A Tale of 3 Chinese Drivers – Different Ideologies of Life

For the
last two months, I was on business trips to China three times. My beloved
toddler asked mommy why papa is not home and she miss me. My heart melts. I miss
my family. The schedules for these trips were always full, spanning across China
with journeys on the planes, cars or even boats. Locations can be Beijing,
Tianjin, Qingdao, Yantai, Shanghai, Nantong, Zhangjiagang, Guangzhou etc.
from getting my work done, one other very rewarding experience is to interact
with many people to understand the diverse cultures within China. I am always curious and inquisitive, initiating
conversations with different classes of people I met.  My
colleagues are amazed how I can start a conversation with strangers so comfortably
making them talk non-stop while I try to listen more than talk nowadays.
In this
article, I will write about the tales of three drivers from different parts of
China with different backgrounds, sharing their perspectives of life.   
1) Qingdao Driver – A farmer origin who appreciates life
regular Qingdao driver, Mr. Xue
is 45 years old. To be exact, he is from
Huangdao, about an hour drive from Qingdao. A local bred farmer, Mr. Xue looked
at least ten years elder with skin wrinkled and tanned by the years of harsh
climate in the farmland.
The啤酒街 (Beer Street) in Qingdao city
No posh vehicle, but a posh heart!
Mr. Xue
is my cherry-picked driver (no legal taxi licence) not because he drives a posh
vehicle but because I am impressed by his simple, honest and sincere character.
You know, I am good in assessing people…..LOL! Mr. Xue is a careful driver in
his small, yet clean Chinese-brand Tianjin-made vehicle. He is always happy,
always punctual and never overcharge me. No matter how impromptu I need his chauffeur service, he will try his best to be available.
A farmer turned landlord
In the
late nineties, due to China government’s development of Huangdao, Mr. Xue’s
family inherited farmlands were exchanged for two leasehold flats approx. size
of 80 sqm. In China, 80 sqm flat is actually smaller than Singapore. It includes non-liveable corridor areas shared equally by
households on the same floor. Very often, floor plans can be overstated by
unethical developers too. Each of Mr. Xue’s flats cost ~400-500k CNY today,
according to him.
Out of
the two flats Mr. Xue owns, one is rented out at a rate of 2k CNY a month. As
for income coming from driving, a 15km trip will earn him 25 CNY, while an hour
airport trip (it is actually 2-2.5h for him to and fro) will earn him 250~300 CNY. Bear in mind, it is not easy for him to find clients like me frequently.
Mr. Xue is
married with a housewife and a son in his early 20s. His son graduated
last year, now working in Qingdao city earning 2k plus CNY a month. Both his
parents also stay with them not working.
Thrifty and appreciates life
Mr. Xue’s son mediocre salary, it is barely sufficient for himself. Mr.
Xue told me that he needs to work very hard to earn and save more money to
support his son future hefty marriage and household expenses.  Basically Mr. Xue is main pillar for his family. 
“Do you
think that life in China is tough and are you happy?”
I asked. Mr. Xue told me
that his life growing up as a farmer was much tougher. Hunger is not
unfamiliar then. Rice to fill up the tummy was happiness, meat was luxury. Hence, he is
extremely appreciative of what he has now.n
or Qingdao is under Shandong province. Mr. Xue told me that in general, people
from Qingdao is known to have personalities that are direct, straight forward,
and extremely
好客 , meaning treat visitors with great
2) Guangzhou Driver
– Intelligent but negative about life
stop was Guangzhou, China third largest city after Shanghai and Beijing.
Guangzhou is within Guangdong province. The province is populated with more
than 100 million inhabitants, with
famous cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhuhai etc and is
very near to HongKong. Dialects in Guangzhou include Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew
area – one of the very old streets in Guangzhou
This time, the Driver I spent several hours
with is Mr. Du. He is our company driver of 8 years. In his 40s (he does not
reveal his exact age), Mr. Du is well-groomed and looks much alike his age. Mr.
Du’s capability exceeds that of a driver. Besides driving for the company, he
is also the company’s handyman. Mr. Du is smart, possesses good initiatives,
eloquent, speaks little English, and also a kind person in
