Welcome to part two of my little exploration of how wonderfully luxurious life in Germany can be. Missed part one? Click here to catch up.
6) The Doctors
Ironically, I have been to international hospitals in Nanjing and they are probably better equipped than anything I have ever seen in Europe, even the staff is relatively patient and professional. But for one, in China there is no such thing as a doctor’s practice, doctors are found in hospitals and whenever you need a check-up for even the smallest cold you need to drag yourself to a huge medical complex that makes you feel uncomfortable as you convince yourself that you went in for a slight cough but you will probably walk out with Malaria or some other undesirable disease. That alone is off-putting enough, but there is just something psychologically reassuring about the doctors in one’s own country – be it that many German doctors are trained to explain to you exactly at they are doing when they are poking, pushing and prodding around in or on your body, or that there is just an inherent assumption that German doctors, like their cars, are just way better. Even when I was in the UK I would avoid having to use the run-down NHS service that forced zombie-like doctors to deal with about 500 patients per day, therefore offering about 30 seconds of gruff consultation per patient. Hence, any return visit to Germany tends to now consist of an endless string of visits to the pros in the white coats. Sightseeing? Meeting friends? Heck, no, I’m here for the check-ups, people!
7) The Toilet Paper
It’s amazing! You won’t believe this. In Germany there is toilet paper everywhere – how incredible is that?! No more squatting over the loo while digging through your handbag, which you are probably going to drop into the toilet in a second, to find that you have run out of tissues again. I’ll spare you the details…
And what’s more, you are actually allowed to chuck the paper into the toilet bowl and flush it down. No, it won’t clog up your toilet! It’s just like Qingdao (the only place in China with good plumbing because it was formerly occupied by Germans – all hail German plumbing providers; not so sure that’s really their job title).
The first couple of days back in Germany I kept searching for the bin to dispose of my paper until I noticed I could just drop it down the loo. However, that wasn’t as bad as when I returned to China and for the first week kept automatically dropping the paper into the loo; so far my flat has luckily not been flooded, I sincerely hope it stays that way.
8) The Cleanliness
I could not help but wonder how German streets are kept so clean. There is no dirt anywhere, even when it’s raining. Have you ever tried wearing that brand new pair of fancy shoes to a night out in China when it’s just drizzling outside? I have ruined at least three of my favourite pairs by being stupid enough to step on to the street in anything but wellies (not that I own any, come to think of it). Shoes are the biggest victim of the dirt to be found even in China’s most modern cities. With the poor air quality and what seems an endless string of construction, China is simply a dirty place to be; so much so that I have resorted to purchasing beige-colored footwear exclusively since it is closest to mud-colour and therefore has the least chance of looking any worse once worn outside on an actual street. Yes, I’ve come that far…my environment is dictating my fashion choices. And mud is now a part of my colour palette.
9) The Internet
Especially considering my line of work, i.e. managing websites that are on non-Chinese servers, the internet is probably one of the most serious issues for me at the moment. I almost had a heart attack when I stepped off the plane in Frankfurt and connected to the big I – the speed of the internet nowadays is intoxicating. My two weeks in Europe included an almost daily Facebook and YouTube binging session, before I had to return to the land of VPNs and constant loading.
At a recent event of the European Chamber of Commerce in China the speaker explained that if China opened the internet, they would increase their GDP by 1-2% annually; just like that. As an example, he mentioned a group of cartoonists in Chengdu who are producing world class work, but simply can’t get it outside the country since the internet speed won’t allow transmission of such large files. Ironically, China has some of the best internet technology in the entire world, yet it is placed among the worst countries in terms of internet quality; and I would have to agree.
At times I have spent days just sitting in front of three computers, none of which were able to load sites as simple as Wikipedia or our own websites, which are not of any sensitive nature in any way. And the situation is just getting worse; while I was back in a Germany, my WeChat moments went crazy with grumpy messages that googlemail had now been shut down as well. Google, Facebook and YouTube have been inaccessible for years now.
Of course the immediate conclusion of pessimists is that it is the big dictatorial propaganda office who is trying to keep information from getting in; however it is increasingly evident to me that it just as likely simply another case of Chinese protectionism in terms of the market. In the absence of the aforementioned big American web players, Chinese-grown web services like QQ and WeChat have flourished. When you move to China and start getting into contact with locals you will quickly notice that you won’t get very far with Whatsapp and FB, and that without at least the two Tencent services no one is ever going to talk to you; EVER.
10) The Quiet
The one thing most visitors immediately seem notice when visiting is that China is loud; with so many people and seemingly no reservations about others overhearing even the most private conversation, which I believe stems from the Communist background in which privacy was simply non-existent, the noise level is definitely a few notches above Western countries. Screaming into your phone on the Metro is not considered inappropriate at all, and neither is starting to drill and hammer in a new flat at 6am on a Sunday, while neighbors such as myself are desperately trying to catch up on sleep. Compared to this Germany seems like someone pressed the mute button the day I arrived and simply forgot about it until I got back to the MK. There is almost no noise whatsoever. While for my sleep schedule this has been an absolute blessing, I don’t necessarily enjoy the quiet all the time. But I’m saving that for a later post.
You might be wondering why I didn’t include food on the list. The first thing all returnees In the history of immigration will do is binge eat until they are ready to drop. This is such an obvious item though, I felt it goes without saying and what’s more – once I get started on the food, I won’t stop…so to spare you the agony of reading about every single meal I ate, I shall refrain. But just to give you an idea – here’s an image of all the food I dragged back to China in my suitcase.
Well, this is my list for now. While it is not exhaustive, it is a pretty good overview! But since I think it is important to show both sides, I will be writing about the things that drive me crazy about Germany – which ironically are also some of the things I love most about it.