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China, Russia and Canada: What's the difference?

I like listening to the squeaking of squirrels in Point Pleasant Park, I like watching seagulls playing in the water on the seaside and I also like the pigeons strolling on the sidewalk in such harmony with human beings. But what I like most about the city is the politeness and friendliness of people in Halifax.

I was born in Beijing, a city where two decades ago the sky was still blue and stars were still visible.
In 2007, I went to Saint Petersburg University in Russia as an exchange student and studied Russian for one year. That was when I started to comprehend the word “Chauvinism” and to experience the cultural and racial difference. In 2014, I came to Halifax, where everything to me is incredibly perfect – refreshing air, harmonious relationships and fantastic city view. I know this is the optimal place I have been seeking for such a long time.
In recent years Beijing has been mentioned in Canadian news, mostly because of its notorious air pollution rather than its booming economics. As a Beijinger, I feel very sad to see people walking on the streets in masks; air cleaner companies, however, are more than thrilled to see their product sales soaring day by day.
Economic development and environmental protection has always been a big contradiction in China. I myself had experienced a nauseating sore throat for years in Beijing. I felt like something was stuck in my throat, but I just couldn’t swallow it. My mom used to accuse me of not dressing warmly enough for the winter and she said the throat pain was a consequence of my stubbornness.
However, two days after I came to Halifax, the soreness just disappeared by itself and has never come back to me until now. It still occurs to me the first thing I did after leaving from the Halifax airport was take a deep breath. The feeling was so good that I felt as if my lungs were being cleansed at that moment!

The Red Square in Moscow. (Photo: Xiang Li)

In Russia, such air pollution doesn’t exist at all. When I first came to Saint Petersburg in 2007, I was totally overwhelmed by the beauty of the picture perfect sky and the exquisite architecture of churches. At one time, I thought that what the real paradise should look like.
However, eventually, I realized that I didn’t fit there. I was not afraid of the blade-like sharp snowflakes of blizzards, neither was I frightened by a group of thieves in front of Winter Palace, who accidentally stole my electronic dictionary, instead of my cell phone, nor by the bully bandits in the subway, who dared to stand beside me after grabbing my digital camera. What chilled me most was the disrespect the minority of Russians threw to us.
It was a Chinese-themed open-air concert. While most of the people were enjoying the traditional Chinese instrument playing, two Russian guys standing at the very rear of the audience suddenly started yelling (in Russian) “Get out from here, go back to China!”
My friend (also Chinese) and I were standing right beside the two hooligans and his abuse was extremely irritating to the ear, though the band performing on the stage might not even hear them. I turned my back and sulked while my friend rushed in front of that giggling Russian guy and snapped out: “if you don’t respect another country’s culture, it only means you disrespect your country’s culture as well!” Then she turned around and strode away, leaving the Russian guy staring into space and me so ashamed of being a coward.
As for Halifax, this is the first and only city in Canada, as well as North America, I have ever visited. I feel that this is the place where I will stay forever.
I like listening to the squeaking of squirrels in Point Pleasant Park, I like watching seagulls playing in the water on the seaside and I also like the pigeons strolling on the sidewalk in such harmony with human beings. But what I like most about the city is the politeness and friendliness of people in Halifax.
Whenever a stranger walking on the street greets me, I feel my whole life is warmed. Occasionally I feel even ashamed of being apologized to when I step on somebody’s foot. Living in such a peaceful place allows me to forget about the how fierce the competition is back in China.
Sometimes I wonder about the things Canadians are not satisfied with, since they have all the perfect material and natural guarantees that people from other counties adore. So one day at a party, I asked one of my Canadian friends: “What still makes you unhappy?”
She paused and said: “I need a boyfriend…”
Well, that is, indeed, a trouble. But being a bachelor never bugged me, or at least, hasn’t come to bug me yet, because I am still appreciating God for pulling me out of air pollution and racial stereotypes. Therefore, finding a partner, hah, is not an emergency for me so far.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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