nature. Mr. Du, a local in Guangzhou is married with working wife from Guangxi,
and a 3 year old boy. 
Life is so tough in China!
I was
told that standard of living in Guangzhou is high. A typical second or third
tier-house for the average people will cost close to CNY 1 mil. He further
grumbled that average person salary in Guangzhou is approx. CNY5-6k, how to
manage such an expensive house.
“Do you
think that life in China is tough and are you happy?”
I asked. “How to be
Happy…Life is so tough in China! The government is corrupted and highly
– Mr. Du lamented. 
In fact
I was with another driver for an hour, the same negative feedback was conveyed
about Guangzhou and China.
Mr. Du
then complained about the roads in Guangzhou being not well maintained, lights
are dim, cameras installed by the government everywhere, merely to collect
extra revenue and not for safety. For I am a frequent travellers in different parts of China, I thought the roads in Guangzhou are one of the best I seen. Traffic is much better than Qingdao, no nightmares traffic jams in Shanghai and Beijing. 
Moans about China…Full admirations
about Hong Kong and Singapore
most of our conversations, Mr. Du speaks his mind admiring HongKong people’s efficiency
and more cultured manners. He also thinks highly about Singapore, but praises are
targeted to our “capable PAP government.” No mention at all on “capable
Singaporeans?”.  Mr. Du also reckons that
democracy is important which is why he has full support to the HongKong recent “umbrella”
uprising against the government.
For most part of the journeys, there are only
negatives and no positives about his country.
I then asked one question subtly if he
travelled out of Guangzhou before. “Yes. I have been to Shenzhen, Guangxi,
Macau and HK.”
He said.   
3) Zhangjiagang
Driver – A happy and positive driver
is a satellite city of Suzhou city, within Jiangsu province. It is located ~130
km (2 hours drive) from Shanghai. It is also near to Huaxi Village, termed “Number
One Village Under the Sky” driven by former village chief Wu Renbao. Today,
each villager is reported to have a net wealth of at least EUR100k – considered
rich by Chinese standards of villager.
So many people in Shanghai
Always good to do more than what
is required
driver from Zhangjiagang hotel I stayed in (I did not get his name), is a 33
year old man. Spotting with a typical Chinese crew cut hairstyle, he is always smiling
and very talkative. As an employee of the hotel, driving is not his only job. He
is also the purchaser in the hotel.
I then asked “why are you
driving when you are the purchaser?”
He said “no problem, it is always good to
do more, while you still can!”
For most of our chats, he emphasized several
times that money is not important to him and living life happily is far more
Not a rich man, but a happy man
Wait a
minute….you hear that coming from a driver from China? LOL haha… He is not
from Huaxi Village and not a rich man! He is originally from Yangzhou few hours
drive from Zhangjiagang where his wife and kid is located now. 
“Do you
think that life in China is tough and are you happy?”
I asked. “Life is good
nowadays and the Chinese government is capable and doing their best to improve
the lives of the people!” 
– The driver said.
The driver also mentioned that he
does not like to give excessive pressure to his child in education. He wants
his kid to be street smart. And as long as his kid is happy and be a good person
contributing to the society, he is happy. Basically he is not a person with
high expectations of material success.
Chinese New Year – Happy time!
It is
going to be Chinese New Year (a.k.a. Spring Festival) soon, so I asked him how he
is going to spend the holidays. I was told that on the eve, they will have family reunion
dinner. After that, they will gather to guess
春联 Couplet (Chinese
Poetry). When the clock strikes 12 midnight, they will light up fire crackers.
After that everyone will have to
守夜 (meaning stay awake throughout till dawn).
The night will be accompanied by Mahjongs and games of cards. Next morning,
they will then visit their relatives with well wishes of the year.
“It is Happy Time!” The driver exclaimed.
Rolf’s Summary
you have it….three drivers with different perspectives of life.
The 1st
driver is simple and not educated, goes through a tough life growing up but
appreciates what he has today. 
The 2nd
driver is smart, earns more but staying in a stressful big city, he is unhappy
about his life. 
The 3rd
driver is positive and happy-go-lucky, but does not set high expectations in

