Why are Americans so shocked when they travel to China?
Vishu Menon, former Chief General Manager,
China surely has its super-rich and abject poor. However, unlike in the United States, I have not seen road-bums, homeless park-sleepers. Unlike in Europe, I have never seen a man or a woman painted with metallic colour all over and standing immobile just for a few coins.
Though not African or African-American, I am black. I can walk the street or drive a car in the highway without the fear of getting shot by a white (most chinese are as light, or lighter to the sunlight than most whtes) Chinese.
Chinese citizens don’’t find the need to protect themselves with a military-style automatic nor do in the spur of a moment mow down a few party revellers or school children.
No preacher threatens you that the day of the judgment is coming, and hence there is no fear in every face. Cult suicide has happened, but the damage has been minimal.
Only in China I am not anxious when my teenaged girl comes home late after a party. Whether in New York, London or Paris, I’d be paranoid.
Matthew Miller, lives in The United States of America
I am an American who lived for 5 years in China, and will go back again. Many things shocked me (the vast majority of them are good things!) that I could list, but one of them is absolutely overwhelming for many Americans: the sheer amount of people.
China has up to 1.5 billion people. In the USA, we are not crowded. Most towns and cities are spread out like suburbs and everyone drives, so you literally never see any people on the street (exceptions are New York, Chicago, San Fransisco). Stores have plenty of space, restaurants have lots of space between tables, and generally, there is tons of personal space, privacy, and alone time. In most American towns, you literally never see a single person walking on the street!
But in China, there are people everywhere. It is extremely crowded. Every single centimeter of space is occupied by people. There is no concept of personal space, privacy, or alone time. People, people, people!
This took some getting used to, but once I did, I really liked it. It is nice to feel like you never have to be alone. There are tons of people to meet and watch, and every experience is lively, loud, and fun. Lots of activity everywhere!
When I got back to the US, everywhere felt empty, lonely, silent, and sad. I am still not used to it being so empty here by comparison.
Timothy Sly, Professor Emeritus (Public Health /Epidemiology) at Ryerson University
Not another provocation question……..! Let me take the optimistic perspective, and assume you meant:
“shocked” by the advanced architecture in the great cities such as Shanghai.
Or “shocked” by the VAST development of wind-power that China has achieved in the last 10 years, FAR outstripping the US. Last year (2016), China installed 23.4 GW of new capacity, a 42.7 percent share of the world total. (Global Wind Energy Council: GWEC).
Or “shocked” by the incredible high-speed rail system that currently exceeds the HS rail systems in Japan, Europe, and the rest of the world combined. Currently, there are more than 2,000 pairs of high speed trains running daily along more than 22,000 km (13,600 miles) of high speed rail. Their top speed is 300 kph (186 mph), with planned increase to 350 kph (217 mph) in the near future.
Yes, I am well aware of the myriad social problems, constitutional and human rights problems, air pollution, etc. etc. But we frequently hear only about these aspects, and not of the astounding advances that the country has made in the last few decades, and continues to make.
“Welcome to the future” comes to mind.
Daniel Johnson, Traveled in over twenty countries
I visited China for two times in the past few years, and visited many major cities, the country has many things made me shocked, I list them below.
Shocked by their cityscapes and architectures
The cityscapes of Chinese cities is the first thing made me shocked. A Chinese city generally has more highrise buildings than a city in other countries, residential buildings with more than 30 stories are everywhere.
And in city center areas, buildings over 1000 ft tall are common, some cities even have 1500ft+ skyscrapers, this is very different from European cities, and even America doesn’t have so many tall buildings.
Many buildings in China look like out of Sci-Fi films, one of the best examples is the new airport of Beijing, the Daxing International Airport.
These are very different with what was in my mind before my first visit to China, I thought China is messy and poor, for I saw some pictures like the below one.
These old alleys do exist in Chinese cities, but they are off the routes of most travelers, and the go nment is working hard to replace them with fancy buildings.
Shocked by the high speed trains and metro networks
China has fastest high speed trains in the world, and the networks of the train routes are very expansive, it’s very convenient and time-saving to travel from one city to another.
