Five Reasons to Hate China (and Five Reasons to Love China)

hate chinaHow to pee on the street…

The daily savageries

Where do I start from?

The Beijingers that every summer wander with the t-shirt rolled-up on the stomach to get some fresh air; the Qingdao people puking in Pijiu Jie (Beer Street); the hygiene (?!) of the restaurants’ kitchens among the draining of dirty waters, garbage of epic dimension and fishes beheaded on the wet floor; the loud spits, so popular all over the Middle Kingdom; the parents that push the little children to pee on the sidewalks; the free burps at the office or the followers of Schwarzenegger that arrive at the gym without t-shirt and let a ring of sweat on each bench?

The traffic

In Beijing even the taxi drivers get lost. Then they scream:

Zai nar, zai naaar!” Where, wheeeere! And you can only shake your head and think “Why am I living here?” After three phone calls to the central and a far-sighted glance at the map, they seem to understand where they are but, just to be safe, they reach anyway the third ring. The result is always the same: taxis till you can see, traffic that moves slower than a lame turtle, and thousands of horns and curses that compose Beijing’s soundtrack.

And if you are a pedestrian, forget it. The priorities go like that: Tractor-trailer beats Truck. Truck beats Bus. Bus beats car. Car beats Motor Scooter. Motor Scooter beats Tricycle Full of Bean Boxes. Tricycle Full of Bean Boxes beats Bike. Bike beats Fat and Sweaty Pedestrian. Fat and Sweaty Pedestrian beats me…

When the average Chinese driver sees you in the middle of the street, he accelerates, honks, and points towards you… moving target.

traffic in chinaJan An Road, Shanghai, on Saturday afternoon.

The pollution

When you breathe Beijing’s air for the first time, you ask yourself whether it was the right choice to sign a job contract for that famous multinational. And it does not matter whether you spend all your money on Marlboro red or your lungs are still virgin: after a couple of months, you will get the smoker’s cough anyway.

Three days after I landed I bought a couple of running shoes for 100 kuai. I thought it was a great deal, but after twenty minutes of outdoor training my lungs were burning and my knees were completely fucked up by the cheap sole.

When I left Beijing, the situation improved a bit but if you like vegetables and you take the train to Shanghai, make you a favor and do not look outside: the countryside is dying, the vegetables almost gray.

When I was living in Europe, I used to feel guilty when I was eating French fries for two days in a row – I’m a frustrated health fanatic, – here in China I feel guilty when a eat more than half lettuce per day.

The lack of privacy

Maybe it’s because Chinese people are a lot. Or maybe because the right to privacy is, as the welfare, a European concept destined to sink into oblivion. Anyway, when you arrive from Europe, you feel naked. Intellectually, I mean.

The experience starts already in the plane, where Chinese feel free to peek at the screen of your laptop. To stare at them does not work, they are too busy decoding the documents you are working at. There are many situations that make you think the idea of “privacy” in China is something different from what we intend. An example? Once I went to the hospital to make the blood tests and I reach a little front office, the one where you usually pay the fee or ask for information.

However, the girl at the window got a needle, took my arm, and filled three vials of my blood right there, in front of a line of people looking at the white devil.

The hairdressers

hate chinaChinese hairdresser.

All male. Terrible. You can tell them whatever you want, bring Yao Ming as an interpreter, or show them that pic where your hairstyle looks so cool.

Invariably, they will try to shape your hair as Jacky Chan, a style they are really proud of! Don’t try to argue, it does not work. They get all emotional and cut your hair off. Finally, to close your shirt while you are cutting my hair seems too much, right?

Five reasons to love China

chinese marketChinese Merchants.

The markets

“kuai kuai kaui!” is the mantra you hear along the streets of Beijing, where there is not a market: Beijing is a market.

Luxury market at Xidan Square, Wang Fu Jing or the Village in San Li Tun; antique market at Liu Li Chang; fake market at the Ya Shou or at the Silk Market in Guo Mao; farmers’ market through the secondary streets full of villagers that come at night riding their horses and run away every time the police arrives; sex market inside the red light massages parlors.


I detailed the Chinese Railways system in a previous post. The trains connect all of China (even Lhasa, the capital of Tibet), they are cheap and always on time. All main towns have modern subway systems and where this is not true, as in Hangzhou, they are building it.

At night my favorite way to travel is by taxi. You find them everywhere and the price is quite affordable (about ten euros for an hour). Also, during my (almost) two years in China I never met a taxi driver that tried to scam me. You only need to pay attention to the “black taxis” but they are usually quite easy to spot as they do not have “official” badges.


