12/30/16

29 years!

My seventh year in China is ending in a few months and the 8th year starting, but before that we have other celebrations too, like my 29th birthday today! I wanted to write a few words to look back the years and growth I’ve been going over while living in China.

I was 22 years when I moved to China, had just gotten out of a long relationship and looking for an adventure. Well, truth to be told, I had left everything back home waiting for me if I decided to go back after my first semester. But I must have known, that the chance of staying longer was there too.

I came to China at a right time, young and free to learn and experience new things. I spent three semesters at the Guangzhou University, studying Chinese, traveling and hanging out with friends. At that point I decided to stay in China long-term and started my bachelor degree at Sun Yat-Sen University.

Undergraduate years were full of fun, friends and I met my husband too. Being a student in China is easy and carefree, but I also found my passion for teaching during the years and applied for the master’s program in teaching Chinese.

Starting masters, getting married and having a baby were all steps into a more grown-up life. It wasn’t about the exciting life in China anymore, but a normal everyday living that goes on no matter where you live. The newness of it all wears off and at this point many move to a new location if they aren’t satisfied of whats left. For me it was time to start working towards my career.

Now at 29 years a new chapter in my life is starting as I am setting up a business and taking my Chinese tutoring to a new level. I’m exciting to see what this year has in store for me and more importantly, what I can make out of it!

Thank you for following me all these years and welcome to the new year!

 

12/23/16

Autumn 2016 in Our Family

Attending events together

Year 2016 has been an exciting year for my family and now just before Christmas it’s a good time to look back this past Autumn. I haven’t written as many personal blog posts recently, so thought it’s about time to write a bit about us.

After we came back from Finland, the first thing was to find an ayi to help take care of our daughter. I wanted to get back to working and Anna was already big enough to stay at home with a nanny. Having a live in ayi haven’t always been easy, but it makes our live so much easier. I also like that Anna can stay at home with her, and not go to kindergarten like she would if we lived in Finland.

After child care was settled, I got to work with full steam. Quite quickly I got over 10 students, most of them studying basics of Mandarin with me. My lessons take me all over Guangzhou every day from Tuesday to Saturday. Soon I started to spend more time commuting than actually teaching and I decided it is the right time to register my business and find an office.

My office is located in central Guangzhou

At the moment I’m in the process of registering the business and I’ll be having my own office starting in February. Hopefully I can spend more time actually teaching Chinese than running or driving around the city. I still have lots of work to do, but I’m really positive I can be successful in my chosen career.

My husband is still working in his friend’s bakery, that they started earlier this year. They have two locations now and they are planning more for next year. In the coming year my husband will be concentrating on setting up a central bakery to provide bread and pastries to their different locations.

Our daughter Anna turned 1-year-old and has learned to walk! She likes talking a lot too, but so far we haven’t been able to understand that she is saying. My in-laws think she can say a few words already, but I’m sad to inform them that those have been just pure luck so far. Bilingual kids often speak a bit later, so I’m not worried.

Now we are getting ready for our second Christmas with Anna. I have invited the in-laws over for dinner and crossing my fingers that all will go well. Like last year, I bought small gifts for everyone, so we should have a nice Christmas atmosphere at home this weekend.

Wishing everyone Happy Holidays!

12/21/16

Choosing a Chinese teacher

Striving to be the best Chinese teacher

Choosing the right Chinese teacher isn’t always easy. 

I recently found an interesting article on the issue on fluentinmandarin.com. They created a checklist of things to look for when looking for a good Chinese teacher.Here is how I’m striving to be the best teacher on their 8 criteria.

1. Somebody who really knows their stuff

I’ve been learning Chinese since 2008, I have the highest certificate in Chinese (for foreigners) which is HSK6 and I have a Master’s Degree in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.

More than that, I’ve made countless of mistakes during the years and learned from them. You don’t need to make the same mistakes.

2. Somebody knows the ‘why’ and can explain things

I’ve learned Chinese from zero as well. I had to go the hard way and memorize characters, pinyin, times, grammar rules and so on.

