Living in China

Why Oh Why China Is So Frustrating Sometimes?

I have to be fair here. I’m not talking about the whole China here, just about the university I’m studying in. And I have to add that I didn’t sleep so well last night so that might have some effect on my mood today.

We had our last midterm exam today and I was totally frustrated with it. Why? Because we haven’t learnt anything during that course which is about Chinese culture. We were forced to buy a book but then we never use it. When we were learning about the qipao we just learnt which actor is dating which director. Dating culture would be an interesting topic but not like this. I had Korean and Chinese Culture and Japanese Culture courses back in Finland and I am comparing to those courses. Of course it’s not maybe fair to compare, because the education in Finland is the best in the world.

And yesterday I almost lost my mind during the spoken Chinese class. You never know what to expect from that class. It might be watching a video about an animal that I don’t know how to call even in Finnish. So really usefull stuff right? The teacher have some good ideas to make us speak and corrects our pronunciation but the majority of the course seem to be just bouncing from some random thing to another.

My intention is not to make the teachers to lose face, but I feel like I’m losing my head with them! The university is also constantly nagging about our absence, but sometimes I don’t see a good reason to wake up in the morning to go to class if I’m not going to learn anything. I am here to learn and I want some quality teaching. If the level of some of our courses continues like this it is ok for me too because as an exchange student I’m not paying. But then they shouldn’t be sending me a text message every morning where I am. I’m not a primary school kid anymore.

But I also have to say that we have some great teachers too. Our reading course is nice and the teacher has a clear vision what she is doing in every class. She knows how to teach. Also writing course is one of my favourites and I enjoy those classes very much. Listening teacher is also a really good teacher and he knows what he is doing. We also have a course about Chinese characters and it started out nicely but right now I’m not sure in which direction the course is going.

Our teachers seem all to be graduate students that here means they only have a bachelor degree. In Finland you would never be able to teach in university with such a low degree. Sure the situation in Finland is a little bit different because bachelor degree is not a graduation in Finland. It is just a piece of paper and almost every university student do a master degree too. At Least if they want to find a job. So how much experience can I expect from our teachers because they don’t even have a master degree?

This is not an attact towards the universty. Some of you asked me to write about not so pleasant things in China so here you go. Maybe you can’t take everything I wrote literally, but I genuenely hope that the spoken Chinese course and Chinese culture course will improve during the rest of my time in this university.


  • Katja

    Tätäkin blogiasi luen, ahkerasti :)

    Todella harmi, että kielen oppiminen on noin suuresti yksin opiskelijan vastuulla. Vaikea muuta sanoa kuin että toivottavasti opetus kehittyisi. Olet ahkera ja asioista kiinnostunut, mutta kaikkea ei voi omaksua yksin. Älä siis rankaise itseäsi :)

  • Rauno

    You’ve been having lots of “bad China days”, it seems. What you described is actually something I worry about these days: if/when I get a scholarship to go to China to learn Chinese, I’m almost certain that I won’t be too satisfied with the teaching I’m going to get. I may be wrong though, but all I can do is wait and see… I’m quite fond of self-studying anyway, so I think one year in a Chinese school will be the maximum for me. Good luck anyway!

  • Sara

    Katja, Kylla tassa on lahes kymmenen kuukauden aikana yllattynyt, miten kehnoja opettajia on ollut. Mutta onneksi itsella on motivaatiota riittanyt ja palautettakin olen useasti antanut ja se on jopa vaikuttanut asioihin. Kiitos kivasta kommentista Katja :)

    Rauno, Yes that can be a problem. I don’t know how big the differences are between universities though. But as you said you enjoy self-studying so that will help and you can just concentrate to the best classes you have and if something is just waste of time, you can study by your self. Thanks Rauno, I hope Sun Yat Sen University will be good because I’ll apply there next year. And hope you can come to China soon!

  • Annika

    Rauno, compeared the others here Sara has the least “bad China days”! :D Mostly i enjoy my stay here but sometimes i have really bad days. Todays cycling competition didnt really do any good to our plans either. After all the stuff… the perfect shopping day!

  • Lumi

    Hello again! How are you? I’m back! Olen täällä taas! I’ve graduated and been working at least these next two weeks.

    Anyway, dating culture of celebrities sounds very fascinating topic. I might get the best grade on that but certainly not a very useful topic for a Finnish person to learn since in Finland nobody knows almost any Chinese directors or actresses and so on.

    We’ve had some French, British, Japanese, Chinese etc. culture lessons at school but those have been about business culture and customs. Everyone had to make a PowerPoint presentation about one country’s culture.

    Maybe the Chinese teachers really are not that qualified to be teachers since my boyfriend has been accepted to teach English to Chinese adult students. He just knows how to speak and pronounce English since his exchange in Finland. Never studied English as a main subject in Uni or even taken any teachers courses.

    I’ll try to write you an email at the end of next week. Have a nice upcoming week!

  • Sara

    Lumi, I had a Chinese business culture course too back in Finland about a year ago. I think it’s pretty interesting even I’m not a business person.

