Last year when I lived in China, I met a lot of African friends, the university I attended gave a lot of scholarships to students from Cameroon, Tanzania, Ghana, South Sudan amongst other developing countries, like Ukraine, Albania and Egypt.
I spent half the year in dormitories on campus, and there were two sets of dorms for international students, most of the Africans were in Qiming, and the rest of us were in the slightly better Liuxueshenggongyu.
As most of my classmates were African, they quickly became my friends and we would often/always go to Beimen, the school’s bustling north gate to eat dinner. Meals were cheap and there were loads of choices, as well as a supermarket, KTV bars, snooker halls and beauticians (I miss those £2 manicures!!).
When we first started meeting for dinner, most of the group would go walk to Qiming, but there would always be a guy who would offer to go out of his way to walk me back to my dorm, even if it was raining and he was wearing flipflops, I was almost always walked home.
At the beginning, I felt very uncomfortable about this, did the guy have bad intentions? Did he want to know exactly which room I lived in? Why is it ‘not ok’ for a girl to walk home on her own…yet fine for guys? Etc etc. But after a while, I just accepted it as it offended them when I said I would walk by myself and actually, the company is nice.
What I learned was that culturally, these guys were expected to make sure women get home safely, due to the dangers there can be for women walking alone in their countries.
When I came back to the UK, I was walking home with a group of friends about a week ago, most of them lived in a student accommodation 5 mins walk from me…we said our goodbyes and a guy who lived a bit closer to me said he would walk me home. But after the group went into their halls, this guy who said he would walk me home said that actually he lives the other way…so he just walked off and left me. I was a bit annoyed, since he said he would walk me home and didn’t, it was one of the first times in a long time I hadn’t had someone walk back with me after meeting with a group.
Then last night I was at an event and a Russian guy offered to walk me home, I had just met him, but I accepted the offer as we live close by and again, for him culturally, he cannot ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do’ when it comes to things like walking a girl home. He also gave me a big hug, as he said when you shake hands or hug, it re-energises both people as they pass energy to each other through physical contact and it shows strength and power.
Last night we also talked about greetings, and how British people may shake hands when they first meet someone, but not when they meet again for the second or third time. The Russian said us Brits can be really cold, and he can’t understand why I would want to walk the last 5 mins alone… whereas the old me could not understand why a guy would want to walk an extra 5 mins, then have a 10 min walk home alone. I’m still unsure how I feel about being walked home, as if escorted because being a woman puts me in danger…but at the same time, I realised that I did get used to it in China and I kinda like it.
Chinese is a tonal language, but in songs, it’s incredibly hard to incorporate the tones. For example one pinyin word like ‘wo’ pronounced in a different tone can mean me, nest, hold, crouch or snail depending on the tone and the character – 窝 and 蜗 are both the first tone, but one means nest, the other means snail. Therefore, this can lead to a lot of misheard lyrics, especially for us language learners.
Here are some of my misheard lyrics, I won’t tell you how long it took me to find out their real meanings:
你是我心内的一首歌 – Selina/ 王力宏 Pinyin: haoxiang wen ni
I heard: 好想吻你; I really want to kiss you
Actual lyrics：好想问你; I really want to ask you
The next line of this song is 对我到底有没有动心 (if your feelings about me have changed at all), so looking at it in that way, it’s quite obvious that it’s a question.
送你一首吉祥的歌 – 乌兰图雅 Pinyin: lailailai heipengyoumen
I heard: 来来来，黑朋友们; come here, black friends!
Actual lyrics: 来来来，嘿朋友们; come here, hey friends!
The ‘hey’ in this song is a Chinglish word, they used the English word ‘hey’, and the Chinese word for black is also hei. It sounds pretty similar. Other lyrics in the song also say ‘it doesn’t matter where you come from, we’re all friends’, so my interpretation 真有道理！
我的蒙古马 – 乌兰图雅 Pinyin: wo de menggu ma
I heard: 我的蒙古man; my Mongolian man
Actual lyrics: 我的蒙古马; my Mongolian horse
Wulantuya is my current favourite artist, so it’s only likely she’s on this list. She usually sings about the grasslands and she has some songs about a guy she likes, so I thought she was revealing that she liked a Mongolian man, and added the English word ‘man’ in, just because it’s cool to mix languages in songs. But I should have listened more carefully, actually, the first sound you hear when you play this song is a horse’s whinny, and yeah, the video is full of horses.