I’ve traveled around this country, often alone; I’ve crossed the back alleys of Shanghai, Pechino, Chengdu, Nanjing, and Guangzhou at four a.m.; I’ve argued in several clubs for “women matters” with quite annoying (AKA jealous) Chinese guys; and so on… I know these are not really “dangerous” actions, I’m not trying to appear as Indiana Jones. My point is that I’ve been around for a while and I NEVER had any problems: I never saw a bag snatch, nobody tried to intimidate me for a dime (if you have ever been near The Central Station of Milan you know what I’m talking about, just to name a place). Even the fights in the clubs are quite rare when compared with the ones you see in the West.

Now do not think China is the Fairy Kingdom, you need to be careful as everywhere else. However, the main risks here seem to be the classic scams for tourists that you can avoid with a bit of common sense.

What I want to say is that nowadays I feel much safer in China than in any Western metropolis, no matter if the reason is the massive presence of the police in the streets, the harsh sentences for any crimes (especially the ones against foreigners that make lose face to the whole country) or the fairness almost naïve (from the point of view of an Italian, at least) of many Chinese.

love china“Police man” in Chengdu, the capital of pandas.

The big Chinese mess

Even if I love to go back to Italy for holidays after two weeks far away from China I start to miss what I call “The big Chinese mess,” which is somehow difficult to describe and would be reductive to define as a “huge crowd.” Nope, you can find a crowd of people also in London, Paris or New York. But a Chinese crowd is unpredictable, chaotic, almost in unstable equilibrium.

It always seems something is going to happen, a fight for a girl, a fire caused by a vendor of roasted potatoes, a riot because of an injustice. And you must always push, claim your space, pay attention to do not being knocked down by a three-wheeler full of giant bottles of water. It always seems there are too many people, too much noise, too many goods on the sidewalks, and too many bikes on the streets.

But in the end, nothing happens, the traffic regulates by itself, the fights almost never start, someone switches off the fire before it becomes too big and everyone keeps going on his way.

China, a country that surprises you every day, makes boil the blood on your arteries and makes you feel part of the world that is changing, part of the history.

chinese marketVendors of roasted potatoes.

Dulcis in fundo… The women

Ahhh Chinese women… let’s see the details another time!

Photo Credits: Photos by Sapore di Cina

11 thoughts on “Five Reasons to Hate China (and Five Reasons to Love China)”

  1. China is a great place but you really should not focus on only Beijiing. You see, Beijing is only one region in China which is one of the biggest countries with a huge population. How is Chengdu? kinda curious tho haha

  2. This article is VERY outdated, most of the cons are already long gone. I currently live in china, and the place in this article is extremely different from how the actual place is like. (No hygiene problems and kids without underpants)
    We need a better acticle & an updated one.

  3. I love your article! It describes China so well I that I actually mailed it to couple of friends. One of the best articles I have read about China 加油!

  4. So the author is ‘speaker of many languages’ … needs to fine tune his english writing and grammar skills. Why would I want a book written with all these writing and spelling mistakes!

    1. Yep, that’s one of the first articles I wrote in English (check date: 2012), and it’s probably full of mistakes. I certainly don’t have time to proofread it now, sorry, dear reader : )

      Also, I claim to speak many languages (6, to be exact, including English), but I certainly don’t claim to speak all of them particularly well.

      Finally, I didn’t publish any book. So I’m not sure what you are referring to.

  5. The Chinese drove my friend out of a school there with nasty rumors and gossips just because she offended a rich bureaucrat’s kid. Then they cyber-bullied her by posting her name and picture online with disgusting rumors that aren’t even true and made sure every Chinese saw it. The school there wouldn’t even do anything and, instead, blamed my friend for offending rich kids. That is the China we know.

    1. I dont really know if you are chinese and I do not quite know which school you went to, but you simply cannot use just one school to evaluate the whole chinese region. Things like that happen in so many regions in the world and is also part of human. somehow, events as descripted really should not have happened (i am sorry about it), however, it really is not cool nor rational to think that all chinese schools are like that since there are schools that are private/public/international/traditional/voluntary in so many provinces in China. China is one of the biggest countries with a great population, remember? But how often do the extreme things as you have descripted happen? Still, sorry for your friend, it would be smart for him or her to switch schools and understand that such things happen everywhere. :)

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