I have had some interesting cultural experiences so far in China. The most challenging one was a shopping trip yesterday to a big market area. The market is a building the size of a big department store with 4-5 floors. Each floor is divided up into about 100 small stalls, each with 2-3 sales persons to sell their merchandise. As you walk down the narrow aisles, the clerks call out things such as “Jeans! you need jeans?” and “Mister! Buy scarf for your wife!”
But that’s not all. They also sometimes grab your arm and try to steer you into their stall. Going down a narrow aisle surrounded by these shop keepers is rather like running a gauntlet. One of them even whipped out a measuring tape and started trying to measure my wife for a pair of jeans. Not a good place for anyone who is the least bit claustrophobic.
Today we walked through an up-scale mall. What a contrast! The mall was easily as modern as the best malls in the U.S. It was also probably very pricey, but we didn’t attempt to buy anything there.
The other thing that has struck me again and again is how ancient this city is. As we are driving around we regularly pass by various buildings and structures that are at least 400 years old. Today we saw a part of the old city wall from the time of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Coming from California, I am not used to seeing anything more than 200 years old. Today we also saw the China Ancient Observatory, where astronomical observations were made for 500 years. I can’t describe it properly, but you can read about it here.