Burrard Toastmasters
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Club Speeches

The Difference

By Sharon Xu

Every two years, I return to China to visit my parents. Whenever I am there, I always notice some differences, which I would like to share with you. If you have a chance to visit China in the future, hopefully you will not be caught off-guard by these differences.

First difference: The street is a war zone.

In Canada, we are used to being respected by drivers when we cross the road, whether we are at a Stop sign or in the middle of a street. Cars will stop for us and wait until we cross the road safely.

However, the only place in China where you will get the same kind of respect is in your dreams. If you wait at the Zebra Crossing Line and assume cars will stop for you and let you cross the street, I am sorry to say you will be waiting there forever!

What you need to do is try to measure the speed of cars racing toward you as well as guess your maximum running speed. If you are convinced you can get to the other side before the cars get to you, then don't walk but sprint as fast as you can. During your death-defying stunt, not only are you racing against speeding cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and the occasional tank and police car, but you are also competing against other scared pedestrians.

Each time I have successfully crossed the street, I felt like I had won a war. My heart was pounding heavily, and I felt so grateful that I was still alive, until I realized I would probably have to cross the street at least 20 more times that same day.

In the future, if you have a chance to travel to China, it is better if you are accompanied by your Chinese friends or at least have friends currently living in China who should all be experienced and successful street crossers. The other alternative is to have a car, which should prolong your life expectancy.

Second difference: A student has no life.

In China, a student's life can be summed up in three words "Do your homework". As you know, there are over 1.3 billion people in China and this has resulted in very tough competition in many different areas. In Beijing, there were 27,000 job vacancies last year. However, the number of university graduates was double this figure, and then there were people in other Chinese cities who want to move to Beijing.

There is a saying: No good high school, no good university; no good university, no job; no job, no future. In order to ensure that their children go to a good high school, their parents will do all they can, including hiring private tutors and signing their children up for weekend schools. 

Most students start wearing glasses when they are in grade 7 because of the endless homework and extra assignments. The glasses also help them see approaching cars better at street crossings. My nephew is only 13 years old, but he cannot go to sleep until midnight each day because he has to finish his homework. He has no friends, cannot watch TV, and has no time for exercise. The only thing going through his head is "Do your homework", which is the predominant thought going through most Chinese students' minds.

Now I understand why most technical Chinese immigrants like to live in Vancouver, even though their jobs here are not as good as the ones they had in China. Most stay here for their children's sake. In Canada, their children are able to live the kind of life that every child deserves. They can have friends, go to parties, and pursue their hobbies and interests.

I like China. It is where I was born. It is where I have so many memories. But I would prefer to live in a place where there are rules to follow, where crossing the street is not the same as going to war, and where there is less pressure.

The next time you find yourself complaining about the endless rain in Vancouver, pretend you are in a city that is full of dust and dirt, where drivers don't show pedestrians common courtesy, and where a child does not get a chance to enjoy being a child.

You will realize that:

Rain is sweet, and life in Vancouver is beautiful.

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