Huai’an: a city with more human touch than big cities

After years of living in Nanjing, I get very surprised and even unadaptable to some actions of Huai’an people.

For example, when I went to a toilet in Wanda Plaza yesterday, I was very embarrassed to see an elder female cleaner in it. She smiled very friendly at me, asking me to go upstairs or downstairs for another washroom as she was doing the cleaning, and then she even patted on my back.

I was used to see indifferent cleaners in big cities, who just follow their procedures – putting a warning sign outside the washroom when they are cleaning, and asking if there is anyone in the washroom before they enter. They wouldn’t say an extra word to you, not to mention smiling at you or patting your back.

But if you know one or two grannies from the countryside of Huai’an, you wouldn’t be too surprised at the elder cleaner’s doings. That’s who they are and what they do every day. They are plain and simple.

However, sometimes such plainness and simpleness could cause discomforts. My wife and I went to a pork shop this afternoon to buy some sausages. When talking about what ingredients to add, the boss and his wife said they offer “chicken powder”, which is widely known as unhealthy, so I asked if aginomoto could be added instead and I said I could buy it as they didn’t have aginomoto, but the boss and his wife refused me toughly at first, as if the sausages would be their own foods. This certainly surprised me because I certainly have the right to customize my product.

Later the boss’s wife realized that we were a bit obstinate and she went to a variety shop to buy a bag of aginomoto. But when the boss was putting various ingredients to our pork, he also acted inflexible to our preferences – I really don’t have high hopes in this year’s sausages.

In contrast, when we bought sausages in Nanjing, the boss behaved so professional that we had nothing to oppose or complain, and I believe even we did, he would either persuade us in a polite way or be very flexible to any reasonable requirements.

In general, Huai’an people is undoubtedly more “human” compared to people in metropolis, but they lack professionalism and business sense.

Huai’an shopkeepers, doorkeepers and servers are basically much more willing to talk to you than those in Nanijng, maybe because they don’t have to worry if I’m a outlander and they can speak Huai’an dialect freely and communicate in a Huai’an way – but don’t worry if you are a foreigner, Chinese people are always very warm to foreigners.

Another reason is that they almost all grew up in the countryside and most of them didn’t go through the baptism of living in big cities, so they are not shrewd enough but are honest and easy-going.