    I think that some people just are better teachers than others. Some are born to be teachers, some can be trained to be teachers and some just can’t do it.

    Have a nice week too! And congratulations for graduating!

  • Seija

    I came across a perfect book for anyone interested in China…to understand the underlaying forces governing the country. I doubt it is available in China, though.
    Richard McGregor: The Party…also in Finnish: Puolue, Kiinan hallitsijoiden salainen maailma.
    The writer was the China correspondent of The Australian (a daily in Australia).

  • Sara

    Ernie, Is that a good university? I still think I’ll stay in Guangzhou. I have never been to Hong Kong, but I think there are too many English speakers and then not the best place to study Chinese language.

  • Autumn

    Long time no see,Sara.How is everything going well with you?From this blog,I don’t think you were fine.Actually,I have doubts about Chinese education for a long time.Sometimes I also cannot find sth. useful in class.The teachers always focus on the theroy and have no innovation.I also heard that Finland is the Best Countries in the World.I really want to go to Finland to complete my study.So I work hard now.Although,I am more interested in Finland,I am a Chinese.I am also proud of my motherland.I guess you just have the same feeling as me.O(∩_∩)O

    Sara Reply:

    Hi Autumn, I’ve been fine, thanks for asking. How about you? I would really like to see the education improving in China, it would benefit a lot of people. Because Chinese people are smart and they lack a huge potential if they don’t make the education system better. But I understand that some people might think it’s also a risk. Yes, it’s the same for me. I’m really interested in China, but still very proud that I’m Finnish.

  • Charlie

    Sorry to hear that, but this’s exactly the way they teach in every university throughout China. I’m a Chinese student in Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, and I hate four out of six courses I’m taking,but anyway, I’ll go to the UK next year.

    P.S. 我爱芬兰!!

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks for commenting Charlie. I have heard similar complaints from some of my Chinese friends. And it’s really a pity that you don’t have better courses. But nice to hear that you have a chance to go to Great Britain! I hope you can enjoy your studies and life there. P.S. 我爱中国。

  • Michael Lantz

    I would like to visit China sometime in the future.I have never been there.I would like to visit the great wall of China.I long for the day when China is a free country.

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you for commenting Michael. I hope and beliece you can visit China in the near future. It’s quite an amazing place. Walking and climbing in the Great Wall was an experience I won’t forget. The view was amazing in February and the feeling when you reacher the spot you were planning to reach, even though I was so tired.

  • another

    hi, mind telling me which uni are you in? people with just a bachelor degree is almost impossible to find a teaching job in the uni I used to go to.

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks for commenting you anonymous another. I study in Guangzhou University and right now all of my teachers only have a bachelor degree. But luckily we still have some great teachers, even not all the courses are what I hoped for.

  • PNSchuster

    It may be helpful for people to remember that, the “growth story” aside, China’s income, in per capita terms, is roughly on par with countries like Namibia and Algeria. Why would anyone expect its education system to be similar to Finland’s? Why would anyone expect it to be anywhere close? Try replacing “China” with some African country and see how out of touch you sound.
    I usually like your blog, but in this post you sound a tad like the proverbial English lord who laments the lack of manners among the underclass.
    And it’s also very curious how your daily interactions with the locals helped to morph your frustration with one or two teachers at one college into a frustration with an entire country/culture.

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks for commenting PNSC. I’m not replacing China with some other country, because I’m only speaking about China and Finland here. I don’t have experiences in other places. First I would like to know are you Chinese or foreigner? And have you been living in China and do you know foreigners that live in China?

    I said it’s not fair to compare China and Finland but of course I do it. I don’t expect it to be the same or even similar. I just expect to learn, is that too much to ask for? And this is Finnish way and I can’t get rid of this part of me. With complaining we get improvement.

    It’s pretty interesting comparison you made about me. But I have never thought Chinese people as any underclass for other people. I know some people think so, but not me. Of course I get angry and frustrated but my view to this country tries always be understanding one. I usually try to think why people do how they do. But to be honest it’s not too easy to move to another country and learn everything from a scratch. Have you moved to another country and lived there longer than few weeks? In China we say TIC (in comparison to TIA in Africa), This Is China. It’s a good answer to many crazy and different things here and have some humor in it too. So sometimes when I don’t understand or feel frustrated I just think the reason is TIC.

    And if you still don’t see it. I love China. In all it’s craziness. (And it’s culture, and history and language. And that one special person who sometimes is way to Chinese.)

    I hope you still can find something interesting to read from my blog. And be welcomed to disagree with me, that makes this conversation and comments more interesting. I hope to see many different point of views here.

  • anon

    Actually, in China complaining gets you imprisoned ( obviously not you, you’ve got the freedom that comes with being a foreigner ).

    Sara Reply:

    Anon, I know and I would like to see some improvement in that section in the future. But luckily for all of us there are people that are brave enough to fight and say what they think. Even I would never be that brave if I would be a Chinese.

