So I am back in Beijing – who would have thought… definitely not me 2,5 years ago, when I left 🙂 This is actually an interesting thought experiment. Although now our lives seem to make (kind of) sense to us, it sometimes is fun to imagine yourself going back in time and telling your 5 or 10 years younger self about its future. Quite often, I think, this younger self would shout out loud: “Are you mad??” OR “ME?, certainly not” ??? 🙂 Anyways, I arrived in Beijing on a very sunny morning after a great flight in a half-empty plane. A very promising start..
Immediately it brought back many memories… the little evaluation buttons at passport control, where you can evaluate each officers’ performance – ranging from happy smiley to sad smiley, the blank faces when you try to ask for something in English and people, people, people – everywhere…
I was lucky and I had someone waiting for me at arrivals – my lovely former Chinese flatmate. How nice is it to have someone waiting for you at the airport? It makes you feel special!
What was also familiar was the sight of grumpy taxi drivers. While taking the taxi back into town the taxi driver was constantly moaning, complaining, sighing…besides the terrible traffic this is the other main reason why I do not like taking taxis in Beijing. Some of you might know, but the only time in my life when I almost picked a fight with someone was in Beijing and yes, it was with a taxi driver and yes, it almost ended up in a brawl if other people had not intervened… but this is another story…
The Monday I arrived was not only a beautiful day – sunny, no pollution – but it was also a public holiday. So after dropping my bag off at my friend’s apartment, we took the subway to get to Chaoyang Park. Chaoyang Park is the largest park in Beijing and for me it is probably one of the nicest places in Beijing. However, on a day like this, you are definitely not the only person there. Actually, you are one of around 50.000 (just a rough estimate). Anyway, thankfully the park is quite large, so even on a day like this it is possible to find some space to walk without colliding with someone else.
In the evening we went for dinner and I witnessed another familiar situation I had almost forgotten about. The table next to us wanted to pay for their food. Two men got up and went to the bar to pay. Now, both of them desperately wanted to settle the bill so they started arguing about who would be the chosen one. However, as none of them wanted to give in their argument heated up and at some point everyone in the restaurant was looking at them shouting at each other. One of the waiters even had to intervene or otherwise it would have resulted in a proper fight. When one of them was looking at me – the only foreigner in the restaurant- I made him understand that he was more than welcome to pay for our dinner, if he was so desperate to pay the bill. However, he did not seem interested in that fabulous offer. The explanation: Chinese usually treat each other to meals, while Westerns go Dutch. In China, whenever someone offers to pay the bill, fight them (physically if necessary) for the honour. 😉
The next day I already went to work. My office is in a very famous and very touristy place, right next to the Forbidden City. Actually it is in a compound called: The Imperial Ancestral Temple and to enter this compound you actually need an entrance ticket – except of if you are a language student or if you work there. I will post some photos and infos about the area soon. In the evening I walked almost all the way back from work – reminiscing in the past and also doing some shopping…
And this is the (in)famous silk street market. The place where you can get the latest Gucci, Armani, Aldo, Hollister products or whatever is fashionable at the moment for a few $ – and as the vendor assure – these are all genuine products 🙂 yeah, right.
Her initial price for these shoes was actually 700 RMB (that is more than 100 EUR these days) which is ridiculous. So remember, you always have to haggle in these kind of places. I guess, I could have even gotten the shoes for around 120 RMB, but well 160 RMB is still OK.
And yes, China has gotten much more expensive. This is certainly partly due to the very unfavourable exchange rate at the moment (well from EUR perspective) but it has also gotten more expensive in general. Whereas I could still find a room for around 2500 RMB 2,5 years ago, these days it is almost impossible to find a room for less than 3000 RMB – as a foreigner. But even Chinese people struggle with rent prices, bearing in mind that the average salary in Beijing is around 5000 RMB per month.
One last experience I would like to share with you is taking the subway in Beijing. Don’t get me wrong. The subway is actually not bad. It is modern, reliable, on time, connects the city and is affordable but it is usually PACKED!! And this can be really frustrating.