时间都去哪儿了？- 王铮亮 Pinyin: yibeizi
I heard: 一杯子 (a cup)、亿倍次 (a million times)、一被子 (a quilt)
Actual lyrics: 一辈子; a lifetime
This song is about time passing fast and his parent’s relationship, but 一辈子 is a word I hear in a lot of Chinese songs. I first thought it meant a cup, like sharing a glass of wine or a nice drink together. The previous lyrics are 生儿养女: bearing and bringing up children, so maybe a million times would be suitable, meaning that his parents would do it all over again and again. Then I thought, as I’d heard yibeizi in plenty of love songs, it meant a quilt, like moving in with someone and sharing a quilt with them, cos that’s romantic right? All of those times I was wrong, and it was infact 一辈子，the Chinese word for ‘a lifetime’.
What songs have you misheard in Chinese or any other language? Did you make any of the same mistakes as I did?
When you think of China, what are the first things you think about? Fortune cookies, panda bears, rice? Well one of the things I think about is Chinese New Year. Celebrated according to the lunar calendar, it’s China’s biggest festival, with people enjoying up to a week off work. People shut up shop in the big cities and go back home to small villages and towns to celebrate with their families.
Ever since I started learning Chinese, I’ve wanted to be in China for lunar new year, even though our university held new years meals, and some fireworks were set off at Lakeside in Nottingham, it just didn’t come close to videos I’ve seen of being in China.
This year, I finally got the chance to be in China for the holiday, I was in Chongqing and a new friend of mine invited me to her house for Chinese new years eve 除夕, which is the most important day. Usually on this day, the whole family gathers and eats a huge feast, with no less than 10 different dishes. Everyone in the family sits down together to make dumplings (one of my favourite Chinese foods) and will watch CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala on TV, four hours of almost torture for locals and foreigner as the performances aren’t very awe-inspiring and the songs are full of propaganda messages with titles like A Beautiful China Rises (美丽中国走起来) and Without the Communist Party, There is No New China (没有共产党就没有新中国). No matter how corny it is, I wanted to be watching it and complaining with everyone else before setting off fireworks at 12am to scare away the evil ‘nian’ monster who comes once a year.
But unfortunately I didn’t get to experience a ‘typical’ new year. I went to my friends house and there was no dumpling making, her auntie would be making dinner for my friend, her husband and son, her brother, her parents, two uncles, her grandma and me. I asked if she could manage by herself and my friend told me it was fine, her auntie could manage. I couldn’t hear any sizzling of oil in the pan, nor could I smell garlic, ginger or chilli, as is usual with Chinese cuisine.
Soon enough, dinner was ready, I went to the kitchen table and there were two hot plates on the table and two big metal bowls, one spicy, one not. My friend’s auntie brought various vegetables and fish to put in the bowls to be cooked and that was our 年夜饭 (big new years dinner). I was upset not to have any dumplings or tens of dishes to choose from. Because I’m not good at eating Chongqing spicy food, I was mostly eating from the non-spicy pot and it was basically just a hotpot.
We went to set off some fireworks with my friend’s son about 8pm on the basketball court, but most of them failed or were a safety hazard. We had the Spring Gala on the TV in the background, but it was muted as one of the uncles decided to bring his accordion so that I could translate the words on the bottom of it – nothing interesting, just ‘authentic Sonora product, distributed by Maxims co.’. So we listened to him playing the accordion for a while, he was really good but I missed a lot of the TV show.
Then, after a bowl of 汤圆, small hot dumplings with sesame inside, we all went to our individual homes. I thought we’d all stay together to see in the new year, but I was back at my place on my own just after 11pm. I didn’t have a TV so couldn’t watch any type of countdown, so just played on my phone, sending and receiving 红包s – interactive envelopes with money inside that you can actually spend.
From 11.45pm onwards, all I could hear was a constant banging, cracking and squealing of fireworks from surrounding neighbours. I was a bit let down and sad I wasn’t there with anyone setting off fireworks together, but I guess it was safer to watch them from the balcony.
