Monday, December 26th, 2011...3:05 am
Live from Beijing
First, a shout-out to the ILR International Experience Grant which gave me the opportunity to travel to Beijing this winter break. Without it, I would not be able to conduct research for my thesis on a recent labor law in China. Thanks for the support!
So some thoughts on being in Beijing (I was here very briefly last year during my internship in the south, but I haven’t in recent memory experienced Beijing winters).
- Every time I cross a street, the thoughts going through my head are, “AHHH! AHHH! AHHH! AHHH! AHHH! GONNA DIE! OMG THAT CAR IS HEADED STRAIGHT FOR ME! AHHH!” The concept of following traffic signals doesn’t quite exist and while I’m sure there had been major improvements in driving etiquettes since the Olympics, I still fear for my life every time I step off the curb. I devised a way to overcome this fear: cross streets WITH a group of people, even if it means marching when the light clearly tells you to stand still.
- People are SO friendly here! We all know that cultural stereotype that a certain portion of Asians are aloof and quiet (a stereotype I despise). However, as somewhat of a wild generalization, the Beijingers I met are super chatty, friendly, and helpful. Case in point – My airport shuttle dumped me at a random curb on the Third Ring Road (basically a highway that circles the core of the city) and sped off. Completely disoriented, I tried to hail a cab for a good five minutes until a stranger came by and told me that cabs won’t stop here and I should take an overpass to the side streets. I also noticed that people will strike up conversations at bus stations or in the subway, which is something that rarely happens in New York.
- The academic community here, for labor relations at least, seems to be very tight-knit and well-connected. I was meeting with a professor at Renmin University and after she found out what I wanted, she shot off phone calls to execs at the national union and the legislative branch of the government to try to set up meetings for me. I sat there, completely stunned.
- Lattes at Starbucks cost upwards of USD$5.00. Converted back to RMB, that can buy you two hearty meals at a local eatery. The crowd at Starbucks here is also a bit different – yuppies or older business folks instead of the throngs of students back in the States. I totally admire the baristas who can take complicated orders in ENGLISH (the equivalent would be expecting baristas to comply if you walked into any Starbucks in the U.S. and said your skinny-non-fat-no-foam-double-shot-expresso in Spanish)
- The Cornell name carries a good deal of value here. Yes, I have been cornered by education-obsessed Asian parents because they found out that I go to an Ivy League school. It does play to my advantages when the name of my alma mater will open doors for me and grant me meetings I would have never gotten otherwise.
More updates to come! Hope everyone had a great Christmas (they don’t really celebrate it in the part of Beijing I’m staying in, sadly)!