A Bad China Day

Sometimes we all have "bad China days," — days when the will and capacity to manage the cross-cultural differences wane, and things here sort of "get to you."  Suddenly the spitting makes you mad, or the traffic, or the lack of lines.   Things that you’ve long come to accept (if not always appreciate) just get under your skin, and the urge to stay home or just up and leave becomes overwhelming.  It’s a natural part of cross-cultural living.  The trick is in minimizing the days and managing them when they come.

Normally, we foreigners have bad China days, but I just got back from a trek across town and spent the last 45 minutes with a local cabbie who was having a bad China day.  Once he realized that I could speak/understand Chinese, he just started to vent.  He told me about a 19 year old relative of his who’s just had a major health problem.  He went on and on about how much it had cost for surgery and treatment, and how the medical system has become so corrupt.   He’s right about that, as in the switch to a market economy here, the previously free and universal care system has completely collapsed.

He told me that he hated the new China with it’s gap between rich and poor people, and how the poor were getting poorer and being cut out of everything.  He longed for the days under Mao, when everyone was equal and everyone had work and food (he obviously doesn’t know about some of the famines in the 1960’s) and rich people didn’t look down on poor people.  I just listened. 

At one point we drove past an old 1970’s-built apartment block, and he started fussing about that—said it was disgusting, and that living in towers like that wasn’t any way for humans to live.  I just listened. He was clearly (and, perhaps justifiably) having a Bad China Day. 

Me?  Actually, I had a good China day.  Thankfully, most are.