So when people ask me “how was Chinese new year? It must have been amazing to have been there in China for it” well yes it was great to be here, but nothing special happened for me. I’d only met this friend once before, so not being very close to her made it a little awkward, along with how everyone was speaking Chongqing dialect which I can’t understand and the fact that I was coming down with a bad cold just topped it all off. Either way, good riddance to my unlucky year of the goat and I’m hoping the year of the monkey will be a good one.
Despite how polluted and urban China is, it still has lots of parks in it’s big cities. Today was 初一, the first day of the Year of the Monkey, and I decided to spend the afternoon in one of Chongqing’s parks, I settled for 花卉园 (Chongqing Flower Park). I was originally planning to go to 鸿恩寺公园 (Hongen temple park), as it looked bigger on the map, but as I was ill, I didn’t want to have to talk to a taxi driver too much, so just stayed at the flower park because it was right next to the metro station.
I first had a walk around, and I felt tired, so looked for a place to sit, most of the tables were full of people playing mahjong.
So I found a seat in a quiet pavillion where there were some old men sitting quietly, at first they just stared at me in silence, then one started to talk about my shoes. He was talking in Chongqing dialect, but from what I understood, he said that young people like me like wearing flat shoes, but older people, aged 30-40 wear high heels, or maybe it was the other way round?
More men came along, one by one and they all greeted each other with a closed fist 拜年 action. One talked to me in normal Mandarin, asked what I was doing here etc, then they all started discussing those semi politically incorrect questions you’re not supposed to ask Brits between themselves – was Thatcher good or bad for the UK?; are the Falkland islands are British or Argentinian? I let them discuss it by themselves and continued writing my diary.
Then one of the old men started talking about good luck, and how luck varies for each person, depending on where and when you were born, so no two people in the world have the same luck. One wise guy was like ‘what about twins?’ but he was quickly shut down. He told them how to read their hands to find out something, so they all held their hands up to their faces. It was really interesting sitting with them, but after a while I left to explore more of the park.
Searching for answers
He wasn’t playing peekaboo with me
I heard the familiar sound of a corny square dance song 广场舞 so followed it. To my surprise there were loads of people there, dancing all different kinds of styles, I couldn’t keep up and stayed watching for a while. A man much older than me asked me to dance with him, I politely declined. It was a bit school disco-ish in the way that people sitting around were waiting to go dance with someone or be chosen, I just wanted to people watch. Each song lasted about 10 minutes, then people changed partners or sat down to rest.
I also came across a group who had a little KTV karaoke session set up, with a prop-up TV with the lyrics and songs on, an amp and a mike.
After an awfully scarring toilet break, which I may or may not share on this blog, I went to the ‘good view platform’, but the view wasn’t all that good at all before going back to the square with all the dancing. This time I was a little bombarded by the guy in the stripey top, as you can see below towards the end of the video. He told me he was a professional dance teacher and he would teach me for free. I kept telling him I didn’t want to and eventually ran away when he turned his back, because he came and whispered “你们英国人很美” in my ear.
I had a great afternoon in the park, chilling with the locals, listening to Chongqing dialect and taking lots of pictures too.
If you’re in Chongqing and want to visit the Flower Garden, take the metro line 6 (the pink one) to 花卉园 Huahuiyuan, leave the subway at exit 2 and the park is right there.
There’s a café chain in Chongqing called BG café. It looks like your standard ‘Western’ café in China, and is complete with an eclectic playlist, ranging from Justin Beiber’s Christmas* album to an orchestra and deep house.
So what’s so different about this café?
Well firstly, when you sit down, you’re not given a traditional menu, you’re asked by a (very persistent) waitress to scan the QR code on your table to find the menu and order through their Wechat account. When you scan the QR code, the system knows where you’re sitting, so a waitress will bring you your drink/food to your table and you don’t have to move once you’ve sat down. Because Wechat can be linked to your bank account, you can even pay your bill through your mobile phone.
This is quite convenient if you’re on the third floor, as the only cashier desk is on the ground floor but it kind of takes away from some of the dining experience. I ate lunch a couple of times there before, and I wanted to talk to a waiter/waitress about what was in the food, or request the pasta without meat, but was unable to as there wasn’t a ‘request to chat with a waiter’ help button on the menu.
