So are Chinese people polite or not?

Three weeks ago a new Finn arrived to Guangzhou and started his few months in China. He said that it’s nice here because people are so polite and helpful. But I’m guessing that at some point he will get to the bottom of the culture shock and have not so nice things to say about Chinese. At least that’s how it usually happens with newcomers.

I can understand very well why he said that Chinese people are polite. They compliment your Chinese after hearing you say “Ni hao”, everyone wants to be your friend and get to know you.

Are these the same people who don’t bother to open their mouth behind the cash register and throw your change to the counter? Are these the same people who laugh at your bad tones? Or are these the same people who rush to take the last seat on the metro?

Chinese people can be very polite and extremely impolite at the same time. They ask about your private matters from finances to marital status. They will let you know if you are too fat for their clothes. But if you’re lucky, you can be treated to a nice cup of tea at the tea shop while brushing up your Mandarin.

A well known truth comes to my mind:

After spending a week in China, you can write a whole book about the country. After spending a month in China, you can write a really nice magazine article about it. After a few months, a blog post. And after a year, you can’t write anything, because you discover how little you actually know.

I could add that it becomes impossible to answer questions about China with a simple yes or no.

What do you think? Are Chinese people polite?


Learn Chinese pronunciation and pinyin with Pinyin Trainer

(This blog post includes affiliate links.)

Recently I’ve been paying attention to my pronunciation as it’s not as good as it should be. I’ve decided to start from the beginning because I’m not even hearing the tones and pinyin correctly! In order to train my pinyin I tried to find some helpful apps from the App Store.

I found Pinyin Trainer:

Pinyin Trainer is great for beginners who want to learn Chinese pinyin and pronunciation, and also for us intermediate learners who didn’t study properly when it was time. It will test your listening skills and you have to choose the right pinyin or tone. You can listen as many times you like before answering.

You’ll see all your answers on the right and can listen to them again by tapping. Remember to review those you answered incorrectly!

Pinyin Trainer is an simple app that does well what it’s meant to do: train your pinyin.

With the free edition you can answer about 20 questions per day. You can also buy a trainchiense subscription and use the app as much as you like. Because I really want to nail my pronunciation this time around I decided to buy the subscription. I paid 11.84EUR for three months. Besides Pinyin Trainer this  subscription also includes their other apps both for iPhone/iPad and Android. (I’ll review their other apps on a separate blog post.)

You can download this app from the App Store and give it a try for free.


I have decided to write reviews of Chinese learning apps, softwares and websites. I’ll let you know what I have used myself and found useful for my studies. These posts might include affiliate links and all pennies will be used for my tuition fees.

Are you a developer and have a Chinese learning product? If you want me to review it, please contact via email sara(a)sarajaaksola.com. You can even pay me if you want to, but remember that you can only pay for honesty.


Mandarin Monday: 找工作靠什么

For this week’s Mandarin Monday I want to share a recent homework of mine, and essay about why it’s not a good idea to have plastic surgery in order to find a job.










In China I’m both fat and beautiful

As a white female foreigner in China there are two things Chinese people seem to think about me. One of them is that I’m extremely beautiful with my Western look and white skin. Other is that I’m fat because I weight more than 100斤 (50kg).

In China 100 seems to be a magical number for girls and women. It comes up in TV series I watch once in a while. You should absolutely never weight more than 100斤 (50kg). And if you do, well there’s no clothes you can buy, there’s no man who wants you and so on.

Not looking like a 10 year-old school girl makes me huge in China. I might be size M in Finland, but that’s like XXXL in China. When I leave the house I still look good, but then I go outside and suddenly I’m a giant. Not tall and skinny like Russian girls (then why everyone thinks I’m Russian then?), not short and skinny like Chinese girls. In Finland I’m called average, in China it’s fat.

But then again I hear constantly how beautiful I am. People can’t get their eyes off me and I hear “wow”  being whispered (or shouted) every week. People comment how white my skin is (white=beautiful). A classmate’s mom (Vietnamese) told me over and over how beautiful I look when we had dinner with friends.

It’s like Chinese (and other East-Asian) people can’t really decide if I’m more fat or more beautiful. Just to give you a hint, other is a compliment, another one is just asking for trouble.

This blog post was published in 2012, want to read more about my recent life? Check out My Life category.


Welcome back!

Finally we are back to business! My blog had some technical problems these days and unfortunately at the same time my webhosting staff was at the Easter holiday. But now we are back and lets first review what have happened during this week.

I posted my Mandarin Monday video to Youtube:

You can also watch the same video on Youku!

I have painfully realized that my pronunciation and tones need a lot of work. I’ve got great help from more experiences language Chinese learners and already started experimenting with different methods to improve my spoken Chinese. I will write more about this in the future.

Las month I got a lovely award from talesfromhebei:

You can click the award and check out the amazing Tales From Hebei blog!

And finally I have a small poll for all of you. Recently I’ve been writing a lot about learning Chinese because that’s what I’m doing every day as it’s my major. But I would like to know if you would like to have more content about other topics. So please help me and click the topics you would like to read about: