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differrences with Beijing

Friday 29 August, 2008

I found this article by Kathy Bergen of the Chicago Tribune interesting More observations about Beijing Here are a few of my observations how these things are different elsewhere.

SUBWAYS

cool-systems like those in Europe (I’ve traveled in German-speaking countries, Scandinavia, France, Spain, & the UK) & developed Asia (I can vouch for Hong Kong & Singapore) where you can actually plan a trip on a time schedule & it will actually work

uncool-systems where all you can do is pay & then wait/hope for the next train to come & get to your destination on time, without ever knowing if you have a chance or not (Sweet home Chicago)

TAXIS

cool-Mercedes in Germany & big old fashioned taxis in London where drivers actually know the fastest & most direct way to get everywhere (or so it seems)

uncool-drivers who don’t speak the native language well & don’t know 1-way streets which make you end up driving around in circles (Chi-town again)

HOTELS

cool-big fluffy duvets you find in Europe

uncool-bedbugs which infested my bed in a “pension” Lisbon Portugal many years ago the night Oporto beat FC Bayern Muenchen in the European Cup.  After a sleepless night because of beds banging against walls, I woke up with my eyes swollen shut from insect bites.  I took a quick tour of the city that day & hightailed it out of there on the next boat back to the Algarve.

SECURITY

cool-I was actually pulled aside & frisked on an internal European flight from Switzerland to Sweden & treated with the utmost respect & well-informed of what was happening & why

uncool-TSA employees, @ O’Hare at least, are pretty rude & discourteous

(PRESS CENTER) CAFETERIAS

cool-when I lived/worked in Germany, both Deutsche Bank & Siemens had great company-subsidized (i.e. cheap) offerings for lunch, the main meal of the day,  every work day, even with beer for breakfast & lunch

uncool-I haven’t been to a cafeteria here in the States for many years, other than @ a local public school where I volunteer occassionally, & the servers there still seem to slop on the gruel with the same enthusiasm (or lack thereof) they always have

RESTAURANTS

cool-multilingual (OK, English) menus in foreign countries.  Typically you’ll find them in the tourist-frequented areas, but they help out a lot.  We could use them in some ethnic restaurants in Chicago.

uncool-service in German/European restuarants where the servers move @ their own pace regardless of the customer’s schedule.  I speciically remember having dinner in a bier hall in Muenchen before a concert.  We had to beg the waitress to bring us the bill so that we could get to the concert on time.

LAST DANCES

Most world travelers have at least a few stories like these.  1 of my favorites is from the same trip to Portugal when I arrived late at night in Coimbra to see the chapel of bones.  I found a place to stay & sought out something to eat.  I came across a late-night puppet show in the turret of a church into which I subtley barged.  I spent a couple of hours there watching the show, sipping wine, munching on hors’douvres, mingling with other guests, without knowing a word of the language & hence not having a thing to say to anyone.  Regardless, it was a magical wonderful evening, enhanced by the hospitality of my hosts, who were welcoming & hospitable despite the obvious, that I didn’t belong there.

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