Guangzhou Meet-Up


It’s time to have the very first Guangzhou Meet-Up! Everyone living or traveling in Guangzhou at the moment can participate in this trip to the Xiaozhou Village. We will have a nice afternoon by relaxing and chatting in a coffee shop, we also have a great chance to walk around the ancient village and take photos.

Time: Sunday 24th March 2pm

Place: Xiaozhou Village main gate (click the map below to see it bigger)


How to get there: Take a bus 45, 252 or 468 to 小洲村 xiao zhou cun bus stop. Easiest way is to hop on to 252 or 468 at Kecun metro station (same side of the road as exit C). The ride will take about 40 minutes. (Click the map below)

If you live on the University Island (also known as University City, HEMC and 大学城) let me know and we can bike there together. The bridge between the University Island and Xiaozhou Village is being renovated so busses or taxis can’t cross it, but bikes can.


Confirmation via email: If you are coming, please send me an email with your name and phone number to sara(a)sarajaaksola.com (change (a) to @ before sending!) I will then send a message back to you so you can contact me if you get lost or are late.

See you on Sunday!


The Art of Being Misunderstood In China

Recently I’ve received lots of interesting comments to my old post In China I’m Both Fat And Beautiful and wanted to answer them in this blog post. Many of the commenters saw me as self-centered person who doesn’t want to adapt to the Chinese way of living. But is this really the case?

When you live in a foreign country you encounter numerous new things. And when the new culture is as different as Chinese culture is from Finnish culture, you can’t just hop in and get used to it right from the start. You need to use all your senses to get into the new culture and way of living.

What you also do, is to spend amazing amount of time pondering over all the new things that happen to you. It’s a mess in your brain! Many of us feel like writing our thoughts down in order to make some sense to it all, and that’s why we write blogs.

There are so many things that I think are weird in China. It’s not good or bad, just different from what I’m used to. I need to talk it through in order to get used to it later on. And by writing this blog I hope to share me ideas so when someone else moves to China for the very first time they have an idea what kind of things they will encounter here so they can get ready before hand. So that they know they aren’t the only one feeling a bit lost in China.

So what kind of comments did I get then?

According to many comments:

  • I don’t want to adapt to life in China
  • I want China to revolve around me and get adapted to my way of living
  • I’m self-centered
  • I don’t respect China or Chinese
  • I have forgotten the saying When in Rome do as the Romans do

There are even more comments on some Chinese discussion forum, but I haven’t checked them all yet.

I haven’t encountered these kinds of comments from other foreigners, only from Chinese. What could be the reason for this?

When I say Chinese people don’t line up, is it an observation or a criticism? When I admit it feels bad to be described as fat does it mean I’m not willing to adapt to Chinese lifestyle?

I do think it’s super super weird that Chinese people pay so much attention to skin colour and like telling each other if they are fatter or slimmer than when they met last time. Why is it so weird? Because I lived 20 years of my life living in a culture were these kinds of things were considered weird or even rude. Is it easy to change your mental thinking of twenty years? No, it absolutely isn’t easy.

For others who are planning to move to China or are living here already. Because of cultural differences you might get misunderstood by others and you also might misunderstand the local people for the same reason. It’s an adventure to move to a new country, a process of highs and lows.

I like to think that there isn’t good or bad when comparing two cultures, there is just different. New new habit, way of thinking or custom might feel weird, but that’s because it’s new to you. After a while you will be able to make better decisions about if you want to make that part of culture your own or not.

So what is my philosophy of living in China? Experience us much as you can. Learn the local language in order to communicate with Chinese people and get deeper into the culture. Respect differences and new ideas. Different doesn’t equal bad. If something feels weird for you try to find out why Chinese people are doing or saying something the certain way. You might find surprising reasons behind the customs.

There is a lot I would like to say about this topic, but I will end this blog post with a Finnish saying: If you don’t have anything good to say, better to say nothing at all.


New Semester At Sun Yat-Sen University

New semester has started at Sun Yat-Sen University. During my previous three semesters here I have received the Excellent Student Award (being best at my class, grades 80+) two times and once I got a Didn’t-Skip-Classes Award (or something like that, for someone who skipped a very very few classes and grades were 70+).

So I have a lot to prove this semester! Lets take a look what kind of courses I’m having this semester.

