Being stared at, and staring in disbelief

By Suzann (
Updated: 2007-07-05 15:58

Amidst the pollution, dark hair and round faces, Beijing has a culture and spirit that I have not experienced anywhere else. The people are incredibly friendly and helpful even though my grasp of the language leaves a lot to be desired. However, as a Westerner visiting China, there are several things I did not expect that have taken me aback and made me realize that the country is a very different, very strange world.

The first thing that pops to mind is the constant staring. While some people may call it admiration or curiosity, I do not. Walking down the streets, whether in Beijing or elsewhere in China, I have run into many westerners. The universities seem to be crawling with international students, and the businesses as well. The knick-knack markets thrive on the consumerism of foreigners and as far as I can see from my visits to the Great Wall, tourism appears to be blossoming. Western movies and television shows have completely infiltrated the Chinese entertainment market.

With all of this being said, why am I constantly stared at? In the United States, people only stare at the bizarre oddities, but I don't feel like I should belong in this category even though I am in China. There is no way I could ever be considered Chinese even by a blind man, what with my blond hair, blue eyes, and southern American twang. I know this and the Chinese do as well. I am far from home and in one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world, which would make any traveler slightly uncomfortable. Add all of this together with the fact that I am stared at like a caged animal at the zoo, and it is enough to make any sane person feel as though they weren't.

The next disturbing aspect of Chinese people is the haphazard driving. I never feel safe here, whether walking down the street or sitting in a taxicab. The concept of a traffic pattern and the flow of traffic seem to not work here. Stoplights are a mere suggestion, yield signs are completely ignored and the thought of yielding to pedestrians doesn't even cross a driver's mind. And then there are bicycles бн everywhere! I think that if there were only cars I could handle the chaotic roads, but throwing bicycles and cell phones into the mix makes me frightened. Drivers know the sidewalks and roads are flooded with pedestrians and bicyclists, so why do they not stop before turning right? This baffles my mind. When driving down highways, Chinese drivers use the emergency-pull off lane to pass traffic at high speeds without hesitation. What if someone was actually using the emergency lane for its intended purpose? In my eyes, Chinese driving techniques need to be drastically changed to improve the safety of the roads both for driver and pedestrians.


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