09/17/13

Take your patience with you to China

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There is one things that will make your life in China much easier if you have enough of it. No, not money. Patience. This almost magical thing that seem to run away from you when encountering enormous differences or difficulties. Wikipedia says patience is “persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way”.

During these past two days I’ve needed all the patience I’ve got while I was out buying products for my customer. Waiting was the big word no matter if I was at the bank, wholesale market or waiting for a taxi. Sometimes things just don’t work in a way and speed you want them to, especially when it comes to China.

Chinese people are optimistic, when ou ask when something happens or arrives, it’s always 马上 mǎ​shàng, right away.When is are the products going to arrive? Mǎ​shàng! When it’s going to be my turn? Mǎ​shàng!

The funny thing is, that mǎ​shàng can be anything from a minute to a week. When you want your landlord to fix your leaking AC mǎ​shàng seems to be stretched to the limits.

Speaking of time in China, always be prepared that something you need to do takes more than you tought. For example today I had agreed to pick up the products at noon, silly me for taking it graded that noon is around 12 o’clock. I ended up waiting more than half an hour.

Sometimes it’s not anyone’s fault but just bad timing or luck. In Guangzhou the time around 4:30pm is the worst for finding a taxi. Day drivers are finishing their day and can’t take you anywhere far as they have to go back. Of course I was once again in a need of taxi during this hour.

I had two big packaged with me and first waited for half an hour in front of the cargo company I use. I know the spot is almost impossible to get a taxi and didn’t want to take an expensive and unsure black taxi (meaning illegal non-official taxi). Instead I took a three-wheeled tuktuk kind of electric vehicle to the closest metro station where there would be more taxis.

I started waiting.

Taxis were full, finishing their shift or just didn’t want to go my direction. I admit that I live far from the city center, but I needed to go home anyway!

I waited for one hour and wheeled my two packaged to the metro station where I started to lose it a little bit. Didn’t know you’re not allowed to take in packages when the total weight is over than 30kg or/and height+length+depth is more than 160 centimeters. So back to the street.

After waiting for another half an hour, it has gone two hours already since I left the cargo company, I manages to find a black taxi diver to take me home for 120RMB. Normal taxi rate would be around 80RMB, but I was willing to pay the extra to get home.

The driver ended up being really nice and asked me a lot of questions about where I’m from and what I do. He also said my boyfriend is such a lucky guy to have me! I ended up giving him 10RMB extra as I think he deserved it.

Without patience you are going to lose your temper in China many many times, if not even daily. Things work differently than back home and we have to be prepared for that. It’s their country and they aren’t going to change just for us, so we better try our best to immerse in the new culture with all of its characteristics.

Being patient in a new culture will make everyone feel so much better and your life in China so much more enjoyable. Try not to get angry when things go the other direction. I know it’s easier said than done, but what I know for sure is, complaining about everything in China won’t get you that far. It will just make all of your days Bad China Days.

I think making all of my days Good China Days is a much better goal.

09/12/13

Cup Noodle Education

Yesterday I watched the two first episodes of a new Chinese TV series called Small Daddy 小爸爸. As I was watching it and later discussed it with my boyfriend, I started to think of the rapid transformation young Chinese adults have to go through when graduating from university.

For my Finnish point of view, Chinese youngsters live quite a controlled life until right up to their university education. They will live in dorms that separates girls and boys, they might have curfews and lights go out at eleven. The campus becomes their second home and the staff their second parents.

In Finland we live on our own when we go to university, we don’t even have dormitories! Our parents don’t give us permissions anymore and we often don’t listen to them even when it would be wise to do so. We do what we want and learn to be adults by experimenting the real life.

But Chinese young adults are very guarded until their graduation and what happens after that? They need to find a good job, a good husband or wife and start a family! In Finland we usually have time to live our independent adult life before settling down, but in China it happens much faster. From a kid to a parent transformation seems to be much more abrupt.

I asked my boyfriend how Chinese young adults are supposed to learn to live their lives if they can’t open their wings first and try it out. How can you be a parent when you haven’t learned to take care of your self first?

This actually applies to my boyfriend as well, he’s been living with the parents since graduation. His mom is cooking for him and washing his clothes and at the same time pushing him to grow up. My boyfriend calls this Cup Noodle Education. In his opinion Chinese parents pour the hot water over their kids and require them to get ready for life in three minutes.

It seems that because kids have huge pressure to excel in school, in order to get into good schools and universities, hoping it to lead to successful life, they necessarily don’t have to worry about anything else. My boyfriend’s dad had said how my boyfriend and his little sister didn’t have to do much around home when they were kids, they could fully concentrate on their education. But how do you learn to take care of your self if there’s no actual need to do that?

As a Chinese young adult I would be really lost, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to cope it all, for example when as a student you shouldn’t date as it interferes with you studies, but after graduation you have to marry as soon as possible. I’m wondering how they do it.

I have to say I’m grateful for my mother for teaching me to be independent and letting go when the time came. Always encouraging me, but also giving intelligent advice. If Chinese receive cup noodle parenting, then I’m more like the Finnish Christmas pork that has to be in the oven whole night.

