Uncool things in China – pollution, noise, and the “broken internet”

August 30, 2017

I’m a fan of China, period. I drink Chinese tea, study the language, and love to buy my gadgets from Alibaba, Taobao dot com or AliExpress. So, don’t even go there. I … dig … China.

Characters are not uncool, but potentially hard to read.

The Middle Kingdom (Guangzhou) is bustling but has pollution problems.
China is bustling and vibrant, but how to read all those fancy characters!?

Having said that, (ok; here comes), there are a handful of things I do not really like about China. Or more sophisticatedly put, things that could be improved or are momentarily ‘uncool.’ I know the Chinese are a proud people and hence I’ll be tiptoeing all the way to the end.

The overall air quality in the Middle Kingdom is not great.
The World Health Organization considers the safe level of PM 2.5 to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter on a 24-hour average basis.

There’s immense pollution to start with. I think we’ve all seen the grey, foggy skies on the news at one point and it’s especially not pleasant if you, like me, like to hit around on the weekends (tennis). It just gets to you. But, even if you’re not a workout junkie, research shows that in some parts of the mainland, breathing these pollutants in all day is equivalent to smoking forty cigarettes, (or two packs), a day. And now, that’s pushing it, is it not? That simply cannot be healthy.

As funny as it might sound, for me personally the noise (pollution) is even worse than ‘smoking two packs a day.’ It’s just off the charts. There’s always someone yelling, pressing the horn, or … fishing with dynamite. I witnessed the latter behavior firsthand as I was making my way through a park in the southern city of Guangzhou.

It might not actually have been dynamite, maybe it was more like fireworks, but it did blow the goose apart when he picked up what he thought was food. Well, it lived, I saw it swimming away, but it was maimed for sure. Its beak was no longer in one piece.

The kid who had thrown the fireworks seemed to be proud of his accomplishments and laughed. His mom was nowhere to be seen, the few passersby minded their own business. And I as an outsider, a foreigner, couldn’t do much. I just rolled my eyes and said a quick prayer to ease the animal’s pain.

The explosive BANG-BANG went on for minutes, maybe longer, as I couldn’t stick around to watch all of them go down. It was a ******* slaughterhouse.

China has some of the largest cities in the world.

The Middle Kingdom has an enormous population.

Cool or not, the country has about 1.4 billion citizens.
The Middle Kingdom is rapidly urbanizing, with more than 55 percent now living in towns and cities.

Down at the hospital a few days later it was a little less bloody, but the noise was still there. Quiet is definitely not something the Chinese seem to enjoy. Chinese like to speak loudly; that’s how they radiate happiness I suppose. And it takes time to get used to this, if ever.

I had pink eye from staring at the screen for hours on end and even though I had paid an extra ten or twenty renminbi to get a ‘private’ consultation, a handful of other patients still walked in and out. It went something like this …

Patient “Wang,” (or whoever), knocks on door and opens it without waiting for a response. Patient Wang speaks at the top of her voice: “Maaafaaaan niiiii aaah, yiiishenggg. Wooo zhaaangfuuu de tooou zheeende hao tonggg. Niii kan yi xiaaa, hao baaa!?” (Sorry to bother you, doctor. My husband’s head really hurts. Can you have a look? Is that okay!?)

Doctor, also at the top of his voice: “Xinggg, dannn shiii … wooo xiannnzaiii yiii diannn manggg. Niii denggg yi xiaaa … hao baaa!?” (All right, but … I’m a little busy now. You wait for a while … okay!?)

Patient Wang: “Oh hao baaa … xie xie aaah.” (Oh, good. Thank you.) Closes door with bang. And then back to me.

Doctor: “So you … pain? Pain naaa li? Zhe li pain?” (Your pain is where? Have pain here?)

Despite these disturbances the doc was very nice to me. Lots of respect. But yeah, the noise sometimes gets to you; especially perhaps because literally everything in the country is loud. As a white dude I’m not used to it. At least not to this extent.

What’s even more uncool, however, is the broken internet. Everything is filtered nowadays. When I first set foot on Chinese soil in 2004 there was YouTube and Google and Facebook. But those days are gone and now the entire web seems to be stuck in some kind of meat grinder. If you ask me, most Chinese don’t have a clue about foreign websites and just focus on everything that is Chinese. And it works, I bet. As long as you’re not into anything too foreign, it’s fine.

The internet is broken, and potentially uncool, in the Middle Kingdom.
A handful of countries have interfered with or (temporarily) banned access to Facebook; including … China, Egypt, India, Iran, North Korea, and Vietnam.

They’ve started to clean up the air, water, and whatnot. I have no doubt that within a number of years I’ll be able to play lots of tennis again in China. Maybe even with Lǐ Nà (李娜) … the former number 2; it’s on my bucket list.

As far as the noise goes, this will take time or maybe it’ll never change since it’s deeply rooted in Chinese culture. I can always bring earplugs I suppose.

And then there’s the internet or should I say the soon-to-be intranet without any foreign influences? I have a love for China, but maybe China doesn’t have a love for me. I’d eagerly go back more and for longer, but that’s not easy with every other website getting stuck (in the meat grinder). Unless, perhaps, I also switch entirely to Mandarin Chinese. Now … that’s an idea.

God bless,


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You might also want to read:

countries with the most polluted urban areas

PM 2.5 refers to fine particles (2.5 micrometres or smaller in diameter) produced by combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, forest fires, and some industrial processes.

Average PM 2.5 concentration:

  • Pakistan / 115.7
  • Qatar / 92.4
  • Afghanistan / 86
  • Bangladesh / 83.3
  • Egypt / 73
  • UAE / 64
  • Mongolia / 61.8
  • India / 60.6
  • Bahrain / 56.1
  • Nepal / 50
  • Ghana / 49
  • Jordan / 48
  • China / 41.4

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