Home sweet home…

After living here the better part of a year and a half, I’ve reached the conclusion there’s nothing particularly remarkable about Guangzhou.  I mean, it is old, dating back over 2200 years.  It is HUGE, ranked the largest metropolitan area in the world if you count the entire Pearl River Delta (120 million if you count Shenzhen, Dongguan, Hong Kong, etc….), and ranked 8th largest within the city proper at just around 13 million inhabitants.  It is new, or at least the area around where I live in Zhujiang New Town, replete with shiny new parks, shopping centers, and 3 of the tallest structures in the world.  It is rich, with a per capita GDP more than double the China average – within a short walk of my apartment one will notice  Bentley, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, McLaren, Ferrari, dealerships along with any other luxury marque you can think of and they actually sell cars despite a nearly 200% price compared to if I were to buy the same car in the US.  It is very international…just my school has students from more than 60 countries, Guangzhou houses the largest African diaspora in the world (over 300,000), and is home to the Canton Fair, a major international trade event held a few times each year.

Okay, so that does sound pretty remarkable now that I read it back, yet there are some things missing from that picture I’d like to point out.  Let me tell you what Guangzhou isn’t.  The first and most obvious disappointment that most foreigners will agree with is the food.  It’s bland, oily, plain, and ubiquitous.  I’m pretty sure there’s one flavor profile involved with Guangdong (Cantonese) cuisine.  My girlfriend cooks many dishes and they all taste exactly the same…soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and enough oil to power a large boat.  Sure, the city has many gourmet grocery stores and even grocery delivery services where I can order anything I want online, myriad international restaurants where I can find pretty much everything, and some great local ‘wet’ markets for fruit, produce, and really fresh meat for me to cook myself.  Yes, the locals tout the ‘natural’ and ‘original’ flavors of the cuisine…I am forced to call bullshit.  Even among the international restaurants in the area (of which there’s a hell of a lot), there is no culinary GLORY to be found, save for a few non-cantonese restaurants from other regions like my happy Harbin BBQ or my favorite Korean chicken and beer joint.  I also know the people here have the same opinion of our usual dishes, complaining we mix too many things together or that our dishes are ‘so-so.’  Some have more extreme opinions than others

Another glaring anomaly compared to my former home (Seoul) or other major Asian cities…no bars.  There are bars, of course, but they’re clustered together in predominantly foreign neighborhoods and they’re expensive.  The Chinese in this part of the country don’t seem to drink much and they only seem to do so in restaurants.  Few women I’ve noticed even drink at all yet, despite the horribly humid/hot climate, continually drink hot water.  Many people even drink beer warm here…ugh.  I’ve adopted the Thai style of ‘on the rocks’ when really cold isn’t available.  This brings me to the topic of beer…

Much like the staple American shit beers, China has a few slightly better ones.  Harbin, Zhujiang (Pearl River), and Tsingtao seem to be everywhere and Snow is the number one selling beer in the world.  Many restaurants feature girls in costume extolling the virtues of “Ba Wea” (that’s Chinese for Budweiser) but here it has a more upscale feel.  Hell, I managed to get a few bottles of the $50 PBR…no shit…really Pabst Blue Ribbon was marketing $50 a fucking bottle beer to the Chinese.  I got mine free at the China Southern Airline first class lounge.  Craft beer, on the other hand has become a very BIG thing and a likely business venture in the not so distant future.  An article on that will follow soon…

Now…I don’t want to insult the people of my host country that so graciously grant me the privilege of teaching but…Chinese people are, without doubt, fucking stupid.  Yes, America will not be the only victim of my ‘fucking stupid’ moniker.  While Americans are blatantly and passionately happy to appear dumb to everyone, reveling in every opportunity to demonstrate cluelessness, I might say the Chinese are generally oblivious to their surroundings, two-dimensionally singleminded, humorless, shockingly boring, and altogether selfish (look forward to my upcoming article on how collectivism is way more selfish than individualism).  Now while this does apply to a LOT of people I encounter on a daily basis, it has come to describe most of humanity in general.  Hell, the love of my life is a Chinese woman and I find her to be the funniest woman I’ve ever met, incredibly intelligent, etc…the very opposite of what i describe above.  The aberrations…the diamonds in the rough do exist, if not in abundance.  We thrive each day upon a never ending string of generalizations and pre-conceived notions.  Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason…

If I’m comparing this place to Seoul, it’s basically the same aside from the weather, Korean food being WAY better, and lots more alcohol.  The people are not so passionately nationalist (***read narcissistic), the Chinese don’t go around all the time ripping off other countries’ inventions as “Korean traditional” whatever, and unlike the Koreans, the Chinese either really have no idea what history is or are completely unwilling due to indoctrination to discuss it.  Lots of Japan bashing still goes on in both countries but Koreans look upon the Chinese with disdain…not as the ‘red terror’ as Fox news would have you believe, rather they view the Chinese as ‘dirty monkeys,’ or otherwise lower life forms.  If anything, Chinese have far better manners than the Koreans, when they choose to exercise them, of course.

The pure reason I choose to live here is because it makes everything else so accessible.  I can be in Hong Kong in two hours or Macau in less.  I’m within a few hours flight of more than a dozen countries…Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, etc…I’ve been to most of them already and MUST keep visiting more.  I plan to write a few posts from Panglao Island in the Philippines next week…..

Suffice to say, I’m happy here and have no intentions of ever returning to non-expat life again…ever, ever, ever…I wish some of my dearest in the US would grow a pair and get on a plane.  I made the remark earlier to someone that in all my 8 years of expatriate life, I’ve managed to coax FOUR people from my former life to visit Asia.  That’s it.  Pathetic, really.  Maybe I’m just that much of an asshole.  Maybe Americans really don’t take vacations abroad.  Maybe they’re too lazy to get a passport, maybe they’re scared.  Take it from me…the only fear is the possibility of waking up and realizing how stupid you’ve been all along…I know I did…..


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