This post is a little hard for me to draft. Believe it or not, running what has turned into a China hate blog is neither fun nor easy. It takes a lot out of me, but then again so does living in China. As I have mentioned before, I do this for the catharsis of letting it all out. There is no pleasure in any of this. I promise you that.
But the concern stems from the fact that I am not actually a negative person. I am generally pretty upbeat and fairly positive. The fact that I am so overwhelmingly negative about China is a bad enough sign in and of itself. At the end of the day, I have come to enjoy some aspect of every place I have ever lived in. I don’t think that will be the case with Hangzhou. Everything about it is pretty forgettable.
But that’s not the concern. Forgettable is forgivable. That concern stems from the fact that no foreigner seems to like it here. Some have a greater superficial tolerance of China, but everyone seems to be here somewhat begrudgingly. This has not been the case anywhere else I have been. Whenever I travel I of course meet English, Italian and Greek speaking expats, and generally their happiness with wherever they are is a bell curve. Often, it is a lopsided bell curve that favors the country they are living in. Yes, most expats are happy to not be home. If one is electing to live elsewhere it is usually for a reason. They complain, just as everyone does, but at the end of the day they are enjoying something about being there. Otherwise, they move on.
There was a certain rhythm to pretty much every conversation I had with an expat back when I was living in Rome. They would complain about something, and then talk at length about the virtues of the place. That doesn’t seem to be the case with China. Everyone just complains here, talks about how much they don’t like it.
When my flatmates have guests over there are very few Chinese people involved, and rather rarely. Thus the conversation often devolves into China bitching. People talk reams about their incompetent colleagues, their poorly managed companies, the rampant corruption, the rude populace. No one seems to have anything decent to say about the damn place.
You may be thinking that there is some kind of bias here. There isn’t. Even complete strangers complain about these things. Case in point. At a cafe where I do some writing a young man encounters a friend and they start talking. The young man has recently gotten himself a fractured bone in his leg, and he is talking at great length about how he couldn’t bring himself to visit the Chinese doctor, and that he willing shelled out ‘for the competent Western style doctor’. His words not mine. The diatribe went on for five minutes more, of this random complaining about how the Chinese really don’t know anything about health.
I’ve overheard conversations like this everywhere I have gone in China. I go to a pizza place owned and run by an Italian, and he complains unendingly about the help, reminding me that ‘these people are incapable’. Or the people sitting in the western restaurant who complain that wait staff doesn’t want to do anything, and that the food is cheap imitation at best. Still, they lament, it’s better than the food anywhere else in China.
I’ve mentioned somewhere else in this blog the friend of mine who had come to China years ago. he quipped that everyone is worried about China becoming a super power except those people who live there for a while. They understand just what this place really is. But let me try to rephrase that with less biased language. Regardless as to whether China is doing things correctly or not, the people who come are sapped of all faith in this country. They don’t like what is going on, they don’t seem to think things are going well, they don’t think this place has a good future ahead of itself.
The point of all this rambling is that no one here thinks China offers something tangibly valuable. Everyone dislikes, everyone dislikes the people. No one seems to find anything of value here. What keeps people here then? The price. Life is cheap here, and if one chooses to live here their own value feels higher by comparison. You’re the average kid who sits with the rejects to feel cooler. China truly is the country for people who cannot make it elsewhere.
But as people seem to see asia rising in power, I wonder how it can be the case that no one who actually comes here seems to like the damn place. It’s something of a paradox.