Guangzhou In A Foreigner’s Eyes 一个老外眼里的广州

Bill Marcus, China, 1995

The Yang Cheng Evening News 
September 20, 1997

Translation by Jiang Yi-feng

Su Shi wrote this in his poetry:  “You couldn’t see the entire outline of Lu Mountain because you are on the mountain.”  Everything is changing everyday including the people around you, the things around you and how the city looks.  But we live in this city and that’s why we couldn’t have a clear and complete perspective of this city. The Guangzhou residents might have a lot of complaints about it. Then for a foreigner who has visited Guangzhou twice, what will he think of this city? 

Guangzhou In A Foreigner’s Eyes

There’s been a great number of changes in Guangzhou these two years. Not only the residents here but also the foreigners who’ve passed by could feel it.

Bill Marcus, 37 years old, used to be journalist in Albany, NY. Now he is a graduate student at New York State University. He visited Guangzhou in 1995 and this July he came again. After going back to the United States, he wrote to the Guangdong Province Travel Bureau an article about what he had seen and felt in Guangzhou. Now let’s get together and feel the changes of Guangzhou in this foreigner’s eyes:

MARCUS: Two years is a short period. Guangzhou’s changes in food,  residency and traffic is amazing. I could never forget its palatable food.  Guangzhou does have the best Chinese and western food among all the Chinese cities. The Chinese food here tastes better than before and even when I missed the cheese and French croissants occasionally, I could buy them easily not far from where I lived. But two years ago, I could only find canned ham and terrible bread.”

JOURNALIST: It’s usually said that “Eat in Guangzhou.” “Eating,” is always what Guangzhouese are proud of. These years, in order to develop Cantonese food, Guangzhou’s Cuisine Department has tried everything such as cooking Chinese food in western ways, making the rough material delicate and mixing the southern and northern flavor. They have also imported a series of new modes. No wonder why Marcus complimented Cantonese food first and couldn’t forget it even when he was back to America.

MARCUS: Now I could use my keys to open the door in the hotel. I still remember that two years ago when I tried to enter my room, I had to yell for the server on another floor. And even when I wanted to go to the toilet, I had to go though this medium, which was really embarrassing. Now not only do customers have more convenience but (the new practice) also shows (the hotel) trusts its guests more in that they allow the customers to let them have a key.

JOURNALIST: The hotel field in Canton does offer better quality service these years. One reason is there is intense competition in this field. They have to treat customers like a god in order to win the market; another reason is that the travel department has changed their old way of paying more attention to hardware construction and neglecting the software construction. Now the department is beginning to evaluate the quality of the hotel by the service it offers. This has encouraged many hotels to exert themselves and raise their quality of service.

MARCUS: I once took the bus and that was a happy experience. The passengers were very polite. I also saw a young man give his seat to a pregnant woman. Compared with two years ago, the traffic in Guangzhou is very good now. Although traffic jams are frequent, traffic lights no longer seem to be viewed as street decorations.

JOURNALIST: Guangzhou residents have fully felt the good of the bus without a conductor. It offers more convenience and nurtures people’s politeness. And as far as the traffic jam is concerned, I think when the subway construction is finished next year, the problem will be solved. In the future if Marcus comes to Guangzhou again, he will surely have deeper feeling about this change.

MARCUS: This time when I went out shopping in Guangzhou, I was very surprised to hear more English in the shops on the streets. Two years ago I didn’t hear anyone speaking English. I couldn’t help buying more from shops where the staff and owners spoke English because this was quite familiar to me and made me feel like being at home.

JOURNALIST: Guangzhou residents’ English has made obvious progress. I think this foreigner’s comment is instructive. This change not only shows the higher education quality of Guangzhou residents but it also reflects the greater exposure of Guangzhou to the world. More and more Cantonese speak fluent English.

