William Chow's Personal Web Page

Have you ever wondered why Chinese people/Hongers are so annoying? Possibly you have seen examples, their bad driving, the lack of property respect, attitude problem, or cleanliness problem?

Ever wonder who taught them that? Possibly they never learned better? Well, maybe my observations about life in China can shed a little light on things.

Drinks: Water
Alright, the Myth begins that drinking water in many second class countries is unsafe to drink. Well, as if I would drink the water out of a tap in Vancouver or in San Deigo either... Yes, the water out of a tap here in Shenyang is hard, and has a weird metal smell to it. Almost every household I have visited here uses one of those pure water tanks with hot and cold water dispensers. Most major retailers do carry water but at what cost and what do you get? Well, I have seen some Mystery generic brand stuff which in sealed bottles is about 0.70 yuan for 1.0 L. You can get a slightly more familiar springs type one for about 1.70 yuan a 1.0L. Or you can go for some name brand stuff like Evian at a whopping 16.00 yuan for 1.5 L.

In short, the stuff in the bottled containers as long as it is sealed seems ok. If you are at a restaurant, hot tea is your safest bet. And if you don't know which one to get, just buy the most expensive stuff. Alway better to error on the side of safety.

Drinks: Soft Drinks
It is no doubt that sweets have always been the favourite of kids. You can never seem to feed them enough of the stuff. When it comes to pop, there is one pretty clear winner over here: Coke. I have seen many stores with more Coke over Pepsi. There are a few mystery brand Cola's but for the price difference, I don't see that many switchers. A standard 2.25 L bottle of Coke sells for 5.50 yaun. There is also a lot of other weird flavours of which the most famous name I see is Fanta. I have tried the grape (which doesn't taste all that sweet), and lime (which as a nice bitter tang to it).

At restaurants, pop is most likely served like beer. It comes to you sealed, and you either open it yourself, or the waiter will open it in front of you and pour it into a glass for you. The only places where I have seen it on fountain was in cafeteria style restaurants and food court mall restaurants.

Drinks: Alcohol
If you are not a drinker or only a social drinker like me, this has got to be one of the worst places to be. With the price of beer the about the same as a soft drink and cheaper than water and safer to drink than water, this by far is the beverage of choice when dining out. There are many local brewed and China brewed beers which fall in the 3.00 yuan for 650ml bottle range. Most of the ones I have seen are around 4% to 5% in content. The Shenyang brewed SingTao beer is smooth like a Kokanee. Hatepi is a more course like a Budwiedser. Snow Brand is also smoother beer like Kokanee but I find that it is also sweeter than the other beers.

I was also served some Chinese white wine. It came in a nice small decorative box, and was bottled in a plastic sports water bottle like thing, 500ml of the stuff was under 20.00 yuan and was listed at 44% proof. That stuff didn't taste like wine, that was more like drinking vodka.

And of course, there is a whole social aspect of drinking. Everyone keeps filling your glass up. If it is half full, they will top off your glass first and everyone elses glass first before topping of their own glass. It is rude to hide your glass or to put your hand on the top of the glass. Best thing to do is keep your glass full and to be mysteriously "busy" when they do the toasts. Waiters will come around to top off glasses around the table for you. When going up for a toast, sometimes you can go for a sip. However, there are times when your toaster will drink it bottoms up, which then you are required to do the same, drink the whole glass up. Of course, which then promotes the whole, refilling of everyone's glass again. For couples, if you can't finish your drink, then your partner then needs to finish your drink for you. So if she doesn't drink much either, then you don't stand a chance against these people. I tell ya, they drink the stuff like water. On the two occasions that we went out to dine, the tabled averaged 3.16 and 2.3 bottles (670 ml) of beer per person.

Money : Units
The unit of measure for money in Canada is pretty simple because it is based on the dollar and the smaller dominations are numbered in cents which there is only 100 cents in a dollar. China is similar but they call it and label it kinda funny so it can only remembered what the value of everything is.

As shown in the picture, the big red bill on the right hand side is a single Renminbi (RMB) Yuan. Like the Canadian dollar, a longer lasting coin has replaced it and now is more common. When I am writing this article in 2005, it takes about 6 Yuan bills to make 1 Canadian dollar.

