The most Incredible People of East Asia

Posted: April 27, 2012 in English, Wanderlust
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Only one month in 4 different countries is definitely not enough to get a very deep insight into each society and to fully understand its people. But even though I could only scratch on the surface of the interesting and often very mysterious cultures of these four East Asian countries I still managed to meet many extraordinary and fascinating people.  Each one of them very different from each other but at the same time they were united by the deep kindness that they showed towards me. In fact I did not only managed to see around 15 of my friends in their own countries but I was also lucky enough to have a home and family to stay with at nearly every place I went. This gave me the possibility to get a deeper insight into the culture, family-life and traditions, which I would never have had as a normal tourist. Instead of following the normal “Lonely Planet” tour route like everybody else, I had local experts that showed me their favourite restaurants, temples and places and introduced me to many new even more interesting people.

My whole journey started in Bangkok, which is like a massive ants nest. People are everywhere: on the pedestrian, the street, the water…just everywhere; and you are in the middle of them, like a little lost bug that doesn’t really belong to the others. What impressed me the most about Bangkok is the ability of the people to communicate with foreigners. Living in Japan, a country with one of the highest educational standards in the World, it can be sometimes very hard, even in Tokyo, to get along without Japanese knowledge. Even though Japanese study a lot of English in school, the majority is incapable of communicate properly in the World language. In Bangkok on the other side people have realised that they can make a lot of money by dealing with foreigners. Many of these  ‘uneducated’  cheap workers in Thailand can therefore speak why much better English than the high paid, well-educated Salary Man in Japan. A fact that was striking me. In Bangkok itself I had probably the deepest conversation with a Tailor from Nepal, who was making a Suit for me. Beside of the fact that he made an excellent suit it was also interesting to hear his reasons for coming to Thailand and to see his passion for Bollywood movies.

Taiwan was in a strong contrast to Bangkok. People were following more rules and life seemed to be less chaotic. Many people, especially in my age, could speak perfect English. I had the huge luck to stay with a friend from University who turned out to be the perfect host. She managed to show me the best places in Taiwan and I met her whole family, including Grandparents. Her family had even a little internal competition of who could cook the best food for me: Here the winner was clearly me!

The most interesting and extraordinary people I met in Korea. I had hours long conversations with the Korean mother of my friend without being able to communicate in the same language, luckily my friend was a genius in simultaneous translation. I also drank tea together with one of the most famous Hanji (Korean paper) masters who gave me even a little present. However nothing could prepare me for the people in Seoul. Taxi-drivers cursing over Japanese for 20 minutes in the Cap, T-shirt sellers that are screaming “I want you, I miss you” after I left their shop, a Bar-tender that starts playing only German songs, beginning with the national anthem, after my friend told him that I am German and my personal highlight: a conversation with my first Korean Mormon. His Base-cap with the big letters “S-E-X” should have given me a clue about the kind of conversation that was following. After starting with “It is very easy to make love to a beautiful women in Sweden” (that was in the National Museum where I was surrounded by school kids ) he gave me a very serious look and asked: “Can I ask you frankly how many women have you experienced in your live”…And my alarm bells were ringing.

After all this Korean madness, I went to Hong Kong and Macau. The people here are always in hurry. Nobody has time for anything. Once I was only halfway through my lunch, when the waitress already tried to kick us out. Surprisingly not many people could speak as good English as I expected it. People in Hong Kong tend to be also very unfriendly because of the lack of time, while people in Macau are way much more relaxed and friendly. Very fascinating for me was the tradition that people, eating  in restaurants, would always wash their own dishes with tea or hot water before eating from them. All in all, I made many new friends and got to know to very kind families in both cities.

The variety and the amount of people I have met during my little Asian trip was amazing. They truly made my stay enjoyable and gave me an incredible insight into their own countries for which I am deeply thankful!

(If you want to read more about the cities I have been to click here)


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