The Chinese think LA is a small city…

I heard the best quote ever on today’s All Things Considered story on easing travel restrictions for Chinese tourists. Rob Schmitz reported that Chinese tour operator Vincent Bao may need to eliminate some destinations on his itinerary:

The last time he took a Chinese group to downtown LA, for example, Bao says they got off the bus, rolled their eyes, and said it reminded them of any number of small Chinese cities. They then demanded to be taken to Rodeo drive, so they could shop.

You know, before I went to China, I would have thought this was hyperbole — I grew up in a small town in the American Midwest, surrounded by undeveloped fields, so back then it was hard for me to imagine a place like LA being called small and unimpressive. Now that I’ve been around China, however, I’d have to say their assessment of America’s #2 city (by population) is just about right. Interesting thing is, I never really thought about it that way, until I heard this quote; it’s hard to see your own country through another countryman’s eyes. It’s also interesting to see all those dollars spent by Americans in Wal-Mart flow to China and come back home to Rodeo Drive, to be spent on high-end European luxury goods. I guess the weakening US dollar is good for something.

10 Responses to “The Chinese think LA is a small city…”

  1. Tom says:

    LA is very sprawling, and the few square miles of tall buildings in downtown LA isn’t very impressive, so I don’t blame them.

  2. cyphunk says:

    I have to agree… my first and only visit to LA (yet) left me very unimpressed. I think what LA presents as its major attractions is a disservice to itself. I mean would you say these are LA’s major attractions (according to wikitravel): Hollywood Boulevard, The Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood/Highland plaza, The Wax Museum, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. I saw all that, and then desperately walked around for another few hours looking for something cultural. LA was sad and for me it’s the poster picture for why car-based societies should be avoided. Ahem… rant over.

  3. bunnie says:

    Tom — actually, a lot of the Chinese cities are also very sprawling…except their version of sprawl replaces 2-story condos with row after row of 30-story high rises, and then factories shoulder to shoulder for kilometers around…

    If there is one thing I wish LA had that most other big cities have, it is a usable mass-transit system…like, one that actually has a stop in the airport terminal, for example!

  4. A Chinese guy says:

    Haha…U r right, There r so many big cities in China such as Beijing Shanghai Guangzhou… Do u know,30 Million people lived in Beijing…

  5. grey says:

    After going to Taipei, Hong Kong and Dongguan back in February, I totally agree. I came back to San Francisco and thought “wow, how tiny this is, there are hardly any skyscrapers at all!”

    It’s a totally different scale.

  6. Mark says:

    When I returned from my visit to Shanghai last year, when people asked me what it was like, I told them it was like New York, only big. Of course I also had to add that it was like LA, but with smog.

  7. They did not wanted to go to the beach to see all those natural(sillicon?) girls? :p

  8. heather says:

    i remember being brought to the “countryside” of taiwan- and looking out from a mountain, and seeing the vast expanse of very densely populated multi-story suburb extending to the sea… and i stood in awe of what “country side” meant. every bit of green had rice or something growing on it. no space wasted.

  9. 上善若水 says:

    香格里拉很美 在中国的云南 不知你说的是不是她,

  10. It not just the scale but the share pace of growth, Weihai a good example which up till the turn of the Century was a small port come rural tourist town has absorbed it surrounding neighbours sprouted high rises and industrial parks and shows no signs of slowing down will no doubt give LA a run for its money a few years down the line as it Joins the ranks of China’s 300 odd Major City’s.