The smaller units of a Yuan are jiao and fen. There are 10 jiao in a Yuan (thus a dime) There are two types of Jiao, the older one is more hexagon like the old Canadian nickel. They made a 5 jiao bill, and a 5 jiao coin (thus 50 cent pieces/half dollars), see picture beside on the left of the 1 Yuan bill. There is also a 2 jiao (almost like a quarter) and a single jiao (the dime). The two types of single Jiao coins are beside the 5 jiao bill. There are also smaller units called a fen (a penny). They made a 5 fen (a nickel) bill and coin see the green bill 2nd on the left. They also made a 2 fen (2 pennies) piece which I shown as the leftmost piece and a single 1 fen piece (a penny). So going by exchange rates, 1 yuan is about 16.67 cents, so a fen is 0.1667 cents (a 1/6th of one penny). As you can guess, nobody really uses fens anymore, they are like our Canadian penny, it should be phased out of circulation.

Speaking of circulation, the raddiness of the Chinese paper money is horrible. I constantly see people and stores using the most oldest and disgusting looking bills. A lot of these things are still in circulation when they should be brought to a bank where they can be collected and destroyed, However, the holding time of paper currency in China is long since the people are generally poor so they hold on to belongings and wealth a lot.

Attitude: Against Foreigners
Being a Canadian, I think of myself more tolerant than some people when it comes to multiculturalism. After all, part of the unique characteristic of being Canadian is that it has no specific race or nationality. So to be in a country that is almost perfectly uniform is a slight adjustment of my alignment.

Foreigners, and I shall name the white American which is probably the most hated race anywhere in the world, are not appreciated by the locals here. Oh don't think it is like stumbling into Honger Town Richmond, where you think you are the only white person in the store. It is like you are the only white person in the entire city. I have been here almost three weeks and I can probably count the number of foreigners with my fingers. I remember one black guy shopping at Carre Four. I remember one Middle East guy on cell phone in Zhongxing Mall and he wasn't speaking Manderin either. I seen a couple of older greying men, 3 of them in Carre Four, 1 in Ami's Brother's wife's store, and 1 on the street. Oh yes, the other day, another geeky guy in a sweater.

You can see the look on the local people around a foreigner like he is some kinda medical freak. More than if he was just a Chinese physically disabled person. People first indentify and point out the freak. Then they start adding stereo typed features to the person, like "old perverted man after younger Chinese woman for sex", "jean wearing gun touting Texas Cowboy", and etc...

However, the economic side of Shenyang can't help (as well as the pure nature of Chinese people) to accept money when it is there for the taking. And foreigners are immediately indentified as money pits. First of all, if you are notable foreigner, you will be ripped off. In corporate stores like Carre Four, the prices are set, there is no disputing. But in the street where services are needed or where you want to get the better deal, or if there is no prices written or set down, you will be charged the "foreigner" rate. You can end up getting charged double even triple or more for items just because you have been identified as a foreigner. Things like shoe repair, dry cleaning, or taxi ride; if you are a foreigner then you could stand a very high chance of getting ripped off. Now my situation is a little different.

If you are a foreigner, and you have Chinese accompaniment, then let your Chinese friend do ALL the talking. I am lucky that I still look Chinese. The most common question/comment that Ami has to answer is, "What country is he from?" or "He looks like a North Chinese Man but he doesn't speak Chinese". Which is true, very few people here speak Cantonese Chinese. So even though I look Chinese, I still am treated like a second class citizen. It was suggested that I was like a dog or a pet. I can only follow where I am lead. Now, if you are a notably visible foreigner, and you are with your male friend then you are either a businessman (rich!) or a tourist (rich!). If you are with a Chinese woman friend, then you are "leacher", "pervert", "stealing women", "two timing cheater", or "looking for a Chinese mistress". Of course, this also puts your "friend" in a particular bind because these stereotyping starts reflecting bad on them.

For the most part, the majority of the attitude is that foreign people are a great source of money to Shenyang. They have even built all these "foreign" like stores like Carre Four near the USA embassy and near the Sheraton Landmark Hotel. They even got a new apartment housing complex for foreigners called "International Place" under construction. So it is obvious that they want to attract foreign money into town. But like my pet example, yes you foreigners can crawl out of your cage once in a while, but don't go around "marking" your territory, you dog.

Which I guess leads me to my next big problem with rich foreigners in a poor economy, crime. If you are visible minority, hate crimes as well as violent crimes are much more likely to happen to you. There are many cases of things like kidnapping, blackmailing, as well as simple things like car theft, robberies and assaults. Which leads me to my last point in note that I have seen no female foreigners so far. Crimes against women is also much greater if you are foreigner because of all the financial attachments added with all the sexual crimes.

