I recently discovered Jenny Zhu’s blog which I find very interesting. Jenny is the face/voice of Chinesepod, the language 2.0 company. I was reading her post on “Language Snobs and Regional Superiority” and thought it brought up a few interesting observations.
Beijing and Shanghai are two of the proudest cities in China. It is not unlike other major cities like New York or Hong Kong where being a native is considered a privilege. While the official language in China is Putongua, native Chinese can tell where someone is from based on their accents. The implications of this is huge – it is much harder for someone from an “inferior” province to make it in Beijing/Shanghai since they’re generally looked down upon. In addition, Jenny pointed out a practical reason for discrimating against non-locals in business dealings – it is more difficult to trust someone who does not have local ties. In other words, it is easier to fraud a stranger than a friend.
There is an excellent film, “Beijing Bicycle“, which touches on how a migrant teenage boy struggles to make it in Beijing. It does a great job depicting the challenges he faces as an outsider.