It made me think about the future of dining in restaurants and cafés, and I think this model will probably be copied in other Chinese dining places as companies want you to follow them on social media, order and pay using a mobile device. It saves so many steps in regards to training staff and physical labour:
they don’t have to learn the ingredients or items on a menu
they’re customer service level doesn’t have to be incredibly high
it saves pens, paper and printing out receipts
waiters don’t have to figure out when you’re ready to order, the customer does it at their own pace
And Chinese customers like this method of ordering, it’s new, it’s hassle free and means you don’t have to take cash with you as your phone is your wallet. I still prefer to talk to a person, ask for recommendations and feel like I’m an actual customer, rather than just a table number.
What do you think about this new type of café? Would you like to visit somewhere like this? Would it be popular where you live, or is China leading the way in online gimmicks?
In China and Chinese universities especially, exchange students from different countries have lots of opportunities to meet Chinese students. I’ve met new friends at school events, English corners, on the bus, on the street, in the canteen etc. When I meet someone for the first time, we usually exchange Wechat accounts as a way to keep in contact [although we won’t always become the best of friends like when I bothered a girl on my first day].
Sometimes I’ll bump into these friends at a later date and they’ll say ‘Hey Leona, 你还记得我吗？’ (Do you still remember me?)
It’s an awkward question to answer, especially for those people I don’t remember. I know it’s probably just a greeting, but the people who ask me seem to people I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. So I don’t know if I directly answer ‘Yes, I remember you’, it’s like saying ‘yes I remember who you are but I haven’t bothered to get in contact with you because you’re not that important to me’.
So my usual response to those I remember is’yes, I remember you, we met at X, but I can’t remember your name, sorry’, and to those I don’t remember ‘yes, your face is familiar, but I’ve forgotten your name’.
Chinese names are difficult to remember, even for some Chinese students, as I saw when our taekwondo class was split into groups of 6 people and we had to remember everyone’s names. They found it difficult to remember everyone’s names and we had 3 minutes to introduce ourselves. Like my Chinese name, the Li, could be 李、里、理、礼、澧… etc but it’s the first one 【木子李】. The Ou has less options, the 欧 in Europe 欧洲 or the 鸥 in seagull 海鸥。Etc etc, so I think it’s acceptable to forget my Chinese friends’ Chinese names if I haven’t written them down. Many like to use their English names.
Other strange greetings questions include
你早饭吃了吗？ Have you eaten breakfast
你吃饭了吗？Have you eaten lunch/dinner?
你去哪儿？Where are you going?
你在干嘛？What are you doing?
I’ve been told that these are just questions and people don’t really care where you’re going or if you ate dinner or not. The same way we often ask ‘How are you?’ but don’t expect to hear anything besides ‘I’m fine, good thanks’.
I’ve got to an age where age isn’t so important. I remember in primary school when we would calculate our exact ages “I’m 6 and a half” because that half a year made us so much older and wiser than our classmates. Anyway, this post is about my age in China.
I met a Chinese guy a few weeks ago, and we had the usual introduction conversation, what’s your name, where are you from etc? Then the conversation went as follows：
Me: I’m 23, you?
小刘: Me too
Me: Oh cool, so you’re also a Goat [Chinese zodiac]
小刘: What? No. I’m a rooster.
Me: That’s impossible, how can you be 23 and a rooster?
小刘: How can you be 23 and a goat? What year were you born in?
小刘: 1991? Then you’re not 23… you’re, let me check…you’re 25 years old.
I was slightly confused and for a few moments wondered if I really was 25, and what had I wasted the past 2 years of my life doing?
I did the maths again, 1991 to 2000 is 9, + 15 means I’ll turn 24 this year but I haven’t had my birthday yet so I was definitely 23, not 25. I asked him to explain his method, but he couldn’t. He just insisted I was 25.