So, if you are foreigner, you got a big stacked deck against you. Saying that though, there are still many foreigners who work and live in Shenyang. I guess they are doing the smart thing, and staying inside their cages like the pets they are.

Standard Of Living: Jobs
Well, one could argue that life is considerable lower in standard here in China. In some ways that is true. Everything from equality, work standards, work ethnics and even benefits all vary here.
There are many poor people who live in China. They are people who probably make less than 300 yuan a month doing small simple jobs. Sometimes they vend foods, vegatables, cigarettes, drinks, toys, or services on the street. Some of them are like bike delivery guys. Some of them are employed by the city to go around collecting recyclables like empty bottles, metal containers, syrofoam, and cardboard from garbage areas. Some of them work for the city sweeping the streets with brooms or shovelling snow, or moving snow using their carts. Sometimes they are janitors for apartment buildings. These are considered the lowest of the lows when it comes to jobs. Our minimum wage job at McDonald's will still pay $8.00 Cdn, which will net $1280 Cdn a month, or about 7680 yuan a month. A government job is suppose to be high. I hear nunbers like 1800 and 2000 yuan a month for that kinda "higher" work. From the Globis web site, they say 16.1% of the population live under $1.00 per day. Although, on a good note, since 1990 China has only had a 3% youth unemployment rate, where Canada has a 12% rate. So yes, you can be assured that your job as a street bike worker will be waiting for you when you graduate from school here!
Shenyang the city enjoys a very low 2.2% urban proverty (unable to earn enough for basic needs). Even with this low poverty rate, the poor are reported to have adequate housing and 100% of the poor in the urban core have access to clean water and other basic services.
Standard Of Living: Food
Well, I suppose it really depends on what you want to eat everyday. You know it costs more to eat out everyday than it does to eat at home everyday. Also, you can also eat balanced foods as opposed to eating Mr. Noodles or Kraft Dinner everyday. Eating fast foods in China is about 13 to 20 yuan a meal, most people can't afford to eat this everyday. At the same token, an instant noodle pak is around 1 yuan, so you could eat two of those that three times a day. A 10kg bag of rice is under 40 yuan so a single person could live off that and still enough for some other stuff as long as housing wasn't a problem.
Standard Of Living: Clothing
Clothing can is available in all price points. There are markets where you can get clothing very inexpensively. Used clothing doesn't seem to be a very popular idea, since new cheap clothing is can be obtained for just a couple of yuan. I am sure things like underwear, shirts, pants and socks can be purchased for under 10 yuan , especially in the market and on the street. Most of the ones I picked up were in the 20 yuan range and they were suppose to be the "better" quality middle of the range ones.

Also, there is a big issue about copies and fakes. Everything from watches, bags and sports wear can be copied. But in the end, if the clothes can keep you warm in winter, then it is worth their money in function.

When looking at the bike workers, they seemed to be dressed quite warm and their clothing looked to be in reasonable states of repair for the most part so, I would imagine they are doing well enough to maintain a functional state of clothing.

Standard Of Living: Health
The medical system seems alright. It definitely favours the people who have money against those who don't. I would guess that the dental system then would be the same as the Japanese. Which would probably explain a number of cosmetical dental problems like warped teeth.

But putting that costs aside, access to health care seems to be there and access to the drugs is definitely not an issue. Now, whether or not they have the same strength or the same government standards on the medicines I don't know but at least the basic stuff seems to be all available.

Standard Of Living: Safety And Crime
The home seems to be a pretty important centre around the people. Of course, it would need to be in a society with wanders and scavengers. If you are one of the fortunate ones, then you have to build yourself a fortress to keep the scavengers out. That sure would explain the standardized usage of these hollow metal frame and outside opening metal doors. They usually are bolted through at the top and the bottom. Many people have a third double deadbolt chamber lock as a third centre bolt. So yea, people ain't gonna get in easily, that is for sure.

But then again, why would they need to? The streets are so poorly lit you are literally walking around in the dark anyways. The Police are "around" but there are many dead ends and more "shady" places where the police would only drive past. There are so many people just walking around, it wouldn't take too long to find a target. Of course, with most of your population only as well off as a scavenger that doesn't get you very far as a criminal. It is kinda the crow complex. As a crow, they are good scavengers, as such they very rarely get aggressive in order to get their things.

