06/25/18

Giving a speech on cross-cultural marriage and how to solve some issues

Last Sunday I had the change to give a speech at DU Talk about Cross-Cultural Marriage. DU Talk is a weekly event where different speakers come with different topics each Sunday evening. So far I have attended speeched about traveling, social media, trading etc. This time I was honored to be the guest speaker my self!

As with only been married for less than 5 years I’m far from an expert on marriage, I had a more personal view on my topic. From my own perspective and experience I introduced how a cross-cultural marriage might start, evolve, what challenges there might be and how we have solved them.

Here I would like to share my ideas on the five struggless we went over during my speech and some of our solutions as well.

1. Deciding where to live

Me and my husband haven’t never fought over which country we should live in as we have been in agreement that our life is in China at the moment. We also see our selves living here for the next 5 or 10 years at least. In the future we hope we could divide our time more between Finland and China, but a move to Finland isn’t in the plans right now.

2. Language struggles in a relationship

Me and my husband certainly had issues with the language whne we started dating. My Mandarin wasn’t that good at the time and his English was even worse. We had problems in communicating with each other, though nothing major. Now I feel I can express my self and my feelings better in Chinese, but of course it’s still far from being the same when I speak Finnish. But it has to be at least one person in the relationship who sees the effort of learning the language of his/her spouse.

3. How to plan a cross-cultural wedding

I have written about our wedding a lot before, about combining the cultures, choosing the date, the legal wedding and finally about our big day that included a Chinese part and a Finnish part all in one day.

4. How to get along with your in-laws

Me and my husband laid out some rules early on, even before having kids. We wanted to live on our own, though close to the family, and do things our way. Being firm and honest from the beginning has been working well for us and the in-laws let us live our life the way we want. My Chinese husband has also always been independent in a sense that he has argumented his view to his parents and done his way even before meeting me.

It’s important to be your self, you can not try to fake something during the first visit and then keep it up for the rest of your life. Be who you are and see if you are a good match with the family before you marry.

5. Different views in raising kids

Me and my husband are pretty much on the same page what comes to educating our daughter. We don’t believe in disciplining kids through violent matters and we do believe in the benefit of Chinese education in a sense that we want our daughter to be fully fluent in Chinese.

The Chinese grandparents do have very different ideas or raising kids, but because they usually see our daughter once or twice a week, their influence isn’t that significant. We want them to have fun with their grandchild and our daughter to have a nice relationship with them, but we don’t wish them to have much say on her education or up-bringing.

06/21/18

My first online course! Survival Chinese 101 is launching

 

Exciting news! I am publishing my very first online course 1st of July and it’s alrady accessible as a beta course right now. You can find my course at: expatchinese.teachable.com/p/survival-chinese-101

 

Who is this course for?

Survival Chinese 101 -course is for everyone who want’s to learn just enough Chinese to survive their holiday, business trip or their first weeks in China. Nothing extra, nothing too difficult, just the basics you need when communicating with the locals.

This is a course for zero beginners who want to try learning Chinese and dip their toes in the water. Have you ever thought about learning Mandarin? If yes, this course is the perfect start.

 

 

How do I study this course?

Each lecture has a video lesson to follow, quiz, PDF exercises you can print out and a comments sections where you can ask all your questions and connect with yout fellow classmates.

Survival Chinese 101 -course can be studied at your own phase, whenever or whereever you want.

 

Why to join now?

The course is open for beta testers at a reduced price of 99USD. As a beta tester you get to start the course right away, get free coaching from me and get to give feedback that will affect how the end product will look like. Help me in creating a course that fits your needs!

 

Full course launching July 1st!

Find out more at Survival Chinese 101 and check our the preview video of the course!

04/30/18

April in photos

April started with a family road trip to Yangjiang and beautiful sand beaches. Unfortunately it rained half the holiday but we had a lot of fun anyway!

Anna started learning how to use the kick bike to go around and always remembers to put her helmet on.

We had a picnic lunch at our balcony before the weather started to turn too hot.