Then this week in class, our teacher gave us an explanation of Chinese ages. There are two main types, 周岁 and 虚岁*：
周岁 [zhousui] is your ‘actual’ age, which increases on your birthday. But unlike in the west, in China, when you are born, you are 1 year old, not 0 months. My teacher said it’s because women are pregnant for a year before the baby is born. All the females in our class shouted an anonymous NO, it’s 9 months! Which shows how little our teacher knows about pregnancy.
虚岁 [xusui] is your nominal age, so the age that you will turn at the end of the year. It’s also based on the same idea as 周岁, that when you are born you are 1 year old. So regardless of whether you’ve had your birthday or not, you will always be slightly older.
For an example, a child that was born on 02/12/2000 is now:
14 in Western terms
Confused? I still am. And now I know the theory behind the ages, when people tell me their age, I don’t know if they are telling me their Western age, 周岁， or 虚岁. Is it rude to ask them to clarify how old they are? I also don’t know whether to keep telling people I meet that I’m 23, as they may think I’m 虚岁 23 [so actually 21].
*my dictionary says there are other ages, 足岁 and 实岁 but I don’t want to confuse myself anymore, so will stick to these two.
They say that reverse culture shock is always worse than the initial culture shock of going abroad and I know leaving Asia will be difficult. Although China was a hard country to live in because of the language, local people’s culture and of course that horrible 7/8 hour time difference, it was easier than I make it out to be; I only cried twice in China. The first time was the first night I arrived, after almost 24 hours of travelling with a dodgy tummy I just wanted to find my dormitory and sleep but I arrived after midnight at Qingdao university. My taxi driver didn’t know where my dorm was so he just dropped me at the big gate and I was stranded. I knew where my dorm was but the gates were all locked, I woke up several watchmen who didn’t seem to understand or help me and when one started shouting at me I just cried. I was cold, lonely and had no idea what to do until some nice people in the hotel helped me find a hole in the fence for me to climb through. The second time I cried was on the plane to Thailand when I left China. Again, I wasn’t feeling too good after a three hour delay and the reality just hit me that I don’t know when I’ll be going back to China and I may not see some of my Asian friends ever again.
There are so many things that happen in China that I don’t think can possibly happen anywhere else in the world. Even my politest of friends would still spit their chicken bones on the table, people would encourage their children to go to the toilet (both types) on the street and little boys had big slits in the middle of their trousers making this even easier. Curious people would approach me in the street asking for a picture of/with me because I was a foreigner and the people too scared to talk to me would just take a picture without asking. Children would tug at their parents arms and say “Look Mum, a foreigner!” At first these things obviously shocked and outraged me but soon I became immune to the shock factor and by the end of my time in China not much could shock me.
The way of life I’ve gotten used to has been very different. Most days something outrageous, crazy, disgusting or weird has happened to me or my friends. I’ve learnt to expect the unexpected, especially where toilets are involved. But I’ve even adapted to this as I’ve learnt that the previous user might not have cleaned up, that the door might be opened by a middle aged Chinese lady and there might not even be doors in extreme cases.
I think I’ve toughened myself to deal with difficult situations, especially where bargaining is concerned. In all the countries I visited, life was enjoyed outside, on street markets you could buy anything from food, clothes, souvenirs, fake designer goods, magazines and even pets. These markets/streets were always good places to buy things as they were full with locals and prices can be beaten down. What annoyed me was that the vendors, seeing I was foreign would immediately treble the price and assume that because I’m this “rich foreigner” I would just accept that price as their first offer. Although you might think it’s silly bargaining over 20p it was also the principle that I was fighting against. A notoriously bad vendor sold fruit outside our dormitory, he would change his prices depending on who you were and once he sold some bananas to a Chinese girl for 35p/500g, I was next in line and he tried to charge me 45p/500g for the same bananas, I asked why he’d charged her different and he said you’re my friend, 45p is a good price. I knew it wasn’t. This was the last straw for fruit guy as I termed him and as he didn’t drop the price I didn’t buy the bananas or buy from him ever again. Bargaining for fruit was fun for me in China as I learnt the value of fruits, saw which ones were in season and learnt that if you buy a whole watermelon, you can get it for as cheap as 7p/500g if you go to the right part of town off the main roads. So when I’m back in the UK and just pick up the bananas from the shelf in Tesco it will definitely be different.
