I am very lucky – somehow, I have managed to develop relationships where I can talk meaningfully with Chinese nationals. My friend jokes that she is my agent! She has helped me find English tutoring work and been the bilingual intermediary. I now specialise in privately tutoring university students. This means I spend my time talking with very intelligent people about incredibly complex and controversial topics! I honestly couldn’t have dreamt of a better insight into the realities of this country.
Apparently, the key skills that the UN advises everyone to learn are IT, car driving and English. English is certainly a popular skill to learn in China. Beijing is the location of the 2 best universities in the country that are competitors for the best in the world. These are located right next to each other, not far from me. This is a wonderful opportunity to converse with clever Chinese youth. In China, level of English is excellent by university age, but many want to improve their fluency. The best tutoring is therefore conversational, with opportunity to learn advanced vocabulary and idioms. Consequently I had challenging discussions with my students – which meant my work was a fascinating insight into the minds of Chinese youth.
Most people I meet here are near enough my own age (well, 18-28). This is not too surprising as it is often through my friend that I meet other people. Today I met up with some to go clubbing.
There’s a good nightlife here. We went to an area with many clubs nearby, and a row of huge buildings containing either nightclubs or all-night restaurants. The environment inside the club was familiar, with low lights, loud music, a dance floor and a bar. I couldn’t share a word of language with most people I was with, but this didn’t make me nervous. We were sharing the same culture, in an environment where language is always difficult. From my clubbing experiences at home, I recognised all the same non-verbal cues.
My main observation about this club was how similar it was to Western clubs. The music was American RnB – even though some tunes were from the charts when I was a kid! People were young, dressed up, drinking and dancing. There were also Westerners there! These were mainly men clearly looking for a Chinese girl. I think the main difference in this club was the type of Chinese person here. Everyone presented an air of importance. These people were clearly interested in consumer culture, with their attention-seeking fashions (sunglasses in a club??) and superficial attitude. They often looked like models… They probably were. In China, clubs are where rich people go. Beer is much the same price here as in the west, but in western currency – that is 10 times the price here! To be fair there is not a drinking culture here, so many Chinese will buy the cheaper soft drinks. However, if you want a table this is an additional charge – you rent it for the night, giving you seats, nibbles and table service. Most importantly, with a table comes status. This whole place seems to represent superiority. Why do Chinese youth associate importance with the West?! The extent to which they do disturbs me. The chemists sell skin whitening products.
After a good dance, we exited into the night and after two minutes of Chinese chatter, up pulled a car carrying a good-looking young lad. We all climbed in. I had no clue what was going on!! I love these adventurous moments – it was exciting because I knew I was in safe hands. We turn up at a huge, fancy restaurant with occasional clusters of young people who also fancied a 3am snack! This is far better than a greasy kebab in the rain! With a huge choice of food, I tasted some delicious drinks and puddings, and enjoyed friendly interactions with my companions. When I climbed into bed a couple of hours later, I drifted dreamily into a smiling slumber…