Compulsory courses


As always, there is the Comprehensive Chinese course which includes vocab, grammar, reading and writing. We changed to a new book series for this course and are now using Road To Success Advanced. It’s very different from the last book series we used the previous three semesters. New book is a welcomed change, but unfortunately our teacher is a tiny bit dry. We had such a great and entertaining teacher last semester, that I can’t help but to feel bit disappointed. My biggest challenge have always been how to be motivated when studying boring material, any tips?


Computer class! During this class we will learn how to use Word, Power Point and Excel in Chinese. I’m not sure how much I will learn during this class as I know how to use those quite well already. But it’s a good idea to get used to the Chinese interface. This course should help us write our thesis and make Power Point Presentations, or PPTs, if we work as a teacher some day. The teacher is young and energetic, so that makes this course better.


Error Analysis is a course that will help us to teach our students and correct their mistakes and errors. Hopefully it will also help me to correct some of my own errors as well. During this course we will need material to analyse, which will be a bit challenging for me. There aren’t so many Finns around here whose Chinese I could analyse, but I hope to find at least one or two. Or find more online. Teacher is young, but seems to know very well what she is doing. I think this will be a good course.


Educational Psychology will be one of the best courses this semester, at least that’s how I feel like just after first class with the teacher. We will learn how students learn the best and how a teacher uses this information in order to help the students. I’ve always been interested in learning methods, strategies and such, so I’m really looking forward what we will learn during this course. This teacher taught us last semester as well and she’s great.


Thesis writing! Of course we need a course to teach us how to write a thesis and this course is all about it. We will learn everything from how to choose a topic to the layout of the paper it self. One important task this semester is to choose a teacher to guide you with your thesis. The best teachers get chosen really quickly so I want to make my decision fast. I don’t want to end up with a young teacher without any experience. The teacher of this course is quite excellent, perhaps I should ask her.


And then there is the Taiji, compulsory course  for us degree students. I feel so lucky that I don’t have to use my head and think what to do on Friday evening as I have Taiji classes then! What a relief! (Or not…) There isn’t anything wrong with Taiji, I actually like it, but not in this setting. Not when there are 50 students and all of us just want to pass the stupid thing.

Selective courses


Read aloud and correct pronunciation is the name of this course, just what I need! We will prepare texts at home to read to the teacher and she will correct us, that’s the basic pattern for this course. I hope to improve my tones and some tricky pronunciation point that I still haven’t got right (z c zh ch). This teacher was really strict when she was my Comprehensive Chinese teacher a year ago and I expect her to keep it like that.


This might be the most fun course of the semester! On this course to Chinese Popular Customs our teacher will introduce as to interesting places in Guangzhou related to different popular customs on the area. We will then visit them our selves taking notes and photographing the visit. After that we will present our finding to the class. What a great idea for a course!


Chinese philosophy is taught by one of my favourite teachers, our Comprehensive Chinese teacher from last semester. I probably don’t do the exam on this course but just because of the teacher I’m willing to take the classes. I’m sure it will be entertaining and interesting at the same time.

That’s it!

So these are my courses this semester. During this semester we will decide our thesis topics, find a guiding teacher and finally write a 开题报告, Chosen Topic Report, or something like that to finalize our topic choose. Next Summer and Autumn will be all about writing the thesis of about 6000 characters, there’s a lot to learn before that!


Photos From Dragon’s Back Hike In Hong Kong

As all of you who follow my Facebook page know, I visited Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year holiday. The best destination I visited this time was absolutely the famous Dragon’s Back Hike. If you want to relax in a few hours hike in the middle of the nature, then this pretty easy hike is just for you!

Few tips:

  • Take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station, then change to bus number 9 To Tei Wan, the hike starts right next to the bus stop, you can’t miss it!
  • Go during the morning or later during the day, avoid hot and harsh midday sun!
  • Take water and snacks with you
  • There are no trash bins along the road so remember not to litter!
  • For more infromatio check Discover Hong Kong


Get off on this bus stop, you will then see a sign and a map to the Dragon’s Back Bone.


One kilometer to the beginning of the Dragon’s Back Hike.

signtostartingpoint theroute routecloseup

The view on top is amazing! During the hike you feel like you have left the bustling Hong Kong, even though your are on the Hong Kong Island! A great get-a-way for a few hours or for a full day!

theview theviewtwo theviewthree flying stairs onthedragonsback dontgetlost

No need to worry about getting lost, there are signs in evey crossroad.

forest trashbackhome

From here (sign below) you can continue the walk to the beach or head to the bus station and back to the city.