I had a great time in Guangzhou with Winnie visiting her family. I ate a lot, shopped and slept a lot — most of all I learned a lot about Cantonese culture that I didn’t know before. Here are some things I learned about life in what I call the Cantonese Administrative Region or the CAR.
- The CAR doesn’t look towards Beijing for direction instead it looks south to Hong Kong: You’d think that this is pretty obvious and I had a suspicion that it might be the case last time I was there. However, last time I was there I stayed in a hotel so my interaction around aspects of daily life such as watching TV or eating a regular meal was limited. This time I stayed in Winnie’s parents’ home so I was able to watch TV with them and eat regular meals. I noticed that her family only watched Cantonese-language channels from either HK or Guangzhou. They also speak fluent Mandarin, but they find the Cantonese-language programming much more interesting. I have to say that I agree the programs were much more creative than the state-run CCTV channels. I also noticed that when the government wanted to thank people for their patience during the recent weather problems, they chose to cut into the news broadcasts on the HK channels and not on the Mandarin-language stations.
- They may speak the same language but the priorities of HK and Guangzhou are sometimes miles apart: One of the biggest things that I noticed while watching TV in Guangzhou is that the Guangzhou stations focused on the snow storm and its effect on the city, which was a major one. That makes sense in a way, it was a major event for the country with significant local effects. What’s surprising is the event also had a major effect on HK as well but instead they decided to focus on the Edison Chen sex scandal on the front page of all its major newspapers (Coverage from Shanghaiist and the event’s Wikipedia entry can be found here and here; A comparison of the front pages of GZ and HK newspapers is here; Fallout from the way the HK Police handled the event here). I can see the reason why they cover the event — it’s local and sex sells — but it disgusts me that the only place with a truly free press in China resorts to using that press as a platform for tabloid media.
- If you’re on a crowded bus in Guangzhou and the driver takes a short-cut everybody will be pissed even if they’re not missing their stop: This happened to us on the Lunar New Year’s Eve. I was happy about it cause the road was jammed but almost everyone on the bus was complaining. I could see it as a problem but since nobody missed their stop what’s there to whine about?
- Great food and amazing service: I’ve mentioned this before but I need to say it again: Guangzhou has amazing food and the service people are some of the best in China. That just made me fall in love with the region even more.
So those are my thoughts. I can’t wait to go back again.