09/10/13

Feeling Lonely Among 1.35 Billion People

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There are more than 1344 million people living in China, 104 million of them living in Guangdong province. Guangzhou alone has a population of 14 million, that’s 2.6 times more than in whole Finland. The school year has started and yesterday I had to wait the third bus until I was able to get in.

There are people everywhere, pushing you at the metro station, staring at you at the crossroads and asking you the same questions over and over again when taking the bus back home after a long day.

Yes, there are more than 1,353,821,000 people living in this country (2012 estimate) and I’m feeling lonely.

Making friends was easy when I was a kid up until high school graduation. After that I made a few good friends at work and university too. But then I decided to move to the other side of the earth.

Being an exchange student doesn’t do good to your relationships. During three semesters at Guangzhou University I saw friends come and go. No matter how we promised each others to stay in touch, it didn’t happen. Today I’m in contact only with one of those friends.

Starting my degree at Sun Yat-Sen University was great, especially that I knew to have same classmates for two and a half years. Almost, at least. After the first semester our two classes were mixed up again as we chose our specializations. Only three students besides me chose teaching Chinese. It’s been nice to be part of a group, even though we rarely meet outside the school.

I don’t really shine at making friends. I’m a bit introverted and feel shy when meeting new people. I prefer texting over phone calls. I’m an over-thinker and hate to make people do things they don’t want to do.

I haven’t been able to make good Chinese friends over here, despite dating a Chinese guy. In friendships I look for something we have in common, something I can relate to in him or her, something that we are both interested in. I found it easier to bond with other foreigners as they are going through the same things as I am. We have a lot to share.

I’ve met amazing people through my blog, people who I share so many things with that it’s even hard to imagine how it’s possible. One of them is Linda, who is coming back to China next year. I’m even meeting a new reader/friend this week!

Sometimes I wonder are expats mostly extroverts that flourish when surrounded by lots of people from all over the world? Or are there more like me who prefer quality over quantity?

As a funny coincidence, I just realized that the island I’m living in right now has almost the same population as my childhood hometown in Finland. Or was it meant to happen that in a city of 14 million people I will end up in the smaller one of two villages on this island?

In a way I hope that this blog will transform into a place where like-minded people can share their thoughts. I get so happy every time I receive a nice comment or an email from a reader. I hope to make friends with all of you.

p.s. For more expat friends when living abroad, check out my yesterday’s blog post.

09/9/13

Meet Expats In China – InterNations

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So you have just arrived to China and everything is new around you. New job, new house, new gym, but what about new friends? Culture Shock is way easier to deal with if you can share your experiences with others that are going through the same thing.

I’ve realized this my self too during these three years in Guangzhou. There just are so many things about living abroad that only someone doing the exact same things could understand.

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If you want to connect with and make friend with other expats in China you should take a look at InterNations. It is the largest expatriate network worldwide, with over 930,000 members in more than 360 cities all across the globe. It’s a great community no matter if you are looking for networking or making new best friends.

At the website they have lots of information and ways to connect with others. Some of it free and some require a paid Albatross account. The best two things on the site are the forum and the event listings.

The Forum is divided into Town talk, Expat Q&A, Jobs, Housing and Marketplace. This is a great place to ask your expat questions about living in China.

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When you’re ready to meet new people and head to the city, check out future events. In Guangzhou, InterNations have different kind of events every month, I’m sure you can find an event that suits for you. Most events do cost some money, as they are held in bars or restaurants, but they also might have some great discounts for members as well!

I have attended a few InterNations events my self too. The first time I ended up in a table of few Finns sharing our experiences in Guangzhou and plans for the future in China. I remember saying how I wanted to move to a small village inside Guangzhou and write books for living. Well, three years later I’m living in a village and writing this blog!

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In June InterNations interviewed me for their website and I placed that cool badge to the sidebar of my blog too. I’m honored to be featured on InterNations and hope other expats will find it to be a warm and friendly community.

Have you heard of InterNations before or participated in their events? How do you meet new people when you move abroad? I would love to know!

09/7/13

Traveling in China: Mount Sanqing in Jiangxi Province

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San Qing Shan, read from right to left

Last week I took part in my university’s compulsory study trip to Jiangxi Province. We traveled 11+ hours in a train to the north and spent just three days in “West of the River” as the name of the province is translated. The best destination our tour guides took us was the Mount Sanqing.

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If you want easy climbing (in China that means climbing the stairs to the top) but amazing views, then Mount Shanqing is great for you. You can take the cable car to the top and do an easy three-hour walk on top before coming down with the same cable car. Of course the are other routes as well, if you want to see more and stretch your legs.

I’ll let photos speak for them selves, but you can find more information at Travel China Guide.

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These locks with carvings were on the love road that had 299 steps. 299 means love forever and according to the sign if you walk it from start to finish, you will be together forever. But the love road wasn’t easy, it has some pretty steep steps!

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