Recent chatter on the sinoblogosphere has brought to my attention a rivalry of which I’d previously been unaware. Now living in Shanghai, I am all to familiar with the idea that there are two parts of China, namely Shanghai and then the countryside.
And I also know there’s much talk about whether Beijing or Shanghai is the better city, at least among expats in Shanghai. But what I hadn’t previously had was a sense that there was a rivalry between the waiguoren in the interior and those in the cushy costal towns. Little did I know that the Chengdu/Kunming crowd saw this division.
I’d like to break things down further and introduce a new category of regional laowai. I call them the delta rats, and I proudly consider myself among their ranks. We’re the forgotten few in the lower reaches of the Changjiang. We’re the Zhou-dwellers.
I’ve compiled a short list to help determine if you belong in this group:
- You take it for granted that no one over 50 can speak Mandarin
- You think Xuzhou and Guangzhou are poseurs.
- You think Beijing opera is for suckers. Kunju is where it’s at.
- You think the Grand Canal is just another bridge between you and the local Suguo.
- Anyone from north of the Yangzte might as well be from another planet.
- You don’t flinch at things costing “si si kuai”.
- None of your Chinese friends leave town on Qingming.
- You’ve travelled by bus to Shanghai at least once.
- All the major roads in your town used to be canals.
- You think your town should be called the Venice of the East.
- You’ve been to Wuxi and might even think it’d be a nice place to settle down.
- You can give a cabbie directions without using Mandarin.
- Your town has at least one statue of Xi Shi.
If this list describes you, then take pride, delta rat! Jiangnan thanks you. And next time one of your expat friends tells you how great life is in Beijing, Chengdu, Kunming or Harbin, just smile and nod, confident in knowing the truth: you know the Real China.