It took me a little over an hour to navigate the subway system and emerge from the underground into Guomao. Guomao is an essential location for my fieldwork as well as home to China’s World Trade Center. I was so happy to see not only the sun (after dodging around what seemed to be thousands of people, trying to read signs with hundreds of unknown characters, and being the subject of many intrigued stares) but I was also greeted in the distance by the CCTV building!
What really made my trip interesting was the fact that, for the first time since I arrived in China, I was approached FOR help. Up until now, I have always been the one asking questions: “Does this have meat in it?” “Which subway line is this?” “How much will this cost?”– the list goes on and on. But as I walked down Donshanlu in Guomao, I was too busy staring at the number of beamers, mercedes, and lamborghinis swerving down the highway to notice a bewildered white man running up to me. He was sweaty and obviously had been power walking (if not running) around in search for something. He blurted out in English “Where’s the Burger King!?!?”
Not only was I surprised that I had been approached but I also hadn’t been spoken to in English by a stranger in what seemed a very long time. I told the man I had no idea and asked him if he spoke any Chinese to which he replied with a furious shake of his head. I proceeded to walk over to a group of Chinese women who were standing close by and asked them if they knew where a Burger King was. They also didn’t know. I relayed the information to the man in English and he ran off.
This made me think.. the Chinese have a stereotype of Americans: extroverted, arrogant, unashamed…after having this sweaty, boisterous, middle-aged man approach me without so much as a “hello” or leave without a “thanks”.. I can understand why we have earned ourselves these characteristics. I’d like to leave this country in a month and a half and have proved them wrong.