I’ve heard many bad things about Shenzhen. I never wanted to come here in the first place because of what I’ve heard. Now that I’m living in Shenzhen, it does bother me if people repeat those stereotypes unreflectedly and without having lived here for a certain period of time. I think you do have the right to criticise this city if you’ve been living here for a while. But please do not blindly repeat what others have told you without seeing for yourself. Give Shenzhen a chance.
What are some of the stereotypes I’ve heard?
1. There’s a lot of prostitution in SZ
2. There are many pickpockets
3. People only care about money
4. The city has no history, thus it has no soul
1. Yes. You’re probably right. There is a lot of prostitution in Shenzhen (or in Dongguan for that matter, a city bordering Shenzhen and not Shenzhen itself). But that doesn’t mean every Shenzhener likes to seek prostitutes. It doesn’t mean every single guy (as in every single / guy, not every / single guy) you come across in Shenzhen has been to a prostitute. Not at all.
2. I can only speak of my personal experience which is that I never got anything stolen in Shenzhen (knock on wood). I’ve heard that Shenzhen might be more dangerous on its outlying districts, but it seems to be pretty safe in its central districts. Compared to other cities of that size, I really don’t think things get stolen easily. Maybe I was just lucky. But maybe there aren’t as many pickpockets after all (I think the latter is true).
3. Yes. Many people do care about money. Can you honestly say you don’t care about money at all? I don’t think so. I would only believe this if you were living on the street and told me you really do not care about money. Everyone does care about money to a certain degree. Only people who enjoy the luxury of living in a country with a great social security scheme (such as for example Austria), who can count on their government to look after them once they are old or if they are sick can be so free as not to care about money. Maybe you don’t care about LV bags and posh cars, but I’m pretty sure that you do care about money. So maybe people here do care about money, but does that mean that they only want to get rich? Not necessarily. Maybe they have a family to take care of. Maybe they need to make sure their parents who don’t get a pension are taken care of. Maybe someone in their family is sick. Maybe their wife just got a baby. Maybe they need to pay tuition fees for their kids. Maybe they just don’t want to have money worries all of the time and want to make a decent living.
4. Yes, Shenzhen is a new, posh mega city. There are almost no historic sites. Or at least they are getting less and less.
In the area I live, there’s a tiny old temple right next to the street where people burn incense and honour their ancestors. There are quite a few old Cantonese-style buildings that suggest to be much older than this new city. These places aren’t plentiful, but they do exist. Also, you might not be able to find a lot of history in this city, but that doesn’t mean Shenzhen has no soul.
You can do Dim Sum here, a Cantonese-style cultural activity, as I would call it.
There are quite a few art events going on. Shenzhen does have great designers.
Ever been to Shenzhen’s green lung, a big jungle in quite a central area of Shenzhen? If I could choose between New York’s Central Park and this place, I would choose the latter. I’m talking about OCT, Overseas Chinese Town (华侨城, huáqiáochéng). The district is beautiful. It does feel like a real jungle. Ever had a coffee in the jungle? Well, this is the place to go, because there are also quite a few really nice cafès to while away your time (they are located in Shenzhen’s Creative Culture Park, 创意文化园, chuàngyì wénhuà yuán. Don’t forget to take a mosquito repellant with you). Also, if you’re looking for a nearby park in Shenzhen, there’s a huge chance you’ll find one right around the corner no matter where you are in the city. Just saying.
What are some other things I like about Shenzhen?
5. Shenzhen is a very young city. The majority of people living here are around 30 years of age. Shenzhen is not only a young city, it’s also a city that gives young people a chance. If you’re good at something, it doesn’t matter where in China you’ve been born. It doesn’t matter if you have guanxi (connections) to important people or not (or at least it doesn’t matter as much as it would if you were living in your hometown in China).
6. You don’t have to be a local in order to make it in Shenzhen. Since most of the people living in Shenzhen are immigrants from other parts of this country, where you’re from is not as important as in other cities in China. I have heard that people who are not from Beijing or Shanghai have a much harder time making a living in those respective cities.
There are many more reasons why I think that Shenzhen isn’t as bad as its reputation after all. It has the best health insurance scheme you can find in the People’s Republic of China. Cab drivers won’t cheat you for your money. One driver once even wanted to charge us less because it was only a very short distance (we still gave him the full fare). The public transportation system works quite well. The air quality is much better than in Beijing (okay, now that one’s not too hard) and it’s usually also better than in Shanghai.
Feel free to disagree with me and feel free to dislike Shenzhen. I’m just really tired of hearing what a bad city Shenzhen is – especially from people who make these presumptions based on stereotypes they’ve heard from other people or based on presumptions they make after their three-day-visit to Shenzhen.
What do you think about Shenzhen? Do you agree with me or do you think that Shenzhen really is such a bad city to live in? I’d love to hear your take on it.