I participated in a Limiting Beliefs workshop done by our Expat Chinese student Ben Massen. He taught us how our limiting beliefs stand in the way of our success.

Later at the office I got to break the board of my limiting beliefs!

I visited my university (Sun Yat-Sen University) to learn a bit about Chinese seal carving, it was a lot of fun!

Above is the seal I carved. It’s the traditional old character for “to study”.

I had a power lunch with five other women and talked for three hours about life and business.

Last Friday I took part in a free WeChat webinar about getting things done. Right away I assigned one of our interns to manage our free study group on WeChat, learned to delegate.

That was my April in a nut she’ll, how was your month?

02/13/18

Expat Life in China | 5 Biggest Changes Over the Past Decade

Chinas has changed a lot the past 8 years I’ve been living in Guangzhou. Today we have an interesting guest post from Josh who has been living in China even longer, he arrived back in 2006.


When I first arrived in China in 2006, blogs like this were a novelty. Most of us early China writers used services like Blogspot or MySpace, which tells you a lot about how things have changed.

It’s been an unbelievable decade of growth for China and I count myself fortunate to have been here to experience it. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been an adventure!

For those who have only known China for the past few years, let me share with you some of the biggest changes I’ve experienced as I’ve lived, worked and traveled around China.

 

#1 Purchasing Train Tickets

 

Believe it or not, as recently as just a few years ago, train tickets could only be bought in person at the train station or ticket office. Not only that, but you could only purchase tickets at most 10 days in advance!

I remember in 2008 making plans to travel during the Spring Festival, China’s busiest travel season. I got up at 4am in the morning to stand in line with about 300 other people at our city’s small train ticket office. Tickets ran out the first day, so I had to repeat the same thing the next morning. I wasn’t even sure if we’d get to travel!

Now fast forward to last week, when I got on my iPhone to purchase tickets for a train that I planned to take next month. Quite a bit easier!

It’s also worth noting that train travel times have decreased significantly over the past decade with China’s high-speed train network. I remember spending days on the train – that’s days with an “s”! – to get from one city to another.

That same trip now takes 8 hours or less on a high speed train.

 

#2 Mobile Payment: WeChat & Alipay

 

As a teacher in China back in 2006, I would arrive at the finance office on the first day of every month to collect my paycheck. They would hand me a huge wad of cash and I had a special drawer at home where I kept the money locked up.

I could have applied for a bank card, but at the time those were only useful at big hotels or major grocery stores. Almost every transaction I made during the first few years in China was done in cash.

Fast forward to 2017. I have about 5 RMB worth of cash in my wallet at any given moment. At least 90% of my purchases are made with either Alipay or WeChat, which includes train ticket purchases, buying a drink at the corner store, or even taking a taxi.

Two weeks ago I walked out of my apartment and forgot my wallet. Strangely, it no longer mattered.

 

#3 China’s View of “Foreign Experts”

 

It used to be than anybody who spoke even an intermediate level of English could come to China to be a teacher. It was ridiculous, really, especially in the more remote parts of China that would accept anybody.

Because of this, being an “English teacher” in China wasn’t always something to be proud of. No matter how terrible a teacher, we foreigners always get paid 3-5x’s the local teachers’ salary.

I once had a teacher secretly confide to me that most of their co-workers were slightly bitter about the wage imbalance. That’s just the way it was, however, so there was no use complaining about it, they said.

While the term “foreign expert” is still used quite loosely in China, they have spent the past few years trying to change things. There are age limits, education requirements, and China is even starting to implement a “points system” wherein workers are given a score based on all these factors that determines whether they can receive a work visa.

More than anything, I think these changes reveal the way that China views foreigners. When I first arrived, any and everybody was welcome. Now, you have to prove yourself “worthy” of China.

 

#4 Drastic Changes in the Internet

 

I distinctly remember when everything changed in July of 2009. I was in my China apartment when I got a call from a friend about some big riots that happened in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi.

Soon thereafter, Facebook and Twitter were blocked in China. Google was soon forced to exit for Hong Kong and as recently as last year Instagram was blocked.

