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A retired Aussie programmer from Sydney, I am an ardent traveller, student of things Chinese, and in retirement both an online teacher and online MOOC student. I write mostly about travel and experiences in China, and of interaction with Asian culture and people. Don’t expect controversy because, like a cat in a puddle, I tread carefully - but sometimes I just might throw in a ‘googly’!
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Generosity and Hospitality in China    

By LaoGui 老贵的博客
590 Views | 20 Comments | 2/28/2019 12:04:37 PM

Harbin Ice City

Every time I visit China I am overwhelmed and embarrassed by the generosity of the people towards travellers.  It's not part of our Western culture, at least not part of the Australian culture, but it is a seemingly sacred part of Chinese culture. In 20 years, 8 trips to China, I cannot remember being permitted to foot a restaurant bill, pay for bus tickets, no matter how speedy I am with the wallet, VISA or Weixin qianbao.  There is a conspiracy it seems between the waitresses and Chinese clients to reject laowai payment!



My online students have been particularly gracious this last trip - conducting me and shouting me around Chongqing, Shandong Tai'an, Liaoning Anshan, Wuhan Hankou, and Guangzhou.  In Ha'erbin a fellow (and very pretty) guest volunteered to escort me to the ice city - lucky me!



On arrival in Tai'an my friend provided me with down jacket, padded pants, scarf and knit cap (tuque?) for the journey to Ha'erbin - I guess the university supplied them in exchange for the lecture, but much appreciated!  

Then in Shenzhen Pingshan (where I arrived by mistake), trapped by the Spring festival travel rush and without tickets to Guangzhou (or anywhere else for that matter) a lovely waitress befriended me and helped me locate the nearby Daba Che Zhan where I found tickets to Guangzhou dong che zhan. I had seriously considered flirting with her, until she invited me home and introduced hubby and three children.  Aiya! 



On another topic altogether



Regulations for hotels in China have changed significantly since 2017, when I could walk into almost any hotel and stay a night.  Now the majority do not accept laowai.  Be careful booking online, make sure there is no hidden clause 'only accept Chinese mainlanders'.  I made that mistake in Tai'an and being rejected needed assistance finding receptive hotels.  The Han Ting 汉庭 chain do, the Seven Days 七天 does not, for example.


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#2019-02-28 12:05:48 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I concur with you about the difficulty in paying a restaurant bill, even if it is the 3rd or 4th time you've dined with the same person or persons. Eventually I would make a point of excusing myself to go to the washroom immediately after the last item ordered was delivered to the table, and then go to the waiter/waitress and/or the person at the till, and insist on paying before my Chinese companions could possibly intercede.

On the second topic I am saddened to hear that China has reverted to the same situation that existed in many places when I first arrived there in 2002. That being the refusal of many hotels to accept foreign guests. I have been hearing and reading that westerners are not so welcome in China these days, and that is pretty powerful evidence that it's true.

I hope it is a temporary feature of life in China now and not a long term one.

#2019-02-28 15:14:48 by annielaw2017 @annielaw2017

"I have been hearing and reading that westerners are not so welcome in China these days, and that is pretty powerful evidence that it's true."

That's not true, John. There is a regulation in China that only 3 star and above hotels can receive foreign customers. 

#2019-02-28 20:50:12 by oldghost @oldghost

Wow! you did it! Here I am after all this time.  Official welcome is indeed receding as you will see from the article of bing.com being blocked, but welcome by people truly seems to be a sacred thing in China, overwhelming - and I still fancy that lovely friendly waitress.  Where do you go to a restaurant, order porridge, and end up being invited home to meet the family?

#2019-02-28 21:25:58 by oldghost @oldghost

but it is 老鬼 不是老贵! 哈哈!

#2019-02-28 21:51:16 by oldghost @oldghost

@老鬼 by way of explanation the three photos are more or less in reverse chronological order - I arrived in cloudy Haikou by direct flight from Sydney and OMG what do I see when hunting around for a sim card - statues of kangaroos!  The street photo was taken by a European coffee shop owner - coffee not bad at all but pretty expensive at 100+rmb for cake and coffee - on the outskirts of Dali Gu Cheng, Dali Ancient town.   Much like any other Gu Cheng although Lijiang is better.  The third photo of course is from January in Ha'erbin ice city.  Dali was the only place I encountered sunshine.

