Thursday, July 06, 2006

China the introduction

Our first introduction to Chinese-English was had on the plane with the chief cabin attendant. All we heard was "chinese, chinese, chinese, Pay Attention!" Well of course we sat up and paid attention but it appeared that that was the end of the English.
Upon arriving in Shanghai, it quickly dawned on us that in order to get any information or help at the airport we had to be in need of something from them. Asking for directions resulted in "down there" accompanied by a vague hand gesture and then followed up smartly with a "you go". After the bending-over-backwards customer service of Japan, this was an incredible "welcome to the rest of the world's customer service, you spoiled so-and-so's" rude awakening.
Chinese-English is not as polished as the Japanese I would say. I liken the Chinese-English to kids who want something NOW, and the Japanese-English to the chastened elder who is calmly waiting for the spoiled child to grow up.
Chinese itself sounds aggressive to the untrained ear. You can hear people having a discussion but from the tone and general vehenemence of the language you would swear someone had just been wronged by someone else.
All this gained from just one day in Shanghai and most of that in the train station. Yes we spent 5hrs escaping the sun, the smog, the beggars and the hawkers in the waiting lounge. Lazy perhaps, but when you are stink and tired the last thing you want to do is go exploring.
The train journey itself was uneventful. Managed to have a conversation in Japanese with a Chinese woman though, learnt some Chinese which was promptly forgotten.
And arrived in Beijing to discover the whole "Information" counter thing doesn't really exist here either. Walking out into the heat and smog saw us surrounded in no time by hawkers selling hotels. Too rich for our blood. We had bought a map of Beijing through some most bizzare hand signals which we later discovered were representative of a numerical amount, and were attempting to navigate our way to a hostel, which was in an unknown area. Some woman managed to sell us on a hostel so we plodded after her thinking that the price was a bit too much. She then palmed us off to a male companion (husband perhaps?) and we flatly refused to get into a taxi. Hoping the long walk would make him bugger off, we went into another, much cheaper hostel at which point he demanded payment for services rendered. Too tired and hot to care by this stage we paid him and went and had a wonderful shower.

Welcome to China...

1 comment:

Vernon said...

Ah yes, the old custumer service contrast. It's a bit like a smack in the head, isn't it? Especially when you go from one extreme in the scale, to the exact opposite. Amazing when the 2 countries are so geographically close, that you quickly learn how apart they are!

I like the analogy of languages, good one!