"New Home" Top 5 Page for this destination Harbin by John195123

Harbin Travel Guide: 358 reviews and 913 photos

I live here now!

Living in Harbin has taught me a few new things about China in the few months I've been here. First, there are levels to the intensity of smell. Second, smells and textures are quite unique to places. Third, physics does not apply.

1. Smells are inherent to existence. Coming from the west, one isn't as experienced with smells. Sure, we know the smell of dead skunks, the toilet after a hearty meal, and the good smells we don't even think about any more. But in China, or at the very least, Harbin, the intensity of smells seems greatly increased. Many might consider this a bad thing. I admit that certain smells, at their seemingly-increased volatility, are quite foul, but many are quite the harbingers of deliciousness, be they meat cooked on a charcoal grill on the street or a neighbor's weekday fry.

This may sound a bit "flower child" but appreciate smells, even the bad ones.

Riding the buses, driven by evil men with an intent on flinging even wary passengers through the windshield at every chance, is an unique experience. In the west many of us are so used to driving in our own private luxury, or on buses whose drivers look farther ahead than the steering wheel. This helps to see other vehicles and plan for stops, instead of jamming on the breaks when, "out of nowhere" there is a semi we're trying to merge into. (See the physics lesson below).

While the rest of the world crams onto buses, pushing one's way through becomes the norm. Understand this: I have no problem with that.

But some people seem to think that, I, especially, can somehow move into another person. Short physics lesson: two objects cannot occupy the same space. Yet from the seemingly unpleasant tones of some of my fellow bus riders, they seem to think that, again, I, especially, can move in such a way to occupy the same space as another passenger.

I, being western and not used to pushing and shoving my way, do everything I can not to crowd into people or push them out of the way, even when trying to make space for someone trying to get through. Impatience reigns for some, I guess, and their dirty looks do more to make me not want to move for them. Even if they don't say "excuse me" which I don't expect, of course, some manage to pass by, pleasantly shoving their way through. No dirty looks, no seemingly harsh words.

And then again, sometimes buses are empty.


Teaching... not a position I figured I'd be in... ever. But here I am, on the other side of the desk, standing in front, in control, in charge... the one everyone looks to for which enlightened activity comes next. For those who are eager, who understand the benefits of learning the world's current international language of business and travel, it's quite rewarding.

It seems, however, that it is hard to get into college, but easy to graduate, so students aren't that interested in learning. That is unfortunate, especially in learning a language that is very much in demand in the world today. Chinese may be the language of tomorrow, but English seems to be the language of today. Yet they aren't as interested as they should be, as determined by the texting and conversations in class.

Harbin is a City on the Rise

And so is the rest of China. Construction everywhere! It must be said that China is a consumerist nation on the rise. I fear that there may be some elements missing, however. For example, I don't know, and this is my limited knowledge, how much emphasis is given to saving money for the future. Obviously the notion of creating wealth is determinant on saving money, and Chinese today are richer than in years past- my students tell me so as well. So they have the money to spend on generic "western" clothing ( I want to create a brand for China that is called something like, "Big Good Famous Generic Western Brand".)

If it's western, it seems to be popular. That is sad, to me. Sure, it's nice for some people to go anywhere in the world and have the locals speak English. It makes life easier for tourists who don't want to/don't have the time to learn languages/don't even want to bother with a phrasebook. But I don't want to come to China and see everyone wearing western clothes and adopting western culture. I like my culture, but I don't want everyone to be western. It destroys their culture, or at least some part of it. But there really is not stopping this flood. Especially in China where consumerism is revving the economy, businesses boom and people flourish. It's great for China, in many ways. Yes, people have more money. Yes, people have better lives. But what is being lost? What isn't being seen? What is being ignored? I'll go more into this on various pages...

In America (and elsewhere) we have Wal-Mar.t. They sell some stuff that's decent and some stuff that's just junk. Cheap plastics reign supreme there, and here in China as well.

  • Last visit to Harbin: Sep 2007
  • Intro Updated Mar 19, 2008
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Reviews (37)

Comments (6)

  • Mar 21, 2009 at 6:44 AM

    My Portman lunch was terrible. They forgot my main course. When paying they said the POS terminal was broken and when I asked for a tax receipt they said that was a different department. Food was not worth it for the bad service. Try Russia Cafe instead.

  • Cool-123's Profile Photo
    Mar 11, 2009 at 8:43 PM

    Great info and may be see you there in Jul....

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Aug 29, 2008 at 12:10 PM

    was here1997!sounds so long ago&sad to say almost jealous of those who have been back since!but a fantastic trip travelling solo, practicising my mandarin!the sights were stunning,the people were either fantastic or hard work!clever u to have lived there!

  • calcaf38's Profile Photo
    Mar 22, 2008 at 3:29 PM

    Wonderful photos. My fingertips and toes hurt while looking at them, but such wonderful memories... Thank you for alerting me that the 2008 festival photos were ready. 886.

  • moonlighting's Profile Photo
    Mar 19, 2008 at 3:48 AM

    Your reply was long overdue hahaha but thanks! judging from all the photos ive seen in the internet, these year's ice sculptures appear to be the best. or is it due to the fact that you take good photos? :) Harbin still in my mind!

  • janetanne's Profile Photo
    Feb 22, 2008 at 10:00 AM

    Since you have confessed your plans of returning and going to Med School, I totally understand your obsession with the toilets!!!LOL...A Clothing Store I once named here in Greece was, 'No Name, No Fame,' but my friend only used, 'No Name.'

John195123 Used To Live Here!


“Will travel for food!”

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