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Time for some introspection E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Bro Fan
Sure - you may have harboured fantastic illusions of 6am tai chi sessions followed by fresh fruit breakfasts direct from the countryside before hopping on your bike to work/school/the commune. A low-fat diet, heaps of reading, bit of dabbling with the lingo - you’re not even three months in and you feel 21 again, cholesterol and stress levels back down to zero, right?

Ha. It all goes sour when you realise just how early 6am is. Especially just to go and wave a cardboard fan around with the old dears in a car park, at the mercy of the freezing morning wind. Then, your ideal breakfast is reduced to your inhaling of a few baozi as you run to work, late - and hungover, since last night you discovered tequila’s sick cousin, Baijiu. You don’t even smoke, but within 6 months, Beijing’s air will allow you too to sample the lungs of an 80-year old asthmatic first hand, plus the skin complexion to match.

But it’s not going to be your health that stops you from returning back to the green pastures of home. It’ll be your friends when the realise what a monster China has made of you. Yes, you. Don’t realise it yet?

Quite apart from your now shameless ability to hack up half a lung in full earshot of all those within spitting distance, you find you have acquired quite a disarming aggressive streak half a gong li wide. Whilst you might be sauntering quietly along in your pastel-shades and Hush Puppies, enjoying the evening sunshine, you think absolutely nothing about launching into a crowded street, all elbows and attitude, clenched jaw and dropped shoulder just ready to take on any unsuspecting bystander who has somewhat disrespectfully compromised your direct path from A to B.

Small children quiver in your wake as you scowl at those charity workers who appear to have multiplied tenfold since your last visit back ‘home’. I live in China, sunshine, don’t lecture me about poverty. They don’t stop for a chat.

On a ‘welcome home’ meal, you leave your parents appalled by your nonchalant yelling of “WAAAIIITEERR!” across the entire restaurant, and insistence on drinking tea with your Carbonara. No you fools, did I say milk tea? Your demands become more and more erratic, as you complain about a restaurant ‘of this quality’ not having at least 2 waitresses to each table - bring this, bring that - not your previously customary apologetic “Excuse me, I wonder if you might be able to bring….” that your mother used to be so proud of. Manners - cost so little, mean so much. Before leaving, you nearly expire as the bill includes a hefty and hitherto indefensible service charge. Your mother looks worryingly confused as she ushers you out the door.

Short trips ’round the corner’ are unthinkable without the help of a taxi - where are all the bloody cabs in this city? - but after the first few have set you back your ordinary month’s budget for food and accommodation, you decide on the bus, being sure to employ your newly-sharpened elbows to the full when it finally arrives.

Back in China, of course, everyone has a bike, doncha know, your very own steed costing no more than 8 quid. However, you still feel more than within your rights to complain vociferously when the handlebars dissolve into rust whilst crossing a major 8-lane intersection, or the chain falls off for the 5th time that day.

Your driving is now so pitiful that you make the Italians look like the paragon of highway virtue they were always unlikely to be, and your language… well, that certainly ain’t Mandarin coming out of your mouth - and how it jars. The string of blue language is mirrored by all other motorists as you appear to have lost the ability to queue, wait at a traffic light, or indeed drive on the correct side of the road.

If that wasn’t enough, your ‘friends’ become gradually more and more unimpressed as you liberally - and apparently unwittingly - sow your English conversation with splashes of Chinese. Cha bu duo, dangran baby, lihai - once or twice is a novelty, thrice and it’s mildly annoying, any more, and you will always be remembered as a pretentious idiot.

So before you head back, think. Do you want your friends to remember you as you were, or the super-bitch, China-hardened soak with the amusing haircut?

Our valuable Editor Bro Fan has been with us since Sunday, 06 June 2010.

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