#2019-03-01 02:03:02 by newbeginning @newbeginning

Interesting that the Chinese government s once again spearheading racism against non Chinese, talking about going backwards. Sad to hear. Hopefully they smarten up.

I too find Chinese people's generosity very prevelent and at times almost overwhelming, they do not want to lose face in front of a foreigner and the locals in my opinion. 

I remember eating noodles/soup at a small shop on many occasions as it was delicious, the owner and his wife came up to me and the woman I was with and personally thanked me for eating at his shop as he was proud to have a foreigner eating at his shop, his wife also thanked me and shook my hand.

On the high speed train we only could get standing tickets(2.5 hour trip), yet a middleaged couple gave us their seats as they wanted me to be able to sit as I was a guest in their country, they would not take no thankyou for an answer.

I cannot say I have had many negative experiences from locals whilst in China but I was warned about the very professional pickpockets ahead of time. When it comes to lineups us "furwaneers" are no different than the locals so get used to it or know about it ahead of your first trip to China.

Like travelling anywhere in the world, be aware and be awake. Shit can happen quickly!

Positive note: If you have big ears consider yourself lucky........ 

 

NB

 

#2019-03-01 13:00:11 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@annielaw2017 - thanks for that information. It does provide some comfort, but I am not completely put at ease. First, there are several longstanding expats in China who have YouTube Channels about their time in China. One of them in particular has posted a couple of videos in which he discusses his concerns about expats and foreigners not feeling nearly as comfortable as before about their long term prospects of staying in China. I'm not naming this person's name as I don't wish to create prolems for him or for us by doing so.

The other problem with the regulation that you mentioned is that, like Thailand, it suggests that only the well off foreigners are now welcome to travel in China. Since a huge component of foreign tourists to China are young people who backpack their way around and trael on a very restrictive budget. They are unlikely to be able to afford 3 Star hotel rooms.

Finally, who decides whether a hotel is a 3 star hotel or not? And how many hotels in small, rural villages would rate that high. This regulation probably greatly limits foreigners ability to spend time in such communities, but for some  of us those types of visits are the very best of experiences because you get to meet and learn about real people and real lifestyles that are much different and more fascinating than the experience of another night spent in a big city 4 or 5 star hotel.

What are your thoughts on that?  

#2019-03-01 14:08:08 by melcyan @melcyan

@JohnAbbot "Eventually I would make a point of excusing myself to go to the washroom immediately after the last item ordered was delivered to the table, and then go to the waiter/waitress and/or the person at the till, and insist on paying before my Chinese companions could possibly intercede." 

 

Well done John. I have also successfully used this approach in Shanghai.

#2019-03-01 14:21:35 by anonymous19039 @anonymous19039

How Chinese hotels get their star ratings is a mystery to me.  A Beijing 5-star hotel seems to be equivalent to a Shanghainese 4-star hotel. I have stayed one night in a 2-star hotel many years ago. It was not good. My wife is a clean freak. The bathroom was not clean enough for her to take a shower.

#2019-03-01 15:10:54 by oldghost @oldghost

@annielaw and @johnabbot

This regulation must have been implemented between June 2017 and Nov 2018.  In 2017 I could stay at 7 Days Inn (7 天酒店)anywhere, as I did in Suzhou。 Hanting Express chain is no better and I would rate it at 2.5* except for the ghastly fake Hanting Express Xiamen I stayed in and vacated after 2 days.  50 steps to lug the luggage up, no windows, non-smoking rooms with cigarette-burn littered grotty carpets.  My travel budget usually ran to rmb 130-150 (not in Shanghai or Beijing of course) but in provincial places such as ZhouZhuang or even Kunshan 80-120 was readily available; maybe not now... This last trip I always booked online (usually CTRIP) after the Kunming rejection experience.

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