A Beijing-ers perspective

Han (not his real name) is a young Beijing man.

"I lived right in the center, about 15 minutes from a government building."

And are you part of the one child policy generation?

He nodded yes. I did a little back story about what his parents do for a living, but this when we decided that we wouldn't use his real name.

Any reason?

"No reason...uhh just in case." he laughed.

Just in Case.

I will see this 'just in case' tendency among people who still want to go back to China.

Han lived exclusively in Beijing before coming directly to the U.S. and studying at Northeastern University for his Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

What's your first memory of the United States?

He thought back to that first landing in JFK airport. "I remember the smell of Bread and Coffee. So now whenever I smell those smells, bread and coffee, I think something back when I first landed."

"Another thing is before I got on the plane, in Beijing, I used the bathroom in the airport and it was quite clean. And then when I landed in Kennedy airport in New York, I also used the bathroom, and it was quite dirty. I thought that this shouldn't be. It should be that Beijing's bathroom is dirty and Kennedy airport's bathroom should be clean. But the truth was reversed."

Donald Trump has been saying much the same thing.

"I connected to Logan and then I took the subway to Ashmont, for the homestay."

What did you think of our Subway

"Actually it is better than Beijing."

I was surprised because I am used to New Yorkers mercilessly railing our red line and I told Han so. And Beijing has the fastest train in the world.

"Well, the thing is, Boston's trains are old. But during the peak time in Beijing, you can't even get on. There are just too many people."

Any other differences?

Well there was a difference in how one should get off the train in Beijing and in Boston.

"I see that in the States, Americans will wait until the train stops, before getting up and going to the door. And some Chinese, they don't and the Americans will tell them, 'Hey you should wait until the train stops moving." Because it is dangerous and they could fall. But when I was in Beijing there were some Americans riding the train and they were standing by the door. The door opened and they didn't get off. The Chinese people will say if you aren't getting off then you shouldn't stand by the door you should go further into the train. But if you are getting off, you have to get up and move to the door, while the train is still moving."

How was your experience in home stay.

"So I think most people who do home stay have some financial difficulty. And we pay the Agency or the school. We don't pay the family directly. So I had a Chinese roommate from He Nan. Actually this is the hometown of Kung Fu, I will write it down for you.. and we were staying with this Jamaican family. Jamaican immigrants, and they had this type of juice or soda. And we really liked it.... so the thing is, the home stay only provides breakfast and dinner, not lunch. And this pineapple soda....we hadn't had it before. Anyway I guess we drank too much because the family told us this and that the drink was only for dinner. So after that we didn't drink it anymore at all. We didn't want them to think we were from some undeveloped country." He laughed.

"We stayed there for three weeks. And then I moved into Harvard Ave. Korea Town. It was an apartment or condo I lived there for 1 year. It was very convenient. There are a lot of Asian Restaurants and also American restaurants. I usually hung out with my Korean friends from Kaplan."

Traffic in Boston vs. Beijing

"Oh here is another thing different about Boston and Beijing. A lot of people complain about Boston traffic. But I think it is way better than Beijing. Drivers... in Boston and say D.C. are the same. If you are crossing the street, they will stop. But New York is like Beijing... they won't stop. One and a half years ago I went back to Beijing and I took a cab and this lady was crossing the street. She held up her hand, like this (palm out motioning stop) you know? And the cab driver said, 'Who do you think you are? The police! Even if you are the police, I won't stop."

Bostonians are going to love that.

"Later I moved onto Huntington Ave. And most of my Classmates were from China. A few were from America and only 3 were from America. And even the Professor was Chinese. I mean Chinese-Chinese. I felt like I was living in China and the Americans were foreigners." he laughed.

"Then when I got my Masters in Political Science, in the class I was the only Chinese Student. Most people were veterans, plder . They were Navy or NIS. They were very busy so we didn't really hang out much."

Anything else strike you about Boston?

"Well one thing is that except for International students, usually when hanging out you see black with black, or white with white. I was a little surprised by this. But only with international students you can see the three groups races, black, white, and asian, hanging out together in one group."

Did you come to Chinatown much?

"In the first two and a half years I came to Chinatown 3 or 4 times a week. Usually with my friends who were 2 whites, 1 Laotian American, Korean American, and other Asian American. After that I didn't come as often but still come."

What about the future?

"I will try to get a H1 Visa so that I can work in the States fro 5 years."

Do you like Boston or Beijing Better.

"That's hard. I have missed a lot of my friends weddings in Beijing. And I am not happy about that. Beijing is my home where a lot of my friends are.  But air pollution is a serious problem. Also, what I hear on the street in Beijing is not Beijing people. There are a lot of people, most people, who are actually from other cities in China. So sometimes I feel like I don't belong to."

What are your thoughts on Chinatown?

"Before I thought Chinatown... like part of China. But actually when I come here.. it is more like American China. Like the food, lifestyle is a little different. Like for me.. I feel like the food is a little bit sweeter in Chinatown instead of being salty."

Which one is better?

I asked this knowing the answer.

"Of course Beijing is better." he laughed.

Which one is cleaner?

"Generally Beijing is cleaner but if you want to talk about some specific streets, they are much dirtier in Beijing than Chinatown."

What do you think about the community?

"Well actually Chinatown, you think it is pretty big but actually it is a very small community. I realized when I went to any meetings about the community, that Chinatown is being led by the older Chinese American people, all the same people. It's really small.

Do you have any stories about hanging out?

"Actually a lot of my friends are Korean, and sometimes I think they like me because I look Korean. But it is a funny thing, because if you go out to a Korean restaurant sometimes people will talk to me in Korean but i don't know what they are saying."

So there is a stereotype about Asians not being able to drink as much, or they get red. I myself get pretty red even though I'm half. Do you have any stories about that?

"Yes. So actually, I have a friend who is Northern Chinese and he can drink a lot. And I asked him how come he can drink so much, and he said he practiced. He told me that in high school, he would drink theis Chinese white wine for breakfast... every morning. I thought this was very strange. ... So one time, I have a Russian friend, Russian American... and they drank together. They started with Red wine I think, French or Italian... I don't remember. And then of course because he is Russian they moved on to Vodka. But my friend knew that my Russian friend thought that he cannot drink, so he said, 'We are going to have Chinese Wine." It was this kind of Chinese alcohol, white wine.. it is something 56 degrees alcohol. So they started drinking this and my Russian American friend had a quarter cup and he had to go outside to the bathroom to throw up.

At the end of the interview we decided that I shouldn't put his real name. But what name should I use.

"How about Han. Because that is the name of the race."