Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Beautiful Cars, Terrible Roads

             I have found that while abroad, it is not the huge changes from your home country that take you by surprise, but instead small observances and experiences that may frighten you, but are also incredibly interesting. I believe this is because when you are mentally preparing to travel abroad, you prepare for grand upheavals in daily life, but not for the small things that catch your eye whilst whizzing by. In my case, I found that cars here in Xi’an are very different, but not exceptionally so, instead, it is a topic that constantly fascinates me. Specifically, the one thing that has stood out the most is the makes, models, and years of cars in Xi’an. There are cars everywhere that are simply flashier, from the middle of downtown to a dilapidated alley by the university.
            In the US, the luxuriousness of a parked car depends most often upon its whereabouts. In a lower income neighborhood or region, the cars will often be of common makes and models, and older as well, due to most of the cars being bought and sold used. In contrast, a wealthy neighborhood or business parking lot may contain cars of more varied and rarer makes and models, and are often much newer, owing to cars in such regions and of such owners are commonly bought new. To be frank, I have never seen more expensive, new, luxurious cars in a single area than here in Xi’an. Besides the taxi drivers, buses, and trucks, the majority of cars on the road are new, and from many more uncommon suppliers. Simply walked down a parking lot, in just about any part of town, the listing process goes as such: Mercedes, New Honda, Nice Chinese Car, Range Rover, Porsche, Nice Chinese Car, Jaguar, Acura, and New Toyota. I am just constantly amazed at the display of wealth that the cars signify. However, when I brought up the observation with a professor, I was given quite a plausible reason.

See, here in China, there is very little to invest in. If you wish to buy a bigger and better house, you will most likely be out of the luck. Property is primarily government-owned, and although you may be able to rent a more spacious apartment or house, there is very little housing variety, and such locations are often only available outside the city or are instead kept and not sold. Despite the majority of skyscrapers in the city being apartment buildings, these buildings are built with, foremost, the government’s ideas in mind, therefore all apartments are remarkably similar. Investment itself is also rare, as many Chinese people are not informed of such an opportunity and many more are not given one at all. This culminates in a culture where any disposable income is then spent a new, luxurious car. I have found this to be incredibly interesting, and a small observation that is easy for many to overlook.

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