This is literally a write as you go kind of post! I am currently sitting in a China Eastern plane about to head into Guilin for my 5-day holiday. There is a lot you can ascertain from an airport. You interact with people in high-stress situations and they’re usually exhausted from their grueling shifts. I’ve been to three Chinese airports today and I can’t begin to tell you how shocked I was…
I hate flying but I’m a wonderful passenger; I listen very well and I make no noise because I’m trying to not have a panic attack. When I encountered the first flight attendant I felt… warmth. I had the same experience with the others; incredibly nice throughout the entire flight. Up until now, I’ve been told that Chinese people are usually cold and rude. I know you can’t brush an entire nation with the same brush but I thought I would encounter one or two rude attendants between my three flights, but no – absolutely wonderful.
Arriving in China
Let me just say this, China is rather thorough if you’re coming from another country and super chilled on domestic flights. When I arrived there were just security guards everywhere and you needed to go into all these lines to confirm your reason for entry etc. I was a little overwhelmed and I thought it would be like that for the remaining two airports – thankfully, this wasn’t the case. They were kind throughout their thoroughness and I was so impressed with their English. It doesn’t take much instruction to explain things in an airport because of all the signs, but they took the time to try to talk to me all the same.
Misunderstanding in Qingdao Airport
There is this massive sign called Departures, a bunch of Chinese underneath it and no English translation. I will never hold this against a country where 1-2% of the population speaks English, it’s completely understandable. I hand my ticket over with a ‘am I in the right place’ kinda gesture. It was a young guy with zero English looking petrified at being faced with a foreigner. He panicked and just pointed ahead for me to walk through. I went through two further people who looked a little confused at my ticket but didn’t say anything. Turns out I was in international departures and not domestic. The domestic terminal is hidden under the stairs to the left of Qingdao Airport if you were wondering.
My point is that at no point did I feel like I was being shouted at, they were super helpful and actually acknowledged it was the young dude’s fault. I told them not to worry and that I was all right, so I hope he still has a job! They rectified the mistake so quickly and I was on my merry way.
The views from the airplane
My first sight of China was not a good one. It was concrete as far as the eye could see and the pollution was rife. You couldn’t see a plane in the sky a couple seconds after it took off the visibility was so bad. I don’t know if it was the plane fumes or my heightened awareness, I did not enjoy the air outside Qingdao airport. I felt slightly suffocated. There were a ton of people wearing masks and it seemed like part of the airport staffs uniform. It gave me a glimpse into what life could be like if the pollution spreads at the alarming rate that it is spreading.
With the bad comes the good! Flying into Ningbo was another story altogether because I got to see the mountains and the villages tucked in between them – see pic below. I have seen pictures of them online but it was amazing to see them in person. Or from the plane, at least! The mountains looked fluffy with their trees and the houses were so cramped together. I felt like a kid because my nose was squashed up against the glass.
Interacting with the locals in China
Living in Korea has made me accustomed to being faced with the “oh my fuck it’s a foreigner” face. I really don’t take it personally and I’ve started to feel really bad that I cause them so much panic. I’m in your country and I don’t speak your language – there is no reason to panic, we will get there in the end. And we did! I needed to check to see if my card was working at the airport coffee shop because I didn’t want her to prepare my coffee if I couldn’t pay for it. A little bit of a struggle but we managed to communicate with a few English words. Such a cute interaction that was filled with a lot of giggling – from both of us!
Everyone has been super helpful so far, the immigration counter moved swiftly and the workers stationed around the airport will sometimes ask me “May I help you?” if they see me hovering too long. Not the picture that I had in my mind coming here. This pleasant surprise has made me even more excited for my stay here in China!
I’m still up in the air (literally) about to eat some delicious food on my China Eastern flight. There’s a gentleman next to me and he’s given me the arm-rest – this trip just gets better and better!
Thank you, China for such an awesome start!