Tuesday, April 5, 2011

10 facts about China we didn't know

After being in the comfort of our house for a few days and more importantly the safeguard of being on US soil - thought we'd share the unique bits and pieces of China that we observed.  Enjoy...

2.      1.       Language: There are multiple misconception about the chinese language – sure there's Mandarin and Cantonese, but there's also other dialects as well.  We typically think of dialects as basically the same language where we use contextual phrases – think of English as the baseline with a [enter your state here]or deep south or british euphamisms.  In general we can understand each other.  But in China – dialect pretty much means a different language.  The only unifying bit is their written language.  While it may be possible that 2 people may not be able to verbally communicate with each other, they could communicate with each other using written chinese characters - strange and cool.
2.       Population: China's has ~20% of the world population.  The largest city in China is not Beijing or Shanghai  – its Chongqing – population 30million – that's more than the top 15 cities of the US combined.
3.       Capital: Beijing is the capital of China, but it hasn't always been, its flip flopped between Beijing and Nanjing.  Nanjing (where we went) was the capital of China during a few notable periods - the Ming Dynasty (1368-1421) and when Dr Sun Yat Sen turned China into a republic (1912-1949).  In 1949, the Communists captured Beijing and made it their capital, which it has remained to this day.
4.       Traffic: Some of you may have heard about one of the longest traffic jams in China last year – 60 miles, 9 days long (Beijing to inner Mongolia).  Beijing is averaging ~2000 new cars added each day – explains the smog and congestion.
5.       Pets: Most families don't have dogs as they are expensive to keep.  But if you are fortunate enough to have one, you need a to get approval from the government to get a dog – and it cannot be over 12" tall.  Most dogs we saw looked about the same – "standard issue" we called them.  On our trip we saw maybe 10 dogs and only 1 cat. 
6.       Social networking: The internet is filtered…  No access to facebook, twitter, blogspot from China.  You either have to use a VPN service or use a anonymous proxy like vtunnel.com to get access.  Certain google searches are restricted - we didn't want to see what happens if we googled "protest" or "flash mob".
7.       Television programming: Besides the MTV Asia and BBC, flipping thru the TV channels mostly landed us on 2 types of shows – Kung Fu drama (apparently inappropriate for Ella) and some form of military based drama (think of it as a serious version of MASH).  Its not like the history channel or even the military channel – more like expectation setting.
8.       Temperature – heating isn't offered everywhere – but if is offered its regulated by the government – the heat shuts off Mar 15 – no matter where you are in the country.  We didn't ask what the thermostat was set to.
9.       Food: As our travel guide educated us…  Rice flour is abundant in northern china (likely because the weather isn't conductive to farming) and therefore the staple for northerners are mostly noodles and dumplings.  For southern china, the staple is rice.  The foods also lend towards different body types – broader/bulkier builds in the north and more smaller/slender builds in the south.  McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC are widely available throughout China these days – watch out!
10.   Wifi access – We luckily brought our computer with us to allow for a hard LAN line connection to it to check our emails, check the weather and Skype with our family.  But our wifi enabled smartphones and tablets were pretty useless without access to wifi.  Wifi access was available but only for ChinaMobile users – no one offered free public wifi.  I managed to find a rogue router in my walks to the local stores (where I loitered for a bit) to occasionally download my email on my smartphone.  Even at the Beijing airport, the wifi wasn't open – then I found a kiosk that gave you a code to access the wifi signal.  Oddly enough it didn't ask for money for pre-paid access, but instead it asked you to swipe your passport.  Not only is the internet filtered in China – its access is traceable back to an individual – no thanks.

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