m glad I’m here. It’ll be good for business and I’m sure it’s good for me in ways that may or may not ever become clear. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already ready to come home. Hopefully the next part of the trip will go by faster than these first few days. :)