Given a
choice, which one do you want to be?
When you have seen or been through the worst,
you will appreciate what you have.
When you are positive about life, you will be
happy even if you are not rich.
When you are negative about life, no matter
how rich you are, you will still be unhappy.
Our success is measured by achievements of
what we really want in our life and not by how much we have in comparison to
other people’s lives.
Do not live in the shadows of others!

Rui Yuan Photography 
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10 thoughts on “A Tale of 3 Chinese Drivers – Different Ideologies of Life

  1. Rolf!

    Welcome back and what a post!!!

    You have brilliantly captured the glass half-full and glass half-empty social angst that's quite evident in Singapore too.

    It's a post that blends the experiences of your humble childhood with your current success.

    The result is something real, something personal.

    I like!


    1. Hi SMOL,
      Thanks for commenting. Your compliments too big for me to handle. I am already filled with helium gas.
      Frankly, I must say you are one of my inspirations in my writing. I enjoyed articles you posted. Mine is pretty much what I see and hear on the streets, which I enjoyed sharing.
      Success? Where where where….cannot find leh…. Maybe should say happily contended now…more appropriate!
      I have to agree with you that this sort of social angst is evident now in Singapore.
      Should we focus on if the glass is half full or empty? Hmm..at least we still have a glass to hold to? Maybe we can also focus on how to ensure the glass does not break, and slowly fill it up the way we want it to be?

      Yes, Happy advance CNY….Cheers!

  2. Hi rolf,

    Great post! But hor, you very evil, ask people to choose one of the three… It's hard to choose, and why would I want to live their life lol! I'm very happy with mine and that's all that matters 🙂 I think if you always try to live up to expectations of others, it's hard to be happy. Neither do I want to live the life of others because everyone has their own ups and downs.

    If only we can be kinder to everyone around us because they have their own shit to face, the world will be a better place 😉

    Welcome back and enjoy the company of friends and family 😉

    1. Hi LP,

      You are always so smart. Ok I agree with you to be happy with your life. I will not force you to choose just like someone else…LOL … haha.

      You and SMOL are two bloggers in my list of admirers (I still like women!)

      By the way (sidetrack), I am already reading halfway the book “Fooled by Randomness” – recommended by you. Such a beautiful book. The ideas conveyed is so unique and soulful. It definitely touched me, just like your article also.

    2. Hi rolf,

      Wah, you flatter me too much lah, pai seh pai seh!

      The book is good right? It's one of those books that I will read every now and then. I've probably said this before, nassim taleb is one of the best modern philosophers who also happen to be in finance.

    3. Hi LP,

      🙂 . Nassim Taleb ideology is just so different and insightful. Not pretentious and so him!

      Happy V Day… Enjoy the day with your love ones.

  3. Hi Rolf

    Thanks for this.

    I enjoyed their stories.

    China may apoear they are on the brim of every growth but there are lots of people out there who are equally poor, not educated and are finding life hard to pass by.

    Good to see you back home and im sure your daughter will miss you 🙂

    1. Hi B,

      You are welcome. 🙂
      China is just too big.
      Really glad to back at home. Feels so good.
      Happy V Day to you and your family.

    1. Hi CW,

      At first read, I thought "relative" your are referring to is of "friends, relatives" meaning Money is connected to Happiness.

      Then I realized it is more profound – Einstein theory of relativity!


      It is a mind game?

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