Friday, April 13, 2012

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China compared to Taiwan

4/13/2012 Taiwan Explorer
China and Taiwan through the eyes of a British girl and my commentary

Today I chanced upon an interesting blog written by a British national, a female globetrotter, who permanently travels around the world. Among other countries, she spent some time in Taiwan and in China and the experience she had in these two could not be more different. While in Taiwan, random people helped her, a girl she knew from online took leave just to bring her to Sun Moon Lake and paid for her food and transportation, while in China she was scammed, pestered by local tourists and spat at. Are you surprised? Check some excerpts from her posts below:

1 Taiwan experience

"I soon discovered that she’d [Lia, a girl she knew from Twitter] actually taken the day off work just so that she could spend the day hanging out with me." [...]

"During our day together Lia showed me all of her favourite shops and places to eat that I definitely wouldn’t have discovered if I’d been walking around alone. We went for lunch and Lia insisted on paying for everything..." [...]

"A while later I discovered that Lia had phoned her boss to book the following day off work too – just so that she could take me to Sun Moon Lake herself."

"...she had also arranged for her Mum to drive us there and spend the day driving us around whilst we explored the area." [...]

"Her Mum insisted on buying me lunch as well as paying for us both to take an amazing cable car ride over the lake and nearby mountains."

"As I said goodbye to Lia and her Mum they handed me a present they’d secretly bought without me noticing – a small keyring with my name on it in Chinese characters."

"Wherever I went in Taiwan, I experienced people approaching me just to say hello and see where I was from. At any time where I was walking around completely lost with a map, people would come up to me to see where I needed to go – and if they couldn’t explain in English how to get there they would take me there themselves. I was invited to my hostel owner’s grandmother’s house one evening to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival, so that I wouldn’t be alone." [...]
• From the post: Taiwan has the friendliest people in the world

2 China experience

A very graphic screen cap from the blog. Is this really true?

"Within the first few days I was scammed [...] after two weeks of pure torture I couldn’t take any more and booked my flight out for the very next day." [...]

"I spent three hours lugging my backpack around in Xi’an on a ridiculously humid day, desperately trying to find my hostel [...], when I was suddenly bombarded by a coach load of camera-wielding Chinese tourists who immediately began squealing manically."

"I was completely surrounded within seconds and couldn’t break free from the crowd." [...]

"I JUST WANT TO FIND MY HOSTEL, THAT IS ALL I WANT!" I shrieked at the woman who was busy arranging approximately 24 children around me in a circle. [...]

"From that moment forward I started to go insane. I bought a huge pair of sunglasses and would walk around hiding my face in a magazine." [...]

"In China it is not considered rude to spit in public, and so they do it everywhere." [...]

"One time, I got back to my hostel to find that somebody had spat in my hair." [...]

"Within days of arriving in China I was struck down by the most horrifically agonising stomach cramps of my entire life. [...] How do they get away with selling out of date food in all their grocery stores?" [...]
• From the post: Why I hated my time in China

The worst part that happened to her was falling for the Shanghai Tea Scam [must-read].

3 Conclusion

China vs. Taiwan is a very interesting comparison: Both share common roots, yet the people are so different (or is it like comparing a mountain with a molehill?) I'm not surprised by her experience, but I wonder, if she wasn't a white girl, how the experience would be like. Fact is, being white in this part of the world sparks a lot of interest and emotions among some of the locals: curiosity, contempt, interest, despise, admiration, mistrust and a mix of positive and negative clich├ęs - I'm speaking from my own experience. Interestingly, when the author first time stepped on Asian soil (which happened to be Taiwan), she also seemed to be holding some negative cliches about Asians in general. For example, when a random girl invited her to her apartment to help her with directions, this is what the blogger thought: "As we walked along together I was silently freaking out, as different scenarios played out in my mind. Was she going to drug me and keep me as her sex slave? Maybe she going to sell me on the white slave market? Was I about to become part of a real life human centipede?!" Meanwhile she explained this part in the comments below. It sounds very extreme to me, maybe that's because I already spent over 2 years in Asia, but for her it was the very first time. It's understandable to think this way, if someone is not an openminded and generally positive person, but I don't condone it. The author's posts are definitely polarizing, but I felt them interesting to share, because I would like to see a vibrant discussion on the topic in the comments.

• Do you think what she wrote is generally true or too subjective? Did you find it interesting?
• As a white person in China/Taiwan, do you get positive or negative reactions from locals?

Related: Zhongguoren vs. Daluren