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Sunday, Dec 05, 2021
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China Diary

In Outlook this week, a diary from China.

China Diary
Illustration by Saahil
China Diary
outlookindia.com
2019-07-26T11:19:06+05:30

Looking for a taxi late at night can be a real challenge in China. It gets worse in a place like Guiyang, a southwestern city. This is not because fewer taxis are available. It is simply because it is so hard to make the driver understand where you want to go, unless you speak Mandarin. As English names of every international hotel have a corresponding Chinese name, it gets even tougher. If you say, “Take me to Hyatt Regency”, it will make no sense to the driver unless you tell him in Mandarin. A number of youngsters rush to help. But we are no wiser since none of them speaks English and my Chinese averages around the overdone “Ni Hao!” After a long struggle with the translation app in the smart phone, they finally understand that I need to hail a cab to my hotel. Finally, I find one and on my way. As we reach, the driver tells me in broken English he knows the country I am from. I look at him with hope. He promptly exclaims: USA. For him, as with many in China, an outsider who speaks fluent English must be from America. No matter what you do, it is difficult to get rid of “Uncle Sam” in China.

Multitasking Wallets

There was a time when wallets were an essential part of a man’s everyday accessory. But in China, it is fast becoming irrelevant. Though hard cash has not entirely vanished from the market, the new normal is certainly cashless transactions. From buying an air ticket to booking a table at a restaurant to paying the cab or salaries of employees to children’s school fees, every transaction is being done through the smart phone. “This phone is the only item I need to carry when I step out of the house,” says an Indian executive posted in China. With Big Data applications steadily expanding, “multitasking” is also getting a new meaning. It is now quite possible to turn on the TV, roll up the bedroom curtains, switch on the air conditioner and turn on the water in the coffee machine to boil all at the same time and even as you are still in the car, driving home from work—all by simply pushing the buttons on your mobile phone. I wonder what will the large work force in our country do if most activities are automated.

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