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!

12/13/16

Not so funny things my ayi has done

Sometimes photo instructions are needed

Having an ayi or a housekeeper is really common in China, solving the big issue of childcare in many families. After finding our ayi, I wrote a few words about training her, but now after few months it’s time for a new post. This time I’m listing not so funny things my ayi has done and that have made me to reconsider having her.

I won’t even mention how hard it is to train someone to clean the house by your standards, but what made me see red was how she broke my mixer and almost broke our rice cooker the same week! Luckily we don’t have too many fancy electrical appliances in our kitchen, but I hope nothing else gets broken.

Then she lost our daughter’s fork which wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it was bought by my mother. A nice gift from grandmother probably got thrown away in the trash as she still haven’t found it to this day.

What almost got me to fire her was when she was wiping the bookshelf and a needle fell into our daughter’s toy box. Luckily I found it first! I was forced to give her a stern lecture on how she must be careful with things, especially around Anna. I also shared this in our family WeChat group so my husband would see what happened too.

I don’t know if it’s with all ayis, but at least with ours have to keep a constant eye on her on how she does things. Sometimes I remind her, sometimes just quietly fix things after her like closing rice and spice containers to keep them clean.

So why haven’t I changed to a new ayi then?

She is doing a great job with our daughter and their bond is very good. Anna  trusts her and she mostly takes care of her the way we want. Besides taking care of Anna, she also cooks and cleans, sometimes with long hours. My friend said that many women train their ayis for a year and then enjoy a very good relationship with them for years. That’s what I’m aiming for.

Do you have any funny or not-so-funny stories of your ayi? Any tips for me?

11/3/16

What to do when you get into a traffic accident in China?

These quick stations are around the city as small crashes happen all the time

These quick stations are around the city as small crashes happen all the time

Getting into a traffic accident in China is a topic I wish I knew nothing about, but based on my quite resent experiences, I wrote a step by step guide for you. So here’s what to do if you are in a car crash in Guangzhou.

  1. Stop right there where the accident happened, don’t move your car or allow the other person to move theirs. Safely get out of your car and take photos of both of the cars and your surroundings. As changing lanes is when many accidents happen, take photos which show the location of both cars and the road markings. Is you car over a line or is theirs?
  2. If it was a major accident or there is any dispute between you two, don’t move the cards. Call a traffic police at 122 to come and settle it.
  3. If it was just a small crash and nothing too serious, head to the side of a road in a safe place to discuss it with the other person. Was it your fault? Then no need to call the police if you can settle the matter calmly. Was it their fault or not sure? Is the other person angry or trying to argue with you? Call the traffic police at 122 and let them decide whose fault it was. If you moved the cars, they will want to see the photos you took.
  4. Follow the traffic police’s instructions on how to continue. Call you insurance company and explain the situation to them. In small crashes or bumps where both cars can still continue driving, you can drive to a 快速理赔 (Quick claim settling station) to report the incident and get the correct documents for your insurance company.
  5. At the small station (just a hut usually) they will take photos of cars, you and your papers, then they will fill in report forms and give them to you for insurance purposes. You will also need those papers when you go and get your cars fixed.
  6. When both cars are fixed, all the documents has to be given to the one responsible so their insurance company can handle the paperwork. In my case the crash was my fault, so the other person sent their documents, I paid her and the insurance company will pay me back. Our car dealer shop, where we bought and fixed our car, will help us with all the paperwork.

Have you been in a traffic accident in China? Share your stories in the comments!

11/1/16

Training your ayi

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime work

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime job

Last time I wrote how we found a new ayi to take care our daughter while we work, little did I know that inviting a nanny to your home would mean a lot of extra work for you too!

I started with a list of things to keep in mind when taking care of our baby, even my husband thought it was a very detailed list, but actually I left out a lot of little things that might scare the new nanny away before starting! I don’t wish to be a parent who micro-manages everything, but it’s hard to relax and let someone else to care for your child.

Luckily our ayi seems to be great with Anna and after two weeks of getting to know each other I don’t worry at all while I work almost full time as a private teacher. Coming home to my smiling daughter reassures me, that we made the right decision.

But like in a marriage, in a employer-ayi relationship nothing is perfect of course. In our case she has been doing some sloppy job cleaning our house and I’m not sure if she doesn’t know how to or just would prefer not cleaning at all. My husband has always been complaining that he can’t get used to the food she cooks.

For me as Finn it’s quite awkward to tell our ayi what to do and to point out things she has done poorly. My husband Alan says that I was way too nice in the beginning and it ended up our ayi being a lazy cleaner. Now that I think of it, I probably should have been more direct and clear with cleaning instructions in the beginning.

Tips I’m trying to follow with our ayi now:

  • Make a list of daily and weekly tasks
  • First week clean together with her and show how you prefer things to be done
  • Observe her cleaning or taking care of your children, see how she is used to doing things
  • Be friendly but strict from the beginning so the ayi will respect your rules

Even with these hiccups, I hope that she will work with us for the next few years so we can all get used to each other and our daughter would have a constant good caretaker while me and her dad are working. I’ll keep you posted how things go!

10/18/16

Getting a driver’s license in China

Chinese Driver's License

Chinese Driver’s License

Good news! I finally got my Chinese driver’s license! Actually the process was much easier and faster than I thought, so I wanted to share it with you as well. I know many of my readers who are interested in getting a license and driving in China. My experience is in changing my Finnish license to Chinese, so if you don’t have a license at all, you need to go to driving school first.

Documents needed for changing foreign driver’s license to Chinese:

  • Application form
  • Health check (Super easy and superficial done at the exam center at the same day)
  • Four color photos, ask the photo shop for driver’s license photos, they know what to do
  • Official receipt for the photos with you passport number on it
  • Passport and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Foreign driver’s license and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Registration paper from your local police station, the original with a stamp

Translations and notarizations will take a few weeks, during that time it’s best to get ready for the theory exam!

Websites and apps for studying:

You will want to use these for studying at least for a few days before taking the exam. Also notice that many cities, including Guangzhou has new rules for the traffic violation scoring system, it changed at the beginning of this year. So find the newest regulations concerning the scoring and memorize it.

Taking the exam:

When you got all your paperwork in order and have studied enough for the exam, it’s time to go to the vehicle administration office (车管所) of your city. In Guangzhou it’s called Cen Village Vehicle Administration Office (岑村车管所) and it’s located at Huaguan Street 1732 of Tianhe District (天河区华观路1732号).

Take a waiting number and head to the back of the first floor to get your very quick and simple health check. If you can walk and aren’t blind, you can pass it in five minutes. When your number is up, give them all your paperwork and pay for the exam (80RMB). There are exams being held throughout the day until 3pm. Multiple languages are being offered, English being one of them.

You can take the exam twice in a row, so if you fail the first exam, you can just do it again with the same computer right away. Just tell the staff there you need to take it again. If you pass, you can pick up you new license at 4pm in the first floor lobby. They will call your name and give your license to you right away.

Now just get out there and learn to drive the Chinese way!