CITY GUIDE >Highlights
Beijing lags behind in civility
By Wang Hui (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-30 10:37

Last week, I traveled from Beijing to Seoul, capital city of South Korea. At Beijing Capital International Airport, I thought I'd better exchange yuan into US dollars before boarding. A female member of staff at the check-in counter told me I could do it downstairs.

When I went down, "Huobi Duihuan", four big Chinese characters meaning "Currency Exchange", caught my eye immediately.

I went to the "Currency Exchange" agency and converted yuan into dollars without problem. But as I was to leave, a man told me that a bank around the corner could exchange currency without charging a commission.

I then returned to the "Currency Exchange" office and asked for a refund. "No", the female member of staff said coldly.

This was not the only annoying thing to happen to me in the airport. I also bought an IP card which the salesgirl assured could make calls to Beijing from South Korea. Later in my holiday I found out that it could not dial back to Beijing.

Beijing lags behind in civility

Everyone else had no problem with their locally purchased cards, but mine simply refused to work. A friend even joked that I had been cheated in my own country's airport.

These days, increasing numbers of foreign tourists are coming to Beijing and the Beijing Capital International Airport has become a window to the world.

But if a foreigner tried to exchange currency at the "Currency Exchange" agency and his friends later told him he could have found a better rate at a nearby bank, what would he feel?

And if he bought an IP card but could not use it, what would be his memory of Beijing and China? The airport not only needs modern buildings and facilities but also an excellent and honest service.

Not long ago a city's standard rested on its "hard" assets like roads, infrastructure, and so on, but in the 21st century, these factors take a backseat to service, environment and culture. Beijing could learn a lot from its counterparts, such like Seoul.

When I returned to Beijing from Seoul I saw the dirty roads again. Trucks rushed to building sites, generating dust that canvassed the air.

In Seoul, however, the streets are narrow and clean, and there are no dustbins in the street.

A tourist guide explained to me that if there were dustbins in the street, they would soon become full and then spill out onto the road. Not having a dustbin in the street means residents take their rubbish home.

In the heart of the city, wooded parks, crystal clear streams and architectural inspirations coexist side by side.

And by carefully protecting the city's ecological environment and making the city a pleasant place to live, Seoul has improved the quality of its residents.

Never forget that the most important asset of any city is its citizens. During the visit, I saw a woman protest in front of the City Hall of Seoul. No police came to drive her away.

Honesty, cleanliness, and tolerance are absolute necessities for Beijing if it wants to be a true international city.