I have been in Beijing for almost 2 months now, I guess it’s about time to conclude some of my ‘findings’ and personal experience to share with my readers who have been majorly neglected (if any left..haha)
so here are the top 5 observations I have made in Beijing during these 2 months,
1. Public Transportation : Hah! The most talked about topic in Singapore lately? Beijing buses are awesome in my opinion – they have a person on the bus to announce the stops and to warn the traffic/bus driver about situations on the roads, there is also a rolling text screen to tell you where you are at with announcements made in both Eng/Chi on most of the buses. The subway is easy to understand too but I personally prefer the bus because there’s bag safety checks at the subway station which is a chore to me. Plus it is easier to get a seat on the bus than subway, if you can even get on the train. I dare say it’s the same around the world when it is peak hours anyway – you probably have tuna-packed trains and a ‘grinding party’ as I’d like to call it. I would actually say that it is more enjoyable to get around Beijing than in Singapore! (minus the distance factor of course.)
2. People : What can I say? All the misconception about the China-Chinese people in Singapore has a certain influence on me when I first arrived, I was almost expecting to deal with “barbarians” for the rest of the two years here. Surprisingly, the people here are wonderful! Sure, they are loud (especially the older generation) and they value this ‘mian zi/face/reputation’ very much but in general, they are way friendlier and easier to get along with than most Singaporeans. The students are very keen on making friends as they don’t have much overseas exposure and are very curious learners. So much so that sometimes it scares me alil on how ‘aggressive’ their friends-making is. The older generation here is darn adorable too – try walking up to a bunch of old man playing chess along the streets and they will welcome you with their broken English attempts and show you more of their local culture. The taxi drivers are amazingly nice (or at least those I’ve met), they are patient and they’d stop the meter if they are unsure about the place you’re heading to and check for you personally. Most of the people here welcomes foreigners and they try to learn English from us, maybe just louder in volume and less educated for the older generation. But I really like the people I’ve met so far.
3. Food: I strongly believe in ‘whatever the locals are eating, I should survive too if I eat them.’ I love the streetside food here (no, I’m not referring to those exotic food that even the locals do not have it often in their daily lives – those are really for tourists anyway). A simple meal would consist of 1 dish…I barely have a bowl of rice now. It’s almost like an misconception of how Chinese can’t survive without rice in a meal because most of the time, we don’t have rice on the table but just dishes or a bun at most. I love the huge portions because you really need to order just one dish per meal and it’s not too expensive to keep yourself full. The vegetables and fruits are amazingly sweet and fresh here but usually I stay away from meat since their steaks often disappoint me (it doesn’t even look like a proper steak). I love the hotpot culture here since I’m a big fan of hotpot – it is cheap and you can either have an individual pot to yourself or one that’s shared with friends. Always my top choice when out with friends.
4. Traffic : One word to describe traffic in Beijing would be “chaos”. The first day I reached Beijing, it took me 5 minutes to cross the street because none of the cars stopped when it was green light for me to cross and there were always bicycles and buses turning in from all directions. You will eventually learn to adapt to the local culture of ‘just cross, don’t stop’, while keeping your eyes open of course. I stopped listening to my music on the roads since you have to listen out to the traffic most of the time. But it is an organized mess I would say, everyone seems to know this ‘invisible rule’ and so far I have not seen any major accidents around my neighborhood as compared to the frequency of China traffic accidents news in the Singapore media.
5. Education: Being the first batch of English-taught International MA program students, we certainly have VIP welcome when we first arrived. Everyone was fussing over how we adapt to the education system here, the language barrier, the lifestyle etc. The professors who are in my program are mostly scholars from overseas universities with a reasonable standard in the English language. We have a lot of freedom in deciding how our program should be run but I must admit that it was rather disorganized. The local students are really helpful and it has been an amazing learning experience so far with a REAL international environment to study in. Singapore is advanced and globalized but we lack the interaction with international students from all over the world. My program alone has 16 of us from 12 different countries and I have been hanging out with friends from other parts of the world (some which I still have no idea where it is located at) in my university core module. Eye-opening experience indeed and you’d realize how lucky we Singaporeans are once you travel or understand the people from other parts of the world.
I will try to constantly update on my happenings and experience here in Beijing, as well as my MA program etc. It is just overwhelming now with many conferences going on, as well as course papers to finish, the insane amount of readings and research….the list goes on. You can view my updates on twitter @iammyy or facebook (if you’re a friend). If not, feel free to leave a comment or email! I’d love to hear from you.