We’ve been here for seven years. Kind of amazing when you think about it. Obama has almost completed two terms, and entire social trends have come and gone without my noticing. But a lot of things have changed here, too.
Smart phones are everywhere and almost everyone has one. Just like everywhere in the world, you see people hunched over their devices chatting, or surfing, or doing whatever. Whatever.
Traffic has gotten much worse, but drivers are a little less bad. A few years back the head of the DMV here was busted. In order to get a driver’s license you had to pay him an extra stipend. In return, the driver’s test consisted of little more that fogging a mirror with your breath. Drivers have to take a fairly rigorous test now so the competence level has risen a bit. Don’t worry, they still suck, just less so.
Gas powered motorbikes have been replaced with electric ones, and there are a lot more of these, too. The three wheeled “san mou” taxis are gone, outlawed, banished to smaller cities. I miss those; they were an excellent alternative to taxis and buses.
We have Uber now, or a Chinese version of it. It’s very convenient, especially during the late afternoon rush hour, since that’s the time that the taxi company changes to the evening shift. The busiest time of the day, and they are completely absent. I never could understand the reasoning behind that. An English friend of mine, who has been doing business here for many years, loves to say that business decisions here are frequently not about making money. There are many other motives that defy logic, and I think this is a pretty good example.
To use the Uber service, you absolutely need a Chinese person to secure the ride. It involves far too much fluency in Chinese writing, geography, speaking, banking, and internet for any occidental to attempt. It has greatly enhanced getting around, though, and it’s great to see the idiot taxi company take a hit. In Ghangzhou, where the taxi drivers are especially larcenous, it’s pretty common to see a lot of empty cabs now.
Internet shopping, which only a couple of years ago was distrusted by all but a few hearty souls, has gone batshit crazy here.Chinese citizens are much more free to travel outside the country now, and speaking of travel, (this is a segue) we are now in Sri Lanka for the Winter Holiday.