Ah, the good ‘ol days when everyone was using Blogspot as my blogging platform here in China. Certainly not anymore. Any such blocked content now requires a VPN to access in China.

When I first arrived in China, everybody wanted a Facebook profile and a Yahoo account.

Now, China is simultaneously blocking many foreign internet companies while forcing the world to use systems like WeChat and Alibaba.

 

#5 Ability to Purchase Imported Goods

 

In 2006, the small town I moved to in western China had one supermarket with an “import aisle”. Occasionally we could find butter, but most of the time it was a can of Coke from Japan (I have no idea how it’s different than Chinese-Coke products) and a few Korean products. Going online to purchase wasn’t an option.

For me and my wife, packages with various baking goods from family back home were like gold.

Larger Chinese cities have had access to imported goods for quite a while now, but it’s only been in the past few years that China’s infrastructure has matured to the point that goods can be easily shipped anywhere in the country.

I can now get on my phone to order chocolate chips (pending they have them in stock) and have them delivered to my door in less than a week. It may not seem like much, but that’s a HUGE improvement!

 

Conclusion | Changes in China

 

When it comes to changes in China, sometimes I feel like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water. It’s not until I really sit down to think about it or talk with somebody else that I realize that a LOT really has changed!

China’s transportation, logistics, foreign policy and internet communications look nothing like they did when I first arrived in 2006.

I can’t even begin to imagine what things will look like in 2028.


 

Author Bio: Josh Summers first moved to China with his wife in 2006 and still resides in the far western region of Xinjiang with his family. He runs the website TravelChinaCheaper in addition to his travel business in China.

02/5/18

Dealing with cultural differences when you have Bad China Day

Group of Chinese students I met when traveling, 2014

Recently one of my blog readers sent me a question related to living in a different culture. I have seen this question popping up frequently so I decided to answer it in a blog post.

Her question is:

The longer I live in China the more I am unable to accept the behavior of the locals. They ask me all sort of personal questions the minute they meet me, but I don’t really want to share personal details about me to a complete stranger. I also feel like they want to find out if I’m worthy of spending time with, meaning if they can benefit from our friendship in someway in the future.

You are not alone in this! Living in a totally different culture to yours is tough, the way people speak, socialize, behave and make friends is different. For  those who don’t speak the language, the barrier is even greater.

First I want to write about the language  barrier in case the locals you speak with don’t speak fluent English or you don’t speak fluent Chinese. When speaking in a second language, especially if someone’s level is not that high, it’s easy to come off as too direct or even rude. Often that is because they simply lack the vocabulary to express what they truly want to say. So try to be understanding if someone is communicating with you with their second language.

Those of you who are studying Chinese, don’t get frustrated if the locals don’t seem to understand you even though you think you said it correctly. Most of the Chinese are not used to speaking with foreigners in Chinese and because of the pronunciation system, misunderstandings happen easily if your pronunciation or tones are off. I will assure you, that misunderstandings will get fewer and fewer the longer you study Chinese.

Secondly we need to remember that we can’t put our own culture and habits onto a pedestal and expect others to follow our norms or values. Asking lots of questions is a way of showing care, if you don’t do that, you might come out as cold and uncaring. Topics like money and weight aren’t taboos in China as they are in the West. When I encounter questions I don’t want to answer, I simply say “We don’t really discuss this in Finland, so I feel a bit embarrassed to talk about it.” Then quickly change the discussion to something else.

Thirdly comes the feeling of being used. Guangxi and networks are very important in China, you get things done and a lot faster when you know the right people. Chinese are also very good at doing business, so their business mode might be on all the time even when meeting friends. They spend time with friends who might be helpful in the future and not waste time with others. If you feel like someone gauging you in this way, and you feel uncomfortable, try to find other locals to socialize with. Hobby groups are usually better for making friends and networking events are mainly for business.

Last but not least, sometimes you just need a little break. When you feel it’s been too many Bad China Days in row, cross over to Hong Kong for example for a well deserved break. Then come back with new energy and an open mind.