China is an up and coming nation – home to a few of the world’s tallest towers, economically getting stronger every minute and the land of opportunity!
It’s quite common to hear of the rags to riches story in China often, but when I ask people about visiting China, the reply is always ‘Why would I visit China?’ which got me pondering….
why do people avoid China? Although jobs for expats are plentiful here, it’s often the last choice for most foreigners. After living in Shanghai for 3 years, here’s my list of why people are avoiding the Middle Kingdom:
Everyone is aware of the pollution and poor air quality issues that China experiences, however living in it is another story! At times, I was left gasping for air, especially on humid days. I have to check an app daily to check the air quality – if it’s over 100, then I would have to wear a Bane-like mask (which would also make me hot/humid).
- Extreme Seasons – especially winter and summer
The best season in China are spring and autumn, which last for approximately 3 weeks each. It’s a simple tease, twice a year. Summer is humid and wet as it rains daily starting in May. It’s not an exaggeration! You will end up with 3 to 4 umbrellas in no time if you ever visit China in the summer.
Meanwhile in winter, it can become bitterly cold causing pipes to freeze. The lack of insulation in these buildings (because no one anticipated climate change) causes homes to be super cold (because tile everything!) and loads of heaters to be on. There is no central heating in Asia – radiator heaters or AC/heating units are used which also create a dusty atmosphere. This creates dry skin, scratchy throat and loads of other respiratory issues. And it’s not exactly cold outside – the humid cold causes you to sweat inside your coat. I never really know how to dress in the winter.
I hate waiting in queues and I have probably spent more hours than I’d like to admit, just waiting for the simplest tasks, such as cancelling my internet account (took 60 minutes to get a stamp a piece of paper and get a cash refund). The reason is due to overcrowding – EVERYTHING is busy ALL the time. There is no quiet time to visit a place or get on the subway. There are people around at all times of the day – YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!
The overcrowding also leads to people expecting to wait one hour to buy that trending milk tea which becomes no big deal, time does NOT mean money in China. Especially if what you’re waiting for is hot and hashtagging! Which results in waiting for ridiculous amounts of time to become the norm, causing people to slow their service down – they know we will wait and with no complaints at that too! Besides, if people leave, it’s not like there are a hundred people waiting next in line to be served, business loss is not a thing. #whataconcept
- Expensive Visa
China’s tourist visa is still one of the most expensive in the world at $200 + for most passport holders. Not only is it expensive though, it’s also a lot of tedious paperwork including a flight and hotel/accommodation check. It makes one think “do I really want to go here?” especially when Thailand is close by with no visa requirements! They recently did introduce a one week visa free stay for residents of specific countries including Canada, however when a friend of mine looked for more information online and at the embassy, she wasn’t able to find any. This caused her to not gamble that transit in Shanghai ticket, and I don’t blame her – why must this new visa free program be so vague? No one wants to get stuck in an airport for a week, especially not Pudong Shanghai airport!
- Not tourist friendly
As much as Shanghai is tourist friendly with its array of international cuisine, nightlife and street signs, the rest of China is far from it. The internal tourism within China is large scale enough that international tourism isn’t a focus. During Chinese holidays, Shanghai is overcrowded with local tourism – most Chinese residents have never been to a city so this is their vacation. As a foreign tourist this means that activities and souvenirs aren’t aimed at you – most people speak only enough English to sell you something. It can be difficult to find an English speaking guide in certain areas, and most signage at famous attractions will only be in Mandarin (often times with a poor English translation).
- Materialistic Culture
There is a serious obsession with the west and the Kardashian lifestyle in big cities such as Shanghai. However the Tao Bao culture has expanded this obsession into even the small cities of China. The shopping culture is if you want something, ‘tao bao’ it (order it online and get it shipped within 48 hours often for less than $10), wear it once for the occasion, and then throw it out. Also, Tai Bao is fake market heaven for the lazy. This buy and trash mentality is apparent with everything – food, clothing, education! Everything is disposable because with cash, they feel empowered to be able to buy all of their needs, at their command. This has also created an influx of high brand malls across the cities, which are wonderful on a hot summer’s day to window shop but who is actually shopping here? This also is creating a generation of superficial souls who are dependent on the family cash to study at an international school and get abroad. And money is a hot topic, no matter whom you chat with, leaving a bittersweet taste.
- Flying in and out of China is a pain!
Although Shanghai and Beijing are international cities, their airports don’t exactly reflect that (Beijing has gotten better recently). Getting free wifi is a pain (you need a local phone number), and the queues to check in, go through security and immigration control are ALWAYS long. I even tried booking flights at odd hours to try to avoid this, but this doesn’t work in overcrowded countries. So after 3 hours you finally board your flight (usually after a bus to your plane on the tarmac) and then wait another 40 minutes (if you’re lucky) for the plane to take off. Because in China, the military controls the air traffic and with no notice they can delay your flight. In fact, local residents anticipate that their flight will aways be delayed taking off, and when landing in Shanghai, you can expect to wait an additional 40 minutes to get to the gate for the same reasons. This can cause extreme aggravation, especially when most Chinese passengers get up off their seats the second the plane touches the tarmac, and begin calling on their cell phones.
After writing this I feel like it is easily my weekly vent session while I lived in Shanghai for 3 years. As much as I adore China, its culture, food and the people, there are downsides to everything. This post was meant to be honest, humorous and a bit tangent. All opinions expressed are totally mine!