From Perth, with love

By Belle Taylor ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-06-13 07:12:04

From Perth, with love
Discovering Beijing through bicycling 

From Perth, with love

Running through the haze becomes first Chinese lesson

There are lots of unfair stereotypes about China.

Friends from home ask me how I'm handling the food ("Fine," I say, confused, although my favorite Australian biscuits are more expensive); how I get by not knowing the language (I am becoming an excellent mime); and am I worried about a brush against the law? (well, unless I decide to take up serial killing, no, not really).

But perhaps the biggest misconception I hear about China from people that haven't visited is that it is a dour, serious place. "It is really gray everywhere?" I have been asked. "Is everyone really serious?"

The answer, of course, is no.

I have had hilarious conversations with Beijing taxi drivers when neither one of us has understood a word the other is saying. I giggle with the girls at the beauty salon down the road. I've shared a laugh with shop assistants and waiters and people on the street, usually at my expense, as I try to navigate my way around the Chinese capital.

I make funny faces at cute children on the subway and am rewarded with toothless, dimpled grins. The Chinese people I work with or have met socializing tend to split into the hilarious or dull-as-dishwater categories with as much of a division as anywhere else.

It strikes me that this perception of China as a serious place comes not from the people - but the leaders. China's leaders are serious men doing serious business. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Running a nation of 1.4 billion people requires a level head.

In Australia, the public demands a little levity and can't stand anyone who takes themselves too seriously.

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