The first time Jerry picked up foreign customers, he shocked them with a simple English phrase: “Where to?”
“I couldn’t understand their answer, so they had to gesture like an airplane until I got it,” he said. “Ever since, I’ve been practicing.”
Bouncing along in the back of his taxi, Hangzhou’s only English-speaking taxi driver and winner of the month-long Hangzhou Global Tour took me for a ride. His English is self-taught, improved through taxi rides and personal study.
“Driving’s my father’s business,” the Hangzhou native said. “When he retired, I took over. At first, I thought it was boring. You know, meter up, meter down. Like a robot. When I started the English part of my business, though, my life totally changed.”
Jerry now a has steady business, Hangzhou Taxi, where he shows foreigners around his city, following his motto “Enjoy life, enjoy work.” A taxi driver who’s won parking awards, he puts much thought into his tours, which are all outlined on his website.
“If they’re from Japan or Korea, I might take them to a teahouse. If they’re from Italy, I probably won’t take them to ride a small boat on West Lake. They aren’t so impressed by gondolas. Americans tend to let me plan everything.” Jerry once hosted a wealthy man from the Middle-East who bought many silk dresses and robes and had a private jet.
Sometimes conversations with the guests remain basic, but if the riders touch on a mutual subject, they can talk for hours. For Jerry, this is the best part.
“I once had a good talk on the way to Pudong Airport with a guy who came to visit his Chinese girlfriend,” he said. “We talked a lot about cultural differences in dating. This girl hadn’t taken him to see her family, which I thought meant she wasn’t serious. The ride took three hours to the airport, but it was the first time I thought ‘Why did we have to get to the airport so soon?’”
Jerry’s enthusiasm for his city led to his selection as a Hangzhou ambassador for Hangzhou’s Global Tour. Much in the spirit of his taxi rides, he shared what he felt was the heart of his city.
“To be human is to go out at least once in your life,” he said. “Then you realize that the best place of all is your home. For me, it’s Hangzhou.”
To visit Jerry’s website, go to hangzhoutaxi.com.Categories: Hangzhou Snapshot, Life, Stories