Car theft is a small problem but it usually is linked to organized crime. For the most part, if you are the little guy and you blend into the crowd along with the rest of everyone else, then you are pretty safe. Otherwise, if you are different, and you do stick out, yea you might attract the wrong kinda attention.

Standard Of Living: Education
Well, there is no doubt there are many schools here, but education here is not free like it is in Canada. The schools themselves are slightly better kept than many public areas because each is privately operated. To send your children to a school it is all about how much money you have. A really low end school where majority of the countryside people send their kids, it is only several thousand to 10,000 even 15,000 yuan to go to school for a 5 year term.

Ironically speaking, some of the better schools are located in the isolation and remoteness of the countryside. It costs more money because of the housing, but city kids are shipped out of town to the better schools. I hear it can get as high as 20,000 and 30,000 yuan for 5 year terms. Which isn't a lot in Canadian terms. This would be about the same as taking a single full semster load for one term at a university like UBC. Of course, the big problem is that if you are poor low income person, it maybe hard to pull 150 to 200 yuan every month to send your kids to school. But somehow, they survive and make do with what they have.

After finishing their terms, the kids can go on to more schooling if they can afford it. If not, they often begin to work. Restaurant work is quite common because it is relatively easy to do, the pay is not great but it usually includes room and board. That is why most countryside people will come into the city to work. The enrollment rate for teenagers into high school is around 65% according to Globis.

The good thing about such a system is that it is based on a user based service model. Which is good for the schools, cause they control their funding, and the tax payer because that lifts tax burden. However, it places the responsibility of schooling on the parents. It quickly divides the population into the people who have it and the people who don't. It spreads the gap between the rich and the poor. The choice becomes pay for school if you can afford it. If not, start looking for cheap unskilled work. Fortunately for them, there is a lot of bottom level jobs that can be found. This at leasts keeps the unemployment low.

Adult literacy rate: The percentage of people aged 15 and above who can, with understanding,both read and write a short, simple statement related to their everyday life. According to Globis, it was 78.3% in 1990 and 85.8% in 2001. They also say that 85% of children will complete grade 5 of education.
Human Development Index (HDI) A composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development – a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. The HDI rank is determined using using HDI values to the sixthdecimal point. Performance in each dimension is expressed as a value between 0 and 1, the higher the number the better the result.

1975 was 0.521 and 1990 was 0.6224 and in 2000 was 0.726 by comparison Canada was

1975 was 0.866 and 1990 was 0.924 and in 2000 was 0.94.

Standard Of Living: Water Quality and Sanitation
The country certainly has access to the newest of plumbing and water technology. Of the many houses I have seen, they have the ability to use PVC piping, Moen faucets, and clamp off toilets. Almost every place of business and home I have seen uses water tanks for clean water. It costs about 150 yuan for 10 refill bottles and when we signed up there was a promotion that gave us another 3 bottles for free. If you want, you can get the sparkling water or air-rated water. Other than that, the tap water is not really hard. I don't have the chlorine smell when I walk out of the shower. The bubbles from the soap is still pretty full so there doesn't seem to be a lot of minerals in it either. Still, though, it isn't something you should go around drinking without boiling it.

Sanitation on the other hand is a major problem. Starting in the house, their idea of a washroom sewer line is a hole in the bathroom floor. The sink and toilet for the washroom are connected to the down pipe for the shower. Very common practice however, with most connections to sewer, the pipes will have "u" elbows in them to trap dirty and stop toxic gas flows from the sewer. So in the morning, you might have this musty open sewer smell. If you ever walk by an open pit where the city sewer guys are digging up the pipe, it is that smell. And it is not just here, there are many places in the city where I am walking along and I pass by a really strong smelling sewer smell. The other big contributing problem is that in an apartment complex, there seems to be a common down pile to the sewer. You can hear and probably smell their waste too.

The other big sanitation problem is that people don't care about property that is not theirs. So I see people spitting on builds as well as inside. I saw people pissing into the river in wide open daylight.

According to Globis, in 2000, only 76% of the population in China has "convienent" access to safe water. It also quotes that only 40% of the population has "safe, adequate, and hygienic" access to sanitation facilities. S

Standard Of Living: Transportation
Standard Of Living: Electrical / Heating Consumption
Standard Of Living: Communications

Money : Units