During my studies I’ve asked countless of “why” questions and still strive to find the answer to any question my students have.

3. Somebody who can engage you and make Chinese interesting

Studying needs to be interesting otherwise students will soon give up. With every student I try to find out what makes them click and use that to motivate them.

Group lessons and great for motivating to study! HSK tests are also good goals and getting that shiny certificate for your wall will make miracles for your confidence.

4. Somebody who can think logically and teach in a structured way

I will teach Chinese from the Western point of view and use teaching methods I would enjoy my self too. The Chinese educational tradition might be too different for us, so I will combine the best of both ways in my classes.

For structure I mostly work with a good textbook or create an outline for course based on research. I did my MA thesis in textbook design.

5. Somebody who can encourage and motivate you (but also give you useful feedback)

Motivating students is one of the biggest challenges in my job, but I have a few aces in my sleeve to get people excited of learning Chinese! 

But good feedback is important as well! I will keep on correcting your biggest mistakes so they won’t hinder your communication.

6. Somebody who is passionate about their subject

I have made Chinese to grow from hobby to major to my career, hard to find anyone more passionate about Mandarin!

I love reading about learning and teaching Mandarin, trying to stay up to date in the newest books and apps.

7. A good Chinese teacher needs to be patient

If you ask my students, they can vouch that patience I have plenty! Slow and steady progress is often much better than trying to rush things without learning them well.

8. Somebody who you get on well with

Well this last one is personal and hard to answer my self. I see me as an easy going person, but I’d rather let you decide it!

So why don’t you meet up with me for a cup of tea (offline in Guangzhou or online on Skype) and find out. You can reach me on the contact form here.

12/21/16

Giving birth in Guangzhou – experiences from 5 hospitals

Being pregnant in a foreign country brings a bit extra stress to an expecting woman, especially when it comes to deciding where to give birth. I interviewed five women who all gave birth in Guangzhou or Foshan to share their experiences.

Choosing the hospital

When it comes to choosing where to give birth, the locations of the hospital is very important. Also recommendations from friends count a lot, as do a visit to the hospital. More about choosing a hospital check my previous post.

It is close to where I live. Several friends gave birth there and recommended it. It also has a good reputation for medical excellence. Jingxi Nanfang Hospital, Guangzhou

It was reasonable and have very good English-speaking doctors. They are very helpful at the hospital in all the sections. Guangzhou women and children hospital

It was next to our home… We heard more good comments than bad, our friends had babies there as well. Mother and child hospital in Tienhe

Good impression of doctors and facilities. Elizabeth

I was looking for a hospital which would let me have a VBAC. I knew a doctor who worked there, and one of my friends had 3 children there. Mother and Children Hospital in Foshan (VIP department)

 

Cost of the delivery

Cost of giving birth can vary a lot from a few thousands to tens of thousands of RMB.

  • Jingxi Nanfang Hospital, Guangzhou: Deposit of 5000RMB, birth is more or less depending on your case [Natural birth]
  • Guangzhou women and children hospital: 15 000RMB [C-section] 
  • Mother and child hospital in Tienhe: 12 000RMB [C-section]
  • Elizabeth: 55 000RMB (paid by insurance) [Natural]
  • Mother and Children Hospital in Foshan (VIP department): 15 000RMB [Natural]

 

Birthing experience

When it comes to being satisfied with the hospital of your choice or not, the birthing experience is high on the list of course. When making your choise, try to gather experiences from many sources to get the full picture. There isn’t a  hospital that would be perfect for everyone. For my own birth experience in Guangzhou, click here.

Very satisfied but I was also very lucky that I was the only one in the delivery room at that time, so I could get up and move around as I wanted and have our doula present.Jingxi Nanfang Hospital, Guangzhou


Yes very much satisfied. I stayed at the hospital for 6 days and it gave me a lot of time to recover from my unplanned c-section. Guangzhou women and children hospital


Well would be nice if they would have some courses for new moms, for example how to prepare breasts for feeding. I felt the information wasn’t enough. We couldn’t even get information on the prices, only when we left the hospital.