  • Jason Huang

    Haha, Chinese Education System is a fail, that’s why there are so many of us sort of “escaped” to US and Canada, seeking for a better post-secondary education. Those highschool friends in which I still remain contacted are also complain about how much their university courses suck. Some little suggestion, head for coastal cities like Shanghai or Shenzhen or HK where people are more diversity. People there are more used to deal with foreign guests. They might know better what you need and how to help you get it. I know how hard it is to move to a new country and start everything from scratch. I consider the western culture easier to blend in but it still took me a whole yaer just to start getting into it. Thank god right now I find a place I really like and it’s dominated by white people(like 99%). But since you have the guts to leave your comfort zone (not some many girls dare to do this) and step into something really different, I say you will have a nice time in China. Experience told me the brave always gets rewards.

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks for commenting Jason. It is interesting to hear about your experience concerning the education. I would like to know more how the university works in China and how is the teaching in different majors and universities. It’s not always easy here in China, but I think it will be very rewarding in the end.

  • Ashley Yang

    wow, ur finnish! yay, i was born in china and i came to finland when i was 2 and a half, and have been living here ever since. i gotta agree, finland does have a way better education than in china. the whole system in china just doesnt work. and its really frustrating to see them doing nothing to change it.
    I was really pissed off at my school, but after reading ur post, im just thankful that im receiving the top education in the world. Thanks.
    Finlands a great place, and im glad i moved here to live. even though i do miss china a lot sometimes. especially since now its super cold, (well in espoo atleast). but anyways, i hope ur school will start teaching better!
    and also, hyvää joulua! (:

    Sara Reply:

    Hi Ashley and thanks for commenting! So interesting to hear about your story. Of course not every teacher in Finland is top class and sometimes you get frustrated, but then it helps to compare to other countries. After all it’s not that bad in Finland :) Hyvaa joulua!

  • Jia

    what about studying in Taiwan? There are less English speakers there compared with HK, and the traditional Chinese culture is well preserved. Professors in Taiwan are much more qualified than their counterparts in mainland China. just my personal opinion:)

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks for your opinion Jia. It would be interesting to visit Taiwan and make some comparison between it and China. But right now I’m quite tied up here in Guangzhou and actually like this city.

  • Eugene

    Are all universities in China like that? They allow a person to teach even if that person has only taken up a bachelor’s degree?

    Anyways, I found something interesting while I was browsing about studying in China. It’s an online magazine for international students studying in China. I think it’s worth a try.

    China for International Students

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you for commenting Eugene! I really don’t know what is the situation in different universities and cities. It would be interesting to find out what are the qualifications needed to teach in Chinese university. Thanks a lot for the link, I will soon check it out.

  • Zacky

    Hi, Sara, first off, welcome to China and thx for sharing your straightforwardness, tbh,I accidentally found your interesting blog, I think it would be hard for you to get used to this kind of culture although it sounds bad to me as well speaking from a Chinese guy, I was born and growing up here all my life, I’m also sick of the way of being treated like that especially when I am at school, I know it’s extremely mind-blowing for u in terms of a western person coming to China and experiencing in this way, but you have to know, China is still a developing country, I somehow feel many things looks so hypocritical here, and I’ve got shit loads of complex feelings on it too, though I still love China as I am a Chinese, never fail to forget what my root is and hopefully I will make it better one day :)

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you for commentin Zacky! It is really exciting to live here in China and experience this culture and country that is so different compared to Finland, my home country. I know a little bit about China’s recent history and the country have changed a lot really fast. Lets see if it continues to develop and change as fast in the coming years too. Good that China has people like you Zacky, that want to improve it! I am absolutely on the Love China side, but as a foreigner in China I have lot of feelings from both ends, good and bad. And I think it is useful to share those experiences and feelings, and also try to figure out why Chinese people are the way they are.

    Zacky Reply:

    oh, dear you are online, I just realize we are both in the same city- GZ, btw, can you add my QQ too, I really wanna be your friend-52646375 :p I have too much things to share with you

  • Peter Hu China

    because China is still a developing country,you know, China was invaded by many westerner countries one hundred years ago. Because of this,China was lack of money to develop economy since 1990. Nowadys everything is becoming better and better, but we still need to improve the residents’ living standard.

  • Peter Hu China

    Because most Chinese teachers in China don’t have the experience to teach Chinese as a second language,even though there is a Learning Chinese Fever or Chiese mania throught the world. We need more innovation in the field of teaching Chinese.

  • Peter Hu China

    graduate students that here means they only have a bachelor degree,actually they are called “讲师”,they are not professors, because of the large amount of students in unveristies or colleges, so teachers are a rare human resource. But everything will be better if we find out the problems.

  • Rainer Lucks

    Of course it is not fair to compare Finlands education to the rest of the World in Finland being the best.
    I am certain you will find equal if not perhaps better some where else in the World? ;-) Glad you are so patriotic. It is healthy.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’m sure there are better schools outside of Finland. What is different in Finland, that everyone is pretty much put on the same line there, giving the same opportunity for good education. Of course it’s not black and white, but that’s the basic situation. In China there is a big competition for good primary schools, then to the good middle schoold, best high schools and finally to the best universities. That race starts from kindergarden.