China Elevator Stories

“If You Could Choose A City, Which One Would It Be?”

I take a cab to get to my new flat in Shenzhen and chat with the cab driver.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


The cab driver asks me: “Where are you from?”
I reply: “I’m from Austria, how about you?”
He says: “I’m Chinese!”
I answer: “But where are you from in China?”
“Hubei. How old are you? Twenty-something?”
“Yes, I’m 25. How about you?”
“I’m 32.”
“You look younger than that.”

He then goes on: “You must have been to a lot of places in China.”
“I have. I’ve been to Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Chongqing, Changsha, Kunming, and lots of smaller places.”
“For traveling?”
“I studied in Kunming for a year; the other places I went to were for traveling. Which places in China have you been to?”
He says: “I’ve been to Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Shanghai, Xian, Chongqing, …”
“For traveling?”
“No, I’ve been working in all these cities. You know, doing this and that and then leaving for a new place after a year or two.”
“That’s a lot of places to have worked in. Which one did you like the best?”
“Oh, I don’t really know. Chinese cities – when it comes down to it, they are all the same.”

I ask him: “If you could choose only one city, which one would it be?”
“Actually, I’ve heard that Chengdu is a nice city to live in. The pace is much slower than here in Shenzhen. But, you know, a person like me, from Hubei, doesn’t go to a city like Chengdu. We go to bigger cities.”

He then asks: “Which languages do you speak?”
I reply: “Chinese, English, and German.”
He says, in German: “Guten Tag!”
“Oh, where did you learn that?”
“From a German guy.”
“A friend?”
“No, a passenger. I have passengers from all over the world. How do you say thanks in German?”
I tell him: “Danke.”
“Danke. And good-bye? Tschüss?”
“Yes, exactly. Do your foreign passengers usually speak Chinese?”
“Some do, some don’t. Once I had a British passenger. She wasn’t able to speak Mandarin Chinese, but she could converse fluently in Cantonese.”
“That’s amazing. Has she been living in Hongkong before?”
“Yes, she’s been living there for 18 years.”
I ask him: “Do you understand Cantonese?”
He answers: “I do. Don’t you?”
“I don’t, it’s really different from Mandarin!”

As we arrive downstairs from my apartment, he asks me: “All this heavy stuff, will you be able to carry it on your own?”
“Of course, I can take the elevator.”
“Okay. Baibai!”

If you could choose any city in the world to live in, which one would you choose?

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