I arrived here last October from America to study Chinese and teach English. I am happy to say that for the most part my experiences here in Beijing, China have been truly wonderful and life changing. But there is one thing that constantly confuses me which I am not sure whether the Olympic officials are aware of. I should like to say first of all that these observations come from someone who was once a journalist as well and by no means are they meant to be critical of Beijing, China or the Oympic Committee in any way. If anything I have been truly impressed by the incredible amount of hard work and effort that China has put into the 2008 Olylmpics.
So this is what I am confused about. I see all the time on the news (T.V. and internet) about how much China is trying to make Beijing a place which will welcome "foreigners" who are coming to the Olympics. Unfortunately that has not been my experience. When I first arrived in Beijing I found it often difficult if not impossible to find people who would or could speak to me in English. This happened to me everywhere I went in Beijing. Although I am Chinese-American and people often assumed I spoke Chinese, I would often asked people for help (because at the time I spoke absolutely no Mandarin/Chinese) in English or ask if someone could speak English. The usual response was a "head shaking" no . With little or no effort made by the person I was speaking to try to direct me to someone who could speak English or help me.
Now this is what I think is kind of embarrassing and that the Olympic officials should be aware of. This was the response "BY THE PEOPLE WORKING AT THE SUBWAY STATIONS,THE TICKET AGENTS, AND THE BUS DRIVERS".
I emphasize the above sentence with capital letters because I want you to know that this is still the case. If no one believes me you should try for yourself going to the nearest subway station and speaking only Enlgish to a ticket official and see what happens.
When I first arrived here I was often confused by your subway signs which are difficult to read and understand ( I am speaking about the English signs) . Quite often you do not have "directional arrows" to indicate which way to go. Maybe it's understable to someone who reads Chinese but I cannot read Chinese. To this day I often have difficulty knowing which station I have arrived at when I am on the train because the English names for the stations are small and poorly placed. Combine that with being on a crowded and fast moving train, it would be very difficult to miss your train stop if it were not for the announcements on the train speaker.
But getting back to the lack of English spoken, the thing that what I am dismayed and saddened by the nost is the lack of friendliness and helpfulness by your train officials.
This is not just a once in a ahile occurence. It happens every time I use the subway trains which I use quite often. I am always very dissappointed by the attitudes of the people working at your train stations. It has reached a point where I don't even like asking for help because I am afraid I will get such unfriendly and negative response. Aren't they aware of how important of a link they are between foreigners and their destinations.
Once again please understand that i am not trying to be critical here. I am just a little bit puzzled as to why this is the case. I thought that maybe this was just the case with myself but in talking to other foreigners this seems to be the general case.
Also I find your policeman very unfriendly. On several occasions I have asked for help in the streets with directions and I don't think I have ever had one policeman smile. I have relayed this information by the way to the husband of one of my relatives who is one of the highest ranking police officials in Hong Kong and he was quite surprized by my experiences with Beijing police. My experiences also while registering my residency permit have also always been very unpleasant at the police station. Aren't police suppose to be public officials "helping" people ?
In any case all of the experiences I have relayed here are meant to be observations that I wanted to relay to you and once again I don't mean to be critical of anyone here in anyway. I know both organizations , Police and Public Transit System have very difficult jobs dealing with the public. But I wouldn't have said anything if it weren't for the fact that in a year from now you will have thousands of foreigners visiting your city. Will they have the same experience as me in the short time that they will be here? Remember first impressions are the ones that count the most.
I hope you will take my words and observations into consideration and thankyou for allowing me to express miy viewpoint.
Hello Wes - I don't know if anyone from the Olympic Committee will ever see your msg, but I completely agree with your idea that everyone is an ambassador for their country when confronted with someone who doesn't speak their language. Admittedly, the police are not the friendliest in the US either, and sometimes bus drivers can be surly. But, the average person should make some effort. I know I have. In fact, the few times I've assisted visitors from another country, it's been an interesting and wonderful experience. You have to put down what you are doing, and put some real energy into it, but it can be done despite the language barrier. So, I hope you eventually find someone kind enough to help you when you need it, and I hope Beijing rolls out the red carpet for the visitors who will soon be coming.
Husband, father, farmer, logger, woodcutter, and rancher
Welcome to China~
Chinese are making great effort to let more people to learn and speak English ,but it does spend some time.
And when 2008 comes, there will be lots of volunteers whose English are pretty good exist to help the foreigners. The average people would know the basic English to give a hand to the people from all over the world. We still have one year to prepare.
By the way, share with u a useful website www.foreignerCN.com which makes the foreigners'life easier in China~