The Swiss are known for being as low-key as possible about money. It’s considered extremely offensive to ask how much you earn (whereas in China, it’s part of the small talk for all — locals and expats). In China, people are admired for showing off their money prowess. In Switzerland, people are admired for conformity and integration (or something like that)…
Under Mao, no Chinese had a dream of “striking it rich”. Mao-style communism basically meant that the guy that lived next to you was just as rich / poor as you were, so thefts were very rare. People slept at night with their compound gates unlocked, because they knew that it wasn’t worth all the trouble sneaking an extra pen from the guy next door. A fine back then would have costed you a bike, which back then was as big-ticket an item as a Ferrari in this present day. Under Mao, people were poor, but at least they were more “economically reliable”.
Fast forward to Deng’s reforms. They were needed by all means, but they also meant that people were, basically, showered with cash all of a sudden. Totally unconscious about where that money could be used, most spent it on luxuries instead of storing it away (back then the interest rate for savings was so high that something like CNY 50.— would earn you an interest of CNY 1.02 in just three months’ time or so, if I remembered my passbook records right!). Add increasing deregulation to the mix, and suddenly, you could throw your money anywhere — and as long as you were the first in an up-and-coming industry, you were made a __llionaire overnight.
So why is First Class in China full of Shanxi coal miners (well, that’s what they stereotypically believe to be…) farting and spitting at will? The Chinese nouveau riche have the wealth of a Bill Gates wannabe, but their manners are worlds apart. While their cash may be a fair bit PhD-ish, their manners are still kindergarten-ish. I’m not blindly bashing at random: I have seen my fair share of folks who made it rich — who still managed to keep their amazing habit of farting at will firmly intact. Heaven forbid how many mistresses they have…!
Both “private” people (as in non-gov folks) and “public” people (you know whom!) are candidates for getting it rich. For “private” folks, it’s legal as long as you play by the rules. For “public” folks, if you’re too rich, you get the electric chair! But many “public” folks are more like — To bloody hell with the rules — and they’ve decided to get rich at the expense of the taxpayers. Even folks who’ve made an effort to make China a zippier place to live — like former rail boss Liu Zhijun — got nixed because he helped himself to an excess of public money.
Whilst the rich and the powerful “fight it all out” in the next super big attempt to get as many Bentleys in the car, the rest of us are left wondering just what the heck is up. Worse, education — mannerism — is left in the dark. That stench from First Class is still there because China’s edu system hasn’t, apparently, been too successful in teaching folks (rich and poor) not to fart while on trains (or to play an excess of iFart “tunes”!). China’s edu system needs a major overhaul.
We the Swiss pride ourselves in our neutrality, and I, quite coincidentally as a fellow citizen of this country (turning 721 tomorrow) have the same point of view in other matters, too — especially when it comes to politics and religion; neutrality, but respect without involvements. I have had people from all walks of life — not the least “fortune tellers” and “religious people” — help themselves to their version of a cross-examination of myself — and whatever they say, be it from a superior being or from their own (civilian) two pence — the result is always the same: You should be in the classroom, teaching the kids of tomorrow. That PhD diploma I have should have better things to do than being a makeshift tissue when the house gets flooded in one of these amazingly frequent floods in Beijing these days. I think if I prepared the kids of tomorrow going to New South Wales better for at least what happens after you step off the plane in Sydney Airport, they’ll probably enjoy a smoother trip. And if I continue down this train of thought (operated either by me, CRH or Swiss Federal Railways — I know, odd joke), I think I might just land myself a life in teaching the folks of tomorrow.
Eventually, if one of my future students tweets me back saying The customs officer was so happy that I said Grüezi to him!, I’d be happier than if I just won the aggregate jackpots of the Swiss Lotto, Toto, and Toto-X. (It’s too bad the latter two lotteries went away in 2009…)