Berlin and Guang Zhou, China

One similarity between Berlin and my hometown Guangzhou struck me the moment I flew into Berlin, because it was a little unexpected—both cities have numerous orange rooftops that shine in the sun and lighten up the street. Berlin and Guangzhou are both metropolises with expansive city landscapes. Similar to Berlin, but on a smaller scale, Guangzhou’s transportation system has at least five subway lines with numerous bus routes running across the city. The downtown area in Guangzhou is always just as densely populated as the Mitte in Berlin. The huge army of shoppers and tourists on Alexanderplatz during the Father’s Day holiday weekend reminds me of Nan Jing Road—the commercial district in Guangzhou. Similar to Berlin, Guangzhou had been thought as an uncultivated city when compared with cultural centers in the north. Until recent thirty years, Guangzhou developed into a light industrial manufacturing center and exporting harbor. For me, Berlin is a combination of history and modernity, with the Berlin Dom not far away from the New TV Tower. It is the same for Guang Zhou, where the oldest building, Chen Clan Academy, has more than 130 years of history and also a new six-hundred-meter high Canton Tower completed in 2010.

There are definitely several differences between Berlin and Guang Zhou. Berlin is much more diverse, with most of immigrants from Turkey, Romania, Portugal and other EU countries. In Guang Zhou, although we have lots of short-term foreign businessman and visitors, there are not many long-term immigrants. African counties have been one of Guang Zhou’s major exporting destinations. Therefore, we have a district in downtown where African businessmen frequently gather and conduct business. The ethnicity in Guang Zhou, therefore, is not as diverse as that in Berlin. In Guang Zhou, there are mainly two ethnicities, Han and Cantonese, who speak Mandarin and Cantonese, respectively. In terms of city landscape, Berlin encourages free expression of artistic talent; for example, graffiti can be seen everywhere. Guang Zhou, however, promotes clean, order and organized exhibition. Young people’s favorite place in Berlin—Kreuzberg probably would not be as popular in Guang Zhou as it is here in Berlin. Another difference is the trust system. I was very impressed that passengers do not need to swipe in and out of stations. I like this system a lot because it is more convenient, time-saving and stress-free. Berlin’s tradition of lots of holidays and stores closing on Sundays and fairly early on weeknights is totally different from Guang Zhou. At home, I can go to a restaurant for a late night smack at 11pm and I take it for granted. Guang Zhou has the culture of families sitting and chatting in Dian Xin (small traditional Chinese dishes) places after a whole day of work, even sometimes late in night. Stores are open until 10pm and only close for Spring Festival for 2 days though out the entire year. Workers’ strikes do not usually happen in Guang Zhou, unlike here in Berlin where strikes have happened while I was here. Workers are usually not unionized in Guang Zhou.

With these many similarities as well as differences, Berlin and Guang Zhou share many interconnections. One major interconnection is through world trade. German car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes Benz are high popular in my hometown. People consider German cars as safer and more durable than others. Other electronic machineries that Guang Zhou’s factories use are imported from Germany. Sewing machines from Siemens, for example, are extensively used in our local factories that produce clothes and backpacks. Guang Zhou also has its impact on German society. Numerous light industrial goods are manufactured in Guang Zhou, such as clothing from H&M and most of the items in souvenir shops.

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