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.

Berlin and Beavercreek

Over the past few weeks in Berlin, I have noticed a number of differences and similarities between Beavercreek, Ohio (the town I grew up in) and Berlin. One of the most striking differences, aside from the native language, between Berlin and Beavercreek is the sheer size of Berlin. Beavercreek, suburb of Dayton, a town with a population less than 150,000 people, has a population of less than 50,000 people. On the other hand, Berlin’s population is estimated to be a little under 3.5 million people. This is a huge difference in the number of people living in the same city/town. The population difference contributes to a difference in the way of life. For example, the modes of transportation between the two cities can be quite different. In Beavercreek, there is no public transportation (aside from schooling buses) and so everyone must either walk or drive their own cars. However, Berlin has an extensive public transportation system that allows those who do not wish to drive or who do not own a car to travel quickly and efficiently. Public transportation is more necessary in Berlin, in part, because of the large population of Berlin would cause numerous extensive traffic jams if everyone in Berlin drove a car everywhere. The demographics of Beavercreek and Berlin are also different. Berlin has a large immigrant population, especially Turkish. Beavercreek, however, has a very small immigrant population, which is mostly Asian. The last difference I shall point out deals with money. In general, most cities in America, including Beavercreek, uses credit cards to purchase almost everything. However, in Berlin, and Germany in general, most of the business transactions are done with cash and a large number of places don’t accept credit cards. This stark difference shows how differently the two cultures view money and the use of it. Additionally, another striking difference is that a glass of water in Beavercreek is free while, in Berlin, I have found that a glass of water can cost between one and three Euros. The same goes with public toilets where they cost money in Europe and are free in America.

Despite numerous differences between Beavercreek and Berlin, some aspects of the cities remind me of the other. The neighborhood that our hotel is in, for example, reminds me of my neighborhood. The calmness of the neighborhood and the gardens are similar to my neighborhood, except there are more single family houses than apartment buildings. On my trip to Dresden, I observed the landscape. My hometown has numerous fields and patches of forests similar to those I saw as I left Berlin by bus. Such basic similarities, as those provided by nature, show how everyone is interconnected, even if they may not realize it.