Sneaky Chinese and my first flag raising ceremony.

I’ve found that my Chinese friends can be incredibly sneaky. I think because I’m a foreigner they want to treat me well and look after me. I often go out for meals in China as I cannot cook food in my dormitory and the canteen closes at 6pm. If I go out to eat with my Thai, English or Korean friends, we’ll always split the bill between how ever many of us have eaten. But I’ve found when I’ve eaten with Chinese people they often sneak off and pay for the meal, without telling me. So when its time to leave I ask them to get the bill and they say they’ve already paid…and I don’t know how I always miss them paying. We’re all students, so I don’t know why they feel obliged to pay for my meal too. Also, Chinese people’s ideas about prices are different to mine.

Coming from the UK, where a meal out may cost £10+ in China I find eating out extremely cheap, an average meal out costing about £3. After they’ve paid I always try to give them some money towards it, but this is often met with hostility as they seem to enjoy the fact that they’ve invited me for a meal. The funny thing is, often its my idea to go out for dinner or I invited them at the last minute but they end up paying! Of course I feel guilty but I don’t know how to deal with this situation in China. In the future shall I sneak off to the “toilet” and pay or is this rude? Do I tell them at the beginning of the meal that we’re going to go Dutch? Its hard to decide, any advice is appreciated!

Yesterday it was the university sports day and the exchange students were invited/coerced (it was a 7am start and some people only went for the free tshirt) into participating in the opening ceremony. We hadn’t been told what we’d be doing, just to arrive at the Minxing building at 7am.

I arrived on time and nobody from my class was there yet, there were some other students and my teacher. My teacher found me an incredibly attractive pink tshirt and then told me to take one of the international flags that were leaning on the wall. The British one had already been taken so I found the Spanish one. I opened the flag and the crest was upside down….oh China! As we lined up for the parade, my classmate who had the British flag was summoned to be the flag bearer of the department flag. We didn’t want a random Korean (no offense) holding the British flag so I put Spain back (lo siento) and held the British flag.

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We walked to the athletics track and there were hundreds of people in the gallery. We walked around the track, waving our flags and the crowd went wild for us. Foreigners are still pretty foreign in China and I don’t think they’d seen so many foreign people in the same place at the same time. Me and my classmates felt like we were at the Olympics, the atmosphere was great and everyone was very excited to see us.

After all the different university departments had done their lap of honour all of a sudden everybody stood up and faced left. A Chinese man told us to look so we all turned to face the flag posts as the Chinese flag was raised to the national anthem. I really like the Chinese national anthem and although I’ve heard it before as the flags were raised for a Chinese gold medallist at the paralympics in 2012, this time it felt more noble, patriotic and symbolic. I guess because I was surrounded by Chinese people and there were soldiers in white with guns and gloves raising the flag. I was actually disappointed that there wasn’t a gun salute at the end, cmon China, be more fun!

After the national anthem, the school anthem was played as the Qingdao university flags were raised. The school anthem is a phenomena I first heard of in Chile where at every special event and most assemblies both the national anthem and the school anthem were played. I wish that I had had those experiences at school, even though as a child I would have thought a school song was boring and pointless, I think it shows the identity and community spirit of a school.

I also want to mention how I believe that Chile is the most patriotic nation I’ve lived in. Within only a few months I’d heard the national anthem dozens of times in both Spanish and Mapudungun (one of the indigenous languages). I can still remember the words now and I will always remember one time in assembly the national anthem was playing. The children in year two were pouring all their energy into singing, they had their hands on their little hearts, their heads held high and they were singing with so much passion. I miss you Chile!

Tomorrow I leave for Beijing and Xi’an as we have a week off university. I’m very excited but still haven’t packed!

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