The TD ran a story today on Chinese students who are spending a month at VCU. The students are all keeping blogs, which are a rich mine for discovering others’ impressions of our city.

VCU has links to all their blogs, but as far as I can tell, there’s no aggregator- which means you have to look through each of them individually. Quite a task as there’s over 50 of them. I used google’s advanced search features to look for things of interest for my blog.

One theme I found repeated by many was shock at our auto-dependency and its effect on our city- a viewpoint I wholeheartedly share. Here’s some excerpts:

America is regarded as a country on wheels. This is a proper statement to describe this country . I have seen various kinds of automobiles parking of driving around the campus during these two days. And there is little people walking on the street even in the day . The whole town appears a little desolate. This is my first deep impression about the traffic condition around VCU campus. My second deep impression is that though there are various cars on road, the drivers almost do not ring the horn—at least I do not hear a ring. It is impossible in China. Maybe this phenomenon is just the symbol of high civilization of USA. And in my opinion , Chinese drivers should learn from America drivers.
Via blog for luy5

Sadly, the VCU area probably has the most pedestrian activity in town.

On our lack of pedestrians and nightlife:

if Shanghai is a sleepless city,Richmond is a sleep city

Richmond in night looks like a different city. full of cars but no person on the street. Its strange to me becoz its totally different from Shanghai. Shanghai is a sleepless city, the activities of night are varous, compare with Shanghai, Richmond is a quiet city, I heard that the population of Richmond is 80 thousand, its not a small figure, so i wondering, where do the risidents go at night in Richmond?? Stay at home, watching TV?
Via blog for zhuangy

Wow, the population figure’s off by about 110,000 and he’s still shocked at our lack of nightlife!

An incredibly insightful commentary on our auto-dependency:

However, not all the things American are good. There are still something I find impressively unbearable. For example, I find the Americans are lavish. They do not know how to save. They do not know how to save the resources and natural energy. Instead, they are pretty good at saving the energy of themselves. Along the American streets, you can never find a single bicycle. Even if you see a bicycle, it is definitely put on the top of the car. People are inclined to drive everywhere. They do not walk or ride. I think it is part of the reason that why most of them are overweight.
Via blog for liz4

And she’s not the only one making the obesity-driving connection:

It’s our free day today. I decided to go to the Carytown again. I have no car and I don’t want to bother those interns. Thus, I have to walk there, on foot! To my surprise, Carytown’s out of the map, maybe ten blocks away for the GRC [Gladding Residence Center- A VCU dorm]. You can seldom see people walking on the street. Almost all of them drive. Finally I got to the Carytown and I found it was not very far. It’s only about 30 minutes walk. I suddenly thought up with a cause why Americans are fat. Perhaps because they drive too much, sit too long. On one hand, they complain about the soaring gas price, on the other hand, they are so dependent to driving. Instead, if they walk to some places. They will both get jogging exercises and save the gas money. It’s really a bargain!
Blog for Zhang Yi

Try telling some Richmonders “it’s only a 30 minute walk” and see what happens!

Despite the critiques of American culture I’ve highlighted here to advance my own purposes- without exception the Chinese students have positively glowing things to say about Richmond and the US.

On what’s good about Richmond:

At the same time, the wonderful scenery of Richmond is really overwhelming.I love the small bars and restaurants along the fancy streets. I was attracted by the rockiness and wildness of James River. And I was deeply in love with the monuments for the soldiers and sailors who died in the civil war. The most terrific part was the visit to the Virginia Capitol. The house was marvelous and the historic presidents’ stories could not be more significant.
Via blog for liz4

And then there’s the just plain fun of discovering cultural differences, such as impressions of our T-shirt slogans:

Yesterday afternoon we went to Carey Town, which was a place full of shops and stores. Maybe because that China has lots of such shops, I didn’t find it much interesting and attractive. I wanted to buy a T-shirt for my cousin, which were very typical American, but I didn’t find any suitable for him. Some of them seemed too aggresive or radical, maybe. For example, one had a line like “I love your girlfriend” sort of things. If my cousin wears something like that and walks on the road in China, everybody else will probably freak out.
Via blog for wuj4

Thanks to all the Chinese students for visiting our city and sharing your impressions with us!