MARCUS: But, to be honest, some changes in Guangzhou are hard to accept. The first should be noise which might drive you crazy, even worse than before.  The other day, I couldn’t stand it any more and shouted to a biker who kept on beeping his horn when riding to “turn off your (explicative deleted) horn!” But he didn’t understand and went away. I’m afraid invasive vehicle noise and its constant harassment is my worst memory about Guangzhou.

JOURNALIST:  Exactly. Many Guangzhou residents could feel the same as Marcus feels. Some drivers seem to be attached to making noise because they blow their horns as soon as they start driving their cars.  The related departments have to do something to punish those drivers to return the silence to Guangzhou.

MARCUS: The most revolting thing that happened to me was that I always got the unfair treatment. At the airport, a taxi driver showed his enthusiasm and tried to make me pay 250 RMB for a fare which was only worth 48 RMB. After a while of tao jia huan jia, he decreased the price to 80 RMB reluctantly. And later I found out, taxi cost is based on miles. No ‘tao jia huan jia’ is needed.  This kind of experience undoubtedly has a bad impression on many tourists in Guangzhou including me. I think there should be an English notice in the taxi to show how they bill, the way of paying, customer rights and how to complain. Employing these practices will not only save some money for customers but also give them a good impression of Guangzhou as well. Anyway, foreigners need to know how much a bottle of water and one mile of taxi cost ,too.

JOURNALIST: Marcus is not the only victim. Some Chinese people from other parts of China and even Guangzhou residents have had that experience too. We should treat these drivers as vicious as the mice crossing the street and beat them without mercy.

To us, the changes, whether good or not, that Marcus has mentioned may just be some tiny things around us. But they show the trajectory of Guangzhou’s development and reflect the spirit and morality of Guangzhou residents. We should continue the good changes and rectify the bad changes.

Last but not the least, the journalist found that Bill Marcus once said, “Guangzhou, such a beautiful and fantastic and charming city has the kindest and most friendly residents in China. Any behaviors that might retard its development are shameful. I hope this sentence could be a warning to the people living in Guangzhou.”

Original Chinese text:

羊城晚报
每周焦点
1997年9月20日 星期六 第七版

苏轼有诗:“不是庐山真面目,只缘身在此山中。”身边人,身边事,城市的面貌,每天都在发生变化,但由于我们身在其中,反而不能察观其“真面目”。广州人置身于这个南国大都市中,对城市种种啧有怨言,那么对于两度访问广州的外国人,他的感受又将如何呢?

