02/1/17

Two Sides to Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Lanterns

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China and an exciting time. Almost everyone gets a holiday, go back home and spend quality time with family and friends. This was my 8th New Year in China and I could write two very different posts about it, but instead I decided to compare the both sides in one post.

Worshipping gods and ancestors

Lovely Chinese New Year With Family

Spring Festival is an important time to spend with family and honor the ancestors as well. Offerings will be given to ancestors and then burned so they can enjoy them, dinner and special dishes are made for the family members to enjoy together. During this week-long holiday we have had many lunches and dinners with my husband’s family, relatives and family friends.

Speaking of family, this week was the first time after our daughter was born that me and my husband had a week-long holiday together at home. We took Anna out to parks, met with friends and even to a new horse stable that have opened near our home. It’s been a valuable time to spend with our daughter.

This holiday I’ve really enjoyed spending time with our family, going out to meet friends, eating good food and getting to relax with a movie.

Chinese New Year Firecrackers

Spring Festival of Obligations and Noise Pollution

One of the reasons my husband isn’t a big fan of Spring Festival are the countless obligations that come with it. You need to meet with lots of distant relatives and family friends you might not enjoy spending time with. You need to prepare lots of red envelopes with cash which creates a financial burden. And if you want to escape it all and go traveling, prices go up to double or triple during the Chinese New Year.

For us with a toddler at home, the fireworks and firecrackers brought up another set of problems. Getting our 1-year-old daughter to sleep was challenging with the loud noises all over the village. During the day she was also easily scared of the loud sudden noises. The firecrackers also severely affects the quality of air during the holiday.


Next year is going to be a new tradition for us as we are planning to travel out of China during the Spring Festival!

01/23/17

5 differences in driving a car in China and Finland

It’s now been over three months since I got my Chinese drivers license. Besides that small little accident back then, driving in Guangzhou has been much easier than I ever thought. Today I’m listing the top 5 differences in driving in China and Finland.

1 Giving way to pedestrians

In both Finland and China it’s a legal responsiblity of a driver to give way to pedestrians, but I rarely see it happen in Guangzhou. Why? One reason could be the huge population, meaning if you give way to one, you end up stuck in the crossroad for a long time before everyone has passed. Luckily most intersections in the city center has traffic lights to solve the problem. But as a pedestrian still be careful of those right turning cars even though you have a green light to cross the road!

2 Making U-turns

I rarely remember making a U-turn in Finland, but in a huge city like Guangzhou you can’t avoid them! Interesting detail is, that the U-turn lane can be anywhere: on the left, on the right, under the bridge or over the tunnel. So keep an eye on the road signs.

3 Changing lanes

One of the biggest challenges in driving here is the need to change lanes all the time, or even if you stick to your lane, others will be passing you all the time. In Finland you are supposed to drive on the right lane and only use the left lane to ovetake someone. In many cities, there are only one lane going in each direction. But Guangzhou is gigantic compared Helsinki and choosing the right lane in time is crucial. I’m often forced to go the wrong way just because I didn’t change to the correct lane in time. Baidu Map Navigator is my best friend here!

4 Being more aggressive

Because of the huge amount of cars on the road, there are more aggressive drivers as well who are unwilling to give way or don’t care about traffic violations. Everytime I drive here, I see cars changing lanes without signaling, excessive speeding, dangerous overtaking just to mention a few.

5 Lack of using seatbelts and child car seats

The awareness in road safety is increasing in China, but unfortunately it still has a lot to improve. My husband’s family and relatives have been surprised of our rule of not to drive even an inch if someone is without a seatbelt. Kids and babies are being hold in the backseat and sometimes their heads can be seen peeking out the windows. Guangzhou is already paying attention to educating the citizens by short movies in public transport, but I’m not sure how many are paying attention to them.


But even though driving in General is more dangerous in Guangzhou than in Finland, I rarely see any major accidents. Somehow the cars flow on the roads in a crazy manner, but mostly still out of collision distance.

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.