Final Thoughts on China

Shanghai Travel Blog

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Well its my final day here.  I've been in Shanghai now for a couple of days.  I actually didn't do much here, travelling can get tiring, so I booked a nice hotel room (nice as in $40, in Canada the same room $120), just chilled, caught up on some sleep, took a nice long shower, shaved.  Basically took a break from the backpacker lifestyle.  

Unfortunately, I didn’t see too much of Shanghai.  I came here to see the Bund, grand shopping promenades, the French Concession.  What I saw was construction in and around the Bund (for Expo 2010), so I couldn’t really see much, a shopping promenade full of useless stuff and high-end western stores. The French Concession area was nice, I was surprised how Euro and clean some of the area looked.  But overall, I have to say I was disappointed with Shanghai.  Funny, disappointment is a common theme to my trip to China. Disappointment in the people that is, not that sights of China.  The Great Wall, Terra Cotta Soldiers, Yangshuo, Guilin, Pandas! All great sights to see and I’m glad I saw them, but like I said before, travel is 50% about the people, at least to me, and in that respect, disappointment sums it up. Disappointment has me changing my ticket and leaving 8 days earlier then planned.

To put my distaste for China in perspective, my final day in China, I didn’t even leave the hotel.  Why? Because I didn’t want to get stared at with the evil eye, laughed at, be pushed around, and just have to deal with Chinese people.  I’m sure other people’s experiences in China are much more rewarding then mine has been, the difference most likely being that they were white foreigners or just didn’t stand out from the crowd.  I’ve had other friends that have been here that were also coloured, the difference with me and them is that I’m big, dark and very noticeable, I don’t necessarily blend in with the crowd.  Usually I take pride in that I am a bit different, people in every other country around the world have looked at me with smiles and curiosity, but not here in China for the most part. Basically to the Chinese I am not a man, I am a black man.

A good example of how bad it got for me.  On the plane here to Shanghai (which I got 30 minutes to boarding! Woo Hoo), the couple that sat down beside me, after about 10 minutes moved, leaving me all alone in the row.  At first I was wondering why the guy kept getting up from his seat, then I realized it was because he was looking for another place to sit.  I think at the point, I had had it with Chinese people.  I actually felt like crying, it hurt that bad.

People ask me, I don’t really understand how you feel. I’ve had time to think about it for a while, the only thing I could come up with was the following.  If you were back home walking down the street and you saw a clown on the street, you would look, say that’s a bit odd, but then laugh and smile along with the clown.  Ok now picture you are walking down the street and you saw someone taking a sh-t right in the middle of the sidewalk.  You would look at that person and say WTF and give him a look of disgust and think you shouldn’t be doing that here, what is wrong with you.  Well that’s the feeling I get from the local people.  For me, I’d rather be a clown.

Ok Ruwan, not ALL Chinese people can be like that towards you and dark/black people? Well luckily there were a few people here and there that smiled or engaged me in conversation, however, these people few and far between.  Generally the people that were nicer to me were not from bigger cities, they were from smaller towns, tourist towns, or were minority groups in China, opposed to the Han Chinese who represent 92% of the population.

At dinner tonight in the hotel, I got talking to a South African that was doing business here, I told him about my china experience and he flat out said that the Chinese were racist. I’ve even heard the same from my Chinese friends at home.  Why they are so racist, who knows.  

One thing I do find curious, China does a lot of business with countries in Africa.  Now I wonder how that relationship is? Is their respect there, what do they think of their African counterparts? I believe they probably are two-faced towards them, smile and gladly take money and do business, etc, but behind closed doors probably are laughing and having thoughts of disgust and thinking how “superior“ they are compared to them.  I hope I’m wrong, of course this is just my opinion, but I really hope they respect the black business man in his home, because they sure as f-ck don’t respect him in their home.

But why do business with Africans then? Because the Chinese are opportunistic and are the definition of capitalism, its all about making money.  Why do they learn English? I believe its not to become a part of the global society, I think they learn it because they know it will allow them to succeed and do better business, make more money.  Funny as they have “opened” up to the west in the past 20 years, China has become a  global economic powerhouse.  Like I said the definition of capitalism.  

Of course this is again my opinion, but think about, if they learnt English to become a part of global society, why would all those that come to the west to live, say Canada, settle in ethnic ghettos like Markham and Richmond.  Be surrounded by other Chinese, have Chinese supermarkets, Chinese tour companies, etc? Basically you could probably live in these areas and never have to speak a word of English! And you’re in f-cking Canada!

Now people reading this may think I’m being bitter or a bit racist myself.  In fact I known I’m not, I literally have 100’s of friends from all ethnicities and cultures around the world.  I travel the world to meet new people, experience new cultures, I love meeting new people.  So the fact I even feel this way, have these thoughts about these people, upsets me a lot, moreso because some of my closest friends are Chinese.  But the difference I’ve noticed with them and those here, western Chinese are nothing like the Chinese here.  I’ve actually met a few western Chinese tourists here who can’t stand the Chinese here.  They were as critical, even more critical of them then I was.  Everyone has pride in their roots, but when you come to your roots and are embarrassed? Well that just sad and unfortunate.

So what now? Am I going to go back home and be rude to the Chinese people I see in Chinatown and elsewhere!  No.  Even though they have made me feel like sh-t in this country, in my country we accept everyone, respect culture,  revel in our differences and openly promote those differences in a multicultural society. All this experience has made me realize how good it is to come from a place where all people, wherever they are from, can get along, be friends and most of all, smile at each other.

Speaking of smiles, my next stop ….Thailand, literally the “land of smiles” :)


silenthillover says:
hey amazing blog! i just got back from my trip, i know just how you feel, it was exactly the same for me and my african friend.
Posted on: Oct 15, 2009
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