Guangzhou, a city where people walk fast

I’ve just returned from a month-long trip to China. It was hot and humid (humidity > 90% ) in Guangzhou, where my parents live and where I went for college, and many afternoons, a thunderstorm erupted and swept the city. Every time a lightning bolt struck, my two kids would cheer as they’d rarely experienced thunderstorms.

Air quality in Guangzhou in general is much better than that in Beijing, in part because it’s near the sea and has more rain. Here you seldom see people wear face masks, and during my stay, the sky was blue most of the time. Before the trip, I had been a bit worried about my son’s asthma and had brought a lot of medicine just in case. But he was totally fine throughout our stay, and didn’t complain about his breathing even once.

I noticed this time that people walk really fast in Guangzhou. All over the world, pedestrians are moving faster than before, but it seems to me that people in Guangzhou are even in a greater hurry. According to one study,  Guangzhou is ranked number 4 (Singapore is number 1 while New York number 8) by the speeds at which people walk.

“You have to be ready to catch every possible opportunity,” one of my friends, a Guangzhou resident, replied when I mentioned that people walk fast in Guangzhou. “There’s just too much competition,” he then added. Later, as we were waiting for a ride, he was on the phone constantly, talking or texting, only raising his eyes periodically to see if our ride had arrived.

For the locals, it’s hard not to feel the heat of competition. When I went to college in Guangzhou, the city had about 5 million people. Now, twenty years later, the number has increased to over 14 million, not to mention a huge influx of migrants living and working in Guangzhou, one of the richest cities in China.

Among eight million new graduates in China each year, Guangzhou is high up in the list of where they want to work.

No wonder real estate here is in such high demand. In Tianhe Bei district, where my parents live, you see realtor offices everywhere, sometimes, three or four of them right next to each other. (Pet-related businesses are abundant, too.) If you stop to look at the advertising on the windows, a smiling agent would come out from the office to chat with you. A 1000-square-foot apartment in this area can easily sell for one million US dollars.

But with the average salary being just slightly over one thousand US dollars a month in Guangzhou, you wonder how people can afford to buy real estate here. 

Even if you work multiple jobs, and even if you quicken your pace to a run…

(Featured photo: my son dabbing at Hua Cheng (City Flower) Plaza in Guangzhou.)