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Expectations vs. Reality (Part 1) by JulesE

It seems that our expectations are dependent upon information we have previously received.  We gain this knowledge in various ways.  When it comes to our beliefs about other countries and cultures, we are often misinformed, especially if the information comes from representatives of our country and our culture.  Also, there is a temporal component.  For example if you learn about a country that is considered to be an enemy of your own country, you will receive an interpretation of that country based on the relationship of your country and the other countries political system at the present time.  Because I was reared during the cold war era my indoctrination into the Chinese culture was skewed to say the least, especially when a very conservative fundamentalist Christian influence is added to the mix.  However, with the internet and the Olympics, a bit of much needed fresh air was allowed to enter and remove some of the stench of American propaganda.  Even so, I was surprised at what I saw when I went to China.

Forbidden City in Beijing goes back to ancient times.

Beijing Old

Photo courtesy of

I have to say that I really didn’t do much research about the culture of China before I went there.  I wasn’t going to see the sights; I was going with a mission, to meet my next and hopefully last wife.  I had not even planned to see the Great Wall.  I don’t know what I was expecting to see other than the images of the women of CLM that were etched into my brain, along with the hours of amusing chats, especially with one woman in particular.  So when I got on the plane that was to land in Beijing in 13 hours, I was surprised to see that there were no more than two to three other westerners on the flight.  I had expected there to be more western men going to this land of beautiful women.  I also noticed that there were a lot of young Chinese people wearing respirators because of the swine flu scare.  I had heard of the possibility of quarantine and was prepared to possibly have a week of my trip wasted.  But that didn’t happen.  I have traveled quite a bit in western countries and this flight was no different.  It even had the token screaming child that never seemed to sleep.

When I landed in Beijing I seemed to be identified as a “mark.” I think someone had painted a bulls-eye on my back when I was sleeping on the plane.  When I had retrieved my luggage and was outside the terminal preparing to hail a taxi, a man walked up to me shook my hand, smiled and said he would help me.  He took my bag and guided me toward his cab that was parked a short distance from the other cabs.  I knew I was being conned but I didn’t care.  This fellow didn’t drive the cab, he just hustled people into taking advantage of his special Chinese hospitality.  I gave him the name of my hotel and he told me how much I was going to pay.  I knew it was twice as much as I should pay, but, it was still cheap.  The fellow who drove the cab could not speak any English, so the ride was very quiet.

I was surprised that the cab was clean, air-conditioned and heavy bars separated the driver from the passenger.  I thought maybe this driver must have had some bad experiences with passengers because he was charging too much.  It was about a 45 minute ride to the hotel.  The road was no different than any American interstate highway.  The signs were even printed in Chinese and English.  Even the shrubs and other plants along the road looked familiar.  The cars along the way were of all varieties of Japanese, German, French and American.  There were even some big American Buicks.  I wasn’t expecting to see big cars.  I was kind of disappointed, I don’t know what I was expecting, but, I wasn’t expecting it to be so familiar.  As we drove I did notice something rather odd.  We were driving through the outskirts of town, what we would consider the suburbs.  There were no houses, no neighborhoods, just industry and other small buildings that I could not identify.

Beijing by Night

Beijing New

Photo courtesy of

The first thing that caught my eye as we wound our way through the city was the massive size of the buildings.  They were everywhere and there were many new ones being built.  Nothing looked Chinese, although I didn’t know what Chinese was supposed to look like.  All the buildings looked like all other western style buildings I had seen in the US and Europe.  There was one difference; they all were new and looked modern.  Some of the high-rise apartments were old and dirty, but for the most part, the majority of these massive apartment buildings were new or being built.  Cranes dotted the sky.  We finally arrived at my hotel and the cab driver came to a stop and did not get out of the car before I did.  It was only when he noticed that I was getting out that he got out.  He opened his trunk and pointed to my bag.  Then he had showed me a piece of paper with the amount of the fare.  Now I know I was being screwed, I know it was probably twice the normal fare, but I didn’t care.  I had just had a 45 minute cab ride and was being asked to pay the ridiculous amount of about 40 US dollars.  That cab ride in Houston would have been around 90 dollars.  I was too tired to argue.  I just wanted to get into the room, take a shower and kick back.

From: Original         Author: JulesE         Time: 3/5/2010 4:18:08 PM

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