And most first and second tier cities have metro systems, the fee is also surprisingly cheap, usually takes less than 0.5 dollars, and the metro stations look new and clean.
Shocked by crowds of people
Unlike European cities and American cities, which generally have population of only less than 5 million, China has many cities that have have populations of over 10–30 million. That’s why you’ll see crowds of people in metro stations, shopping malls, restaurants, popular attractions.
Shocked by their mobile payment systems
You will find that most Chinese people don’t use paper money or credit cards in markets or restaurants, they only carry a phone to make payments, which can be done by scanning QR codes. Very convenient right?
译文来源：三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/49450.html 译者：Joyceliu
Before you go to China, you may know quite a lot about its history, its social problems, so on and on. You might even have a deep understanding of where China is going and how it can improve itself.
When you actually arrived, witnessing the reality, those principles/laws are totally blew-off. With billions people(of all kinds) surrounding, you suddenly realized why we have so many problems and why we can survive and some even got a cozy life in “such a mess”.
I lived in the US for only 3 years, the greatest thing about US is: Simpleness. I don’t need to think about too many things. Just behave myself good, and I will get a rather acceptable life. Things are way more complicated in China. The numerous information, the fast-changing environment, the never-ending social problems… The society is evolving every single second, painful in some ways, but maybe not in a way as western MSM described.
There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes. Come experience it, you will at least understand a little bit eastern civilization.
Mitch Davis, Lived in China 3+ years
Americans are an insular people. Most spend their lives inside a bubble called America. It's common for Americans to have little concept of life outside the bubble except for what they've heard by hearsay. Example: Most Americans would be unable to point to Iraq on a map, or comprehend that when it's daytime in America, it's night time in countries on the other side of the planet. There's a mental blind spot for anything and everything outside the bubble.
In my experience, this description also applies to most people living in China. Example: Ask a Chinese person to name as many countries of the world as they can. It's unusual for someone to be able to name more than five. (They'll recognise names if you say them, but won't include them if you ask for a list
Siloo Kapadia, studied Education at India
For the same reason they are shocked when they travel to all Asian countries - they are amazed that any country, much less a non-Western country, can be modern and affluent.
Their image of Asia in general is that except for a few main streets that cater to them - foreign visitors - that all of everywhere in Asia looks like their Camden New Jersey! Then they are totally surprised to find out that most Asian cities have now outpaced USA cities by a mile!
The same is happening in India. Each time I go back I am utterly amazed at the changes. Of course Americanos can’t or don’t want to believe it. They still think that India is a hole.
So it is not just China but all of Asia that shocks them. They truly believe they are living in the best country on the earth, when in fact they are increasingly living in anything but.
Ash Trowel, Appreciating both the similarities & differences in cultural identities.
Well gee, maybe because going to a country vastly different from your own is going to expose you to some surprising stuff you don’t see every day. What, exactly, is so bad about that?
It’s unrealistic to expect people know every little detail about a country on the other side of the world, even if they’ve researched it extensively prior to going. For example, you can spend every waking hour reading everything there is to know about skydiving, but that information is nothing compared to the experience of actually jumping out of a plane. Some things don’t really hit you until you are experiencing them first hand.
And come on, do you really mean to tell me that you travel abroad and find nothing shocking? You just look at Mount Everest and shrug because you’ve see a picture of it on the internet? You aren’t impressed with French food because you read about French food on some blog? You just yawned the first time someone spoke to you in a language you don’t know because, pfft whatever, everybody knows other languages exist. If that’s the case, why even bother going anywhere?
Traveling would be be pretty boring if there was never anything surprising, interesting or even shocking.
Eric Marsh, Enthusiastic traveler.
We traveled to China for several weeks a couple years ago. I would not say that I was shocked. I would say that I was a bit surprised because China was not what I expected it to be. The parts of China that I saw had a great deal of new infrastructure and the people seemed to be doing pretty well in some cases better than Americans. There appears to be a vibrant Chinese middle class. I was also a bit surprised to see very few weapons - three to be exact. One was a ceremonial pistol and one was in front of the US embassy.
I suppose that the closest I came to being shocked was by how populous the cities are. One of the “smaller” cities we visited has five million people. Beijing has somewhere around twenty three million.