一个老外眼里的广州

  近两年来,广州发生了很大变化,不仅我们这些身居此地的人感受到,连过客的外国人也有这种切身感觉。
37岁的比尔·马科斯曾是美国纽约州首府奥本尼的记者,现为纽约州立大学的研究生。1995年到过广州,今年七月,他第二次访问广州。回国后,他写了一篇观感给广东省旅游局,反映广州两年来的变化。现在让我们共同感受一下这位老外眼中的广州变化:
“两年时间并不太长,广州在食、住、行等方面的变化却让我感到惊讶、高兴。广州的美食至今令人难忘,无论是中餐还是西餐,广州都是全国最好的。不仅中餐的味道比两年前更为美妙,就是当我偶尔怀念起奶酪和法国面包时,我也可 以在离住处不远的地方买到,不像两 年前,只能找到罐装火腿以及不合口味的面包。”
记者:俗话说;“食在广州”。食,一直是广州人引以为豪的。近年来,广州饮食部门为了使粤菜发扬光大,煞费苦心,中菜西做,粗料精制,北菜南烹,引进开发了一大批新模式,难怪马科斯会首赞粤菜,回国后还念念不忘。
“在宾馆,我终于可以自己拿钥匙开门。记得前两年我想进自己的房间,得声嘶力竭地冲着另一层的服务员‘喂、喂、喂...’喊个不停,就连上洗手间,也要经此‘中介’,让人尴尬万分。如今让客人持有房间钥匙,不仅给予客人更多的方便,同时也体现出对客人的信任。”
记者:广东宾馆酒店业的服务水平近年来确实有了很大提高,原因之一,广东酒店业竞争激烈,谁要想赢得市场,争得客源,就得待客如宾;原因之二,旅游主管部门改变了以往注重硬件建设,忽视软件建设的做法,把服务质量的好坏作为酒店能否上星级的硬指标,促使了众多酒店、宾馆大抓服务质量。
“听广州的朋友说,现在的公共汽车实行无人售票,以前那种你推我挤、争先恐后买票的情景已不复存在。我特意成了一回公共汽车,确实不错,乘客很讲文明,还见到一小伙子让位给一孕妇;与两年前相比,广州的交通也畅通了不少,虽然堵车仍是家常便饭,但路上的交通灯毕竟已不仅仅是城市的装饰品了。”
记者:公交汽车无人售票的好处,广州人是充分感受到了,不但方便,还培养了广东人的文明。至于堵车,我认为,等明年广州地铁完全修通后,肯定可以大为改善,将来,如果马科斯可以再有机会来广州,对此变化肯定会感触更深。
“这次来广州外出购物,我很诧异地在街头、店铺听到了更多的英语,应为两年前我听不到一句英语。我不由自主地会在那些会讲英语的老板那里买很多东西,因为这使我倍感亲切,好像回到了家一样。
记者:广州人外语水平有了很大的提高,我想,这位老外最有发言权了。这种变化不但反映出了广州人的文化素质有了提高,而且还反映出广州的对外开放程度越来越高,越来越多的广东人能操一口流利的英语。
“不过,坦率地说,广州的某些“某些”变化却让人难以接受,首先是足以令人发疯的噪音,比以前有过之而无不及。有一次,我终于忍无可忍地用英语向一名按着刺耳的喇叭呼啸而过的摩托骑士喊:‘把你那该死的喇叭关掉!’可他听不懂,我行我素地扬长而去。我想,汽车喇叭声尖利而又喋喋不休的侵犯,恐怕是我对广州最为不悦的记忆。
记者:确实如此,广州汽车喇叭声成为噪音,不但马科斯有这点感受,很多广州人都有此同感,一些司机对于按喇叭似乎情有独钟,一上路,不管三七二十一先按喇叭,在一些禁鸣路段也喇叭声响个不停。看来,有关部门得拿出些得力的措施,好好整治一下那些有按喇叭癖好的司机,以还羊城一个安宁。
“更让我厌恶的事,我经常受到不公平的待遇。在机场,出租车司机随我表象出‘热忱’,企图要我为48元的车程掏上250元,经过面红脖子粗的讨价还价,他才极不情愿地降到80元,后来我才知道,出租车时按公里收费的,根本不用讨价还价。这无疑是包括我在内的许多游客对广州的第一印象大打折扣。我觉得,出租车上应有英语提示牌,告知顾客收费依据、付款方式、顾客的权利以及如何投诉。这不仅仅是为顾客省几个钱,更重要的是让广州给人留下美好的印象。毕竟,外国人也有必要知道一瓶水、一段车程值多少钱,直到自己什么时候被‘宰’了。”
记者:“宰”客之遇不仅这位老外遇到过,一些来自国内其它地方的人,甚至本地人也遭遇过。对于这些可恶的“宰”客者,我们一定像要对待过街老鼠一样,给予狠狠打击,一遇到即刻向有关部门反映,进行严惩。
比尔·马科斯先生谈到的这些变化无论是好的还是坏的,在我们看来,似乎只是些司空见惯的身边小事,但是正是这些小事展示了广州发展的轨迹,折射出广州人整体的精神风貌和道德水准。对于好的变化,我们一定要继续下去,对于不好的,则要改正。
在观感中,记者发现比尔·马科斯有句耐人深思的话:“广州,这样一座美丽的、充满幻想的魅力之都,拥有我在中国遇到的最善良、最友好的市民,任何阻碍其发展的举动都是可耻的。”但愿,这句话能提醒广州人!