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More cultural differences


CAR HORNS:



I'm hypersensitive to car horns. Hearing them back in Bellingham is super rare. If you hear a car horn it generally means somebody did something perceived to be pretty bad by someone else. China is a very different world with regard to horns. This is true on cars as well as eBikes and scooters. First off, they use them as communication devices to let other drivers, riders, and pedestrians know that "hey, I'm here". It's not something that's attached to a negative emotion. This is something I've observed all over China.


It's part of the dance that is getting from point A to B here. They don't really follow what I would call normal driving rules. They just sort of move around the roads. Lines on the roads are suggestions, not rules. Quite often you'll see a car straddling the lines as they move down the road. Part of it is that they want to see which is the better lane to drive in. Part of it is both lanes are available, so why not use both? Now, this isn't to say it's all peaches and cream. Part of this is me rationalizing poor driving. There are some dangerously aggressive drivers (taxis especially) that live with one hand on the horn and drive a bit nuts. They get paid not based on time, but by getting passengers from A to B as fast as possible. Driving crazy and using the horn to try and get others out of your way is incentivized. So far I've not said a word to a driver, but I've learned how to ask for them not to use their horn politely. Will I say something? Perhaps, but not yet.


I believe the car horn thing is related to line cutters and people being pushy when there's a que of any form. But before I say more it's worth mentioning that this is the small minority of Chinese citizens. It's like a vocal minority that shouts everyone else down. They're hard not to notice. The vast majority of people are calm, patient, and fair when it comes to being in line. When you do see someone being pushy they tend to be older men. I would guess this is related to the misogyny they were raised in. There's a certain entitlement that older men display from time to time. When I've talked to Aiyun about this she quickly points out that it's more related to older people that haven't been properly educated as children. China has certainly changed a lot in my lifetime. They have an enormous middle class that's congregating in cities now. The elderly are being pulled from their sheltered country lifestyle and herded into the cities.


CREDIT CARDS:



Chinese people pay for everything using one of two apps on their phones. WeChat or AliPay. This is pretty much a given in all things. Fruit at the local market? Shoes on TaoBao (their version of Amazon)? Deposit at a hotel? 100% WeChat or AliPay. Everyone accepts both apps. Each is tied to your bank account directly and takes money from your account. They don't bother with a checking or savings account. It's just one account.


So the question arises, can you go into debt? Do they have credit cards of some sort? Yes, but there's never an actual card like we have in the states. Your credit card is attached to your bank account much like a VISA or Mastercard in the states. When you go to pay for something you can choose which account gets charged in your WeChat or AliPay app. Balances that aren't paid get interest charged to the account.


As a foreigner traveler, how do you pay for anything in China without a bank account attached to WeChat or AliPay? Hotels, fancy restaurants, upscale department stores will accept foreign credit cards, but you've got no chance using those chunks of plastic in a local grocery store or small hole in the wall restaurant. That's going to require cash, and it might annoy a local a bit. The convenience of electronic money transfer is 100% their preference.


When I've asked locals about credit cards they give me the "why would anyone bother?" look. It's not part of their culture to go into debt. They pay cash directly from their account with the lone exception of a home mortgage for most. You would think car as well, but that's generally not the case. The only people that are driving a car can afford paying straight cash homie (I see you Randy Moss).


How about banckuptcy? Until 2020 there was no system of personal bankruptcy. None? Seriously? Yeah, it only existed for corporations. The first personal bankruptcy in China played out in Shenzen, and that's only a local law. This is something that's changing slowly here in China. Call a nation in flux, but the concept is completely foreign to most. You're paying your bills eventually. When trying to research the topic online I've mostly come up empty, but I did run across a "liquidation and bankruptcy" court reference many times. I think I would pass on that thank you very much. I wonder if it's like the homeless thing. You don't see them because they've been rounded up and put somewhere. Where? Im afraid to ask.


PAYING FOR A HOTEL



I've stayed in a lot of very nice hotels here in China. You can easily find 5-star places to stay for close to $100 USD per night. We're talking about suites that have a separate sitting room and giant bathtubs with their own TV. Much nicer than what I'm used to in my price range back in the states. I've discovered an odd difference. Hotels in China consistently collect a large deposit when you check in. It more than covers the cost of the room. After you check out within a few hours you get credited back the difference in what you owe. I've gotten used to it after the first couple of places I stayed. Still feels a bit weird. The nicest place I've stayed (The Peninsula in Shanghai) took a 5000 RMB deposit for a two night stay. My total bill was just over 3000 RMB when I left. It's making me wonder if fancy schmancy places back in the states do this. If so I haven't experienced it yet.


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