One of the first things that struck me when I came to China for the first time in 2007, is how Westernized it has become-compared to a stereotyped image etched in my media-conditioned mind. The throngs of bicycles we used to identify with the country-for so long closed up to the rest of the world-are now replaced by a multitude of cars, cruising with very few rules or the prerequisite skills by their drivers. On talking to the Chinese I have met, especially in Beijing, I sensed how the possession of cars is closely tied to status (not surprising) but also to a newly-devised set of social rules and standards of car ownership. “BMWs are for women” it was announced to me. “Audis are for governors, politicians and high up business people” *pause* “not stopped by police, can park anywhere”. I attested to that everywhere we went. Audis rule. Mercedes is the most expensive, owned by very rich people. “Best cars are German”, another declaration linking the cars to a country that is regarded as friendly by the Chinese. Japanese cars are okay, but not status-evoking. No one seems to know how to drive too well, and accidents are avoided by the mercy of one very alert God, with cars moving as if in a centrally-controlled synchronicity very much like the car scene in the “Bee Movie”.
Then there are the colors. Oh -My- God (Janice in F.R.I.E.N.D.S style). After decades of wearing the mandatory and oppressive greys and blacks, colors are exploding everywhere making the population victims of a horrendous fashion massacre. Colors no human will think to match are worn with pride and strutted on the streets. And don’t get me started on the colors of the displays for the 60th anniversary celebrations everywhere. “Taste and Chic” did not get a visa to visit yet. How can so many colors be splashed about on public display without a thought given to maybe the possibility of there being a red overkill that could hurt people’s eyesight irreversibly? Especially visitors like me? When does red become and ad nauseam hue forced on everything just because it is associated with luck? I realize I am witnessing an overcompensation brought on by years of dull monotones and rules, but the resulting kaleidoscope is of psychedelic proportions.
Maybe when I visit next (if allowed in the country after posting this) China would have tempered its taste and maybe more fashion and style consultants are hired to lend a hand to good effect.
Right now, I am color-dizzy. Maybe I should lie down. There’s a red couch.