The truth is, this is not the first time I come to China. I have been in China for one month since June 20th. I was at Hangzhou for another summer school program at Zhejiang University to study entrepreneurship in China. But for Beijing, yes it is my very first time.
Once I arrived at Beijing south railway station, I moved to Peking University gate station by metro –kind of subway. It was one of the closest station from the dorm I supposed to live for the next 2 weeks. The very first difficulty I found here is bringing a huge trunk, a heavy one. I had to look for escalator or slope at every stair. Gratefully, I can find them easily –one good thing from Beijing.
The second challenge was getting a cab. I knew everything in China today is already integrated to your phone. I would say people here are not only cashless society, but also digital society. You do everything online, ordering the cab until the payment process. Even street foods payment, they already use Alipay or Wechat Pay. But, you cannot work with those things unless you have bank account. Unfortunately, I didn’t make any Chinese bank account. So yes, it has been very difficult for me living here. Just imagine that you cannot buy or use many public things because you don’t have bank account. However, some of those small stores still accept cash.
The next challenge I have been facing until I write this report is the language barrier. You may have heard that Chinese people don’t talk in English. That is true and it really is problem. Some of them cannot speak English, but some of them simply don’t want to. I know some people here didn’t learn English due to access to education. But the universities students, they must have learnt English. When I was at Zhejiang University, the previous university in which I studied before moved to Tsinghua, the students didn’t reply to my questions. It was really simple thing such as “Would you help me buy this thing? Where is this building? Can I ask you few questions (I had research project back then).” By the way, Zhejiang University is said to be the third best university in China after Peking-U and Tsinghua. Some people say the first place belongs to Tsinghua or Peking-U –depends on the subject, and third places is contested by Zhejiang, Fudan, and Shanghai Jao Tong Uni. My point here is that this is the best 3 universities. Yet the students do not speak up with English. One of my lecturer said that they actually can speak, but they are afraid of making mistakes. They feel insecure if they make mistake in front of foreigner.
I would say it is a real problem a big deal. Because, China is about to be a giant economy. Everyone knows that. Either being producer or targeted market, sooner or later, they will interact with people from all around the world. If the youth and educated people do not speak in global language, it will be such inconvenience for investors and inefficiency for the business activity.
But back to my taxi story, thankfully I met two international students from Malaysia who could speak Chinese –and also had the taxi application. They ordered me a cab and told the taxi driver my destination. So today, here I am, writing this daily report for the individual assignment at my lovely dorm.
Masandi Rachman Rosyid / Industry Frontier / University of Indonesia
This article is part of the personal project of my summer school program at Tsinghua University