I don’t understand till now, why when we would go for check up every time – we would stay with the doctor for 10-15 min, but Chinese would take at least half an hour. And almost every time doctor would mention to me c-section, even I didn’t have any problem (ok I was big but she should feel and by scan should know that my baby’s size is good for natural birth. So I felt that it was a bit planed from doctor already.

I was late 6 days, when I came they told me if you won’t deliver till 7am we will help you. In my country doctors first doing everything to give u a chance to delivery by yourself. Not so much information, just paper singing even when you are on the table with the big pain – a lot of papers.

After our baby was born, they didn’t put my baby on my chest. Which I really would have wanted. But I thank them still cause me and the baby are healthy. I liked there that they had ayis to help out after delivery, you had to pay money for them, but it was worth the money.  Mother and child hospital in Tienhe


Very satisfied with everything. Delivery went very well, they listened to all my wishes, and I was even allowed to give birth in water even if my water had broken (this is normally not allowed in China, but still perfectly safe). Elizabeth


I am very happy to have had a VBAC. The service was great, we had a 24-hour Ayi in our room. My husband was present all along. Nobody ever forced me to have a C-section or a medication, midwives let me try giving birth in different positions. The hospital had some gifts for us, including a photo shoot at a professional photo studio. Mother and Children Hospital in Foshan (VIP department)

 

Advice for others planning to give birth in Guangzhou

The women I interviewed also gave useful advice for all the other women in the same situation.

  • If you don’t speak Chinese, hire a Chinese speaking doula
  • Do research on the doctors who give you check ups, choose the one that fits for your
  • If you want an answer, sometimes you need to push the doctors to give it to you
  • Make sure you and your doctor click
  • Ask lots of questions, anything that comes to your mind
  • Ask if the paperwork can be done beforehand, not when you are pushing your baby out
  • Make sure the doctors and nurses support you
  • Ask how they deal with emergencies
  • Ask what they consider a natural birth is

For more information on being pregnant in China, check my earlier blog posts.

12/16/16

Easy study tips for the holidays

The holiday season is starting, Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year and other festivities are on their way. Many go back home to visit family, other’s travel abroad for an escape holiday trip. No matter how you spend your holidays, studying might be the last thing in your mind. But taking a long break from classes is an easy way to forget some of the vocabulary and phrases you have worked so hard to learn.

Here are some relaxed study tips you can follow to both enjoy the holidays, but also keep on learning Chinese.

Listen to interesting podcasts

While you are laying on the beach in Thailand or on your couch in front of a fireplace, plug-in your earphones and enjoy a short podcast lesson in Chinese. The good thing about podcasts is that they are easy to study, but also a great way to practise your listening skills. You might enjoy these Christmasy podcasts from ChinesePod: Spending Christmas in China and Christmas Dinner. (Affiliate links)

Tips: Listen to one podcast per day, for example before going to bed, in the car or when taking public transport.

Watch movies or video clips

Watching Chinese movies can bring you the language environment while also relaxing on a vacation. If you are inside China, you can find a large variety of movies on Youku.com. For beginners I recommend the original Happy Chinese series that consists of short episodes geared towards foreigners learning Chinese. I used to binge watch it during my first years in China.

Tips: When you aren’t in the mood for real studying, relax with the right language environment and hop on to Youku and its endless options of video entertainment. Perfect for lazy days on the bed.

Chat away on WeChat

WeChat is the hottest and biggest app in China, combining features like WhatsApp, Facebook and many many more. It’s an educational tool as well! I have set up a group for Chinese discussion where you can practise your Mandarin by typing pinyin or characters. You can also send voice messages to practise your spoken skills. The fee is only 100CNY per month and if you want to join us, just send me an email!

Tips: Besides joining my discussion group, you can also follow many other learning resources and Chinese articles on WeChat. Try to chat or read a bit in Chinese every day.


All of us enjoy some time off work and studies, but there are easy ways to keep Chinese in your life even on a vacation. Find the way that suits you the best or try different things according to your mood of the day.