I developed a love/hate relationship with the street food in China. Normally I would just walk past it and avoid it at all costs after horror stories from my friends telling me how the lamb could be dog or rat meat, the oil has been used thousands of times and it’s pumped full of MSG. But sometimes it wouldn’t look that bad and I think it was ok to eat there occasionally. I enjoyed the savoury Chinese pancakes, with sesame seeds and this sauce I cannot describe. The roasted sweetcorn was always fine and I also liked deep fried octopus from Taidong.
As I’ve mentioned before , I really enjoy Chinese TV, it’s another aspect of Chinese life that’s totally unpredictable. For example, let’s look at a clip from China’s version of Take Me Out. . This isn’t a special minions related episode, it’s only from a few weeks ago. (If you want to see if he got a date or not, skip the video to 19.30). The Chinese reality shows were fantastic and I will continue to watch them in England but it will be weird not having anybody to discuss 爸爸去哪儿？ with. I’ll have to find some Chinese exchange students and get them to introduce me to more new Chinese TV shows. I really want to find a wife swap type one.
With many internet sites blocked in China (Facebook, Youtube , The Guardian etc) the internet has been a strange place to navigate from China. Sometimes the speed would slow down completely for a day or only parts of websites would load. Having a break from being constantly connected to Facebook was really nice, but now in Thailand I find that as before, it’s one of the first websites I open when I turn my laptop on.
It will be interesting to see if I have picked up any mannerisms or habits from China. I know that when I went to Khao San Road in Bangkok, a place with many bars and even more foreigners, I was staring at the foreigners. I hadn’t seen so many in one place for a very long time and I’d forgotten how diverse we look with blue eyes, freckles, curly hair, dreadlocks, tattoos and not forgetting the pink sunburnt shoulders, typical of a Brit in the sun. I’m hoping this will be the only thing I’ve picked up from living in China, as I’ve also seen a lot of spitting, eating loudly, talking at an unnecessarily loud volume, horn beeping, pushing in queues and drinking shots of beer.
I know when I get back I will be quite excited about things like reading the paper and understanding every word, watching the adverts on TV and knowing what products they’re advertising and even buying skin products and not having to worry whether or not it has skin bleaching ingredients. But after a while I think the initial novelty of UK life might wear off and I’ll be wishing I was back in China where people have often said:
“Look at that foreigner with the curly hair, she can’t understand us and we cant understand her, she must be wearing a wig but we’ll never know for sure.”
Only for me to turn around and say, “I do understand you, my hair is natural.”
One time, I was going to a bar for a drink with some friends and my Chinese friend Allen warned me about cases when gangs have made someone pass out by placing bleach or something on a cloth. Then when they wake up the thieves have taken their…..money? bank cards? clothes? mobile phone?
Organs! Well only a kidney and maybe a cornea or two.
This turned into a regular greeting between us, when I would leave he would say “Watch out for/protect your organs!”. This was not too much to worry about however as apparently Westerners blood is different from Chinese, so an English kidney would be difficult to sell on the black market.
There’s so many more things I can say about China but I don’t want to bore you or drag on. How can you condense five months of life into a few paragraphs and photos? China has been a great experience and I will miss it but for now, I’m coming home…someone put the kettle on.
My Chinese friends are so kind to me, not only do we have a good time together but they also help me with my Chinese and give me gifts. It was yesterday when I realised the strange collection of gifts I’ve collected over the past couple of months here, I’ve also included the gifts from my Indian friends.
Going from top to bottom:
An Indian map
A clay figurine of a character from 京剧, Beijing Opera
A small potted plant which I’m taking very good care of
A world map – this is from India and my Chinese friends are shocked when they see that Taiwan is classed as an independent country
Postcards of Xi’an and different buildings on Qingdao University campus
A campus map
Qingdao University playing cards
Book of commemorative stamps and stories about good children
Gold and pink flower necklace and matching earrings (India)
Another pair of silver flowery earrings from my friend’s sister, I loved the unique design but there was no time to go shopping so she took them out and gave them to me (India)
An elephant statue (India)
A shrimp sweet (even though I’m allergic)
Chinese tea, green and red
Two homemade juggling cubes
A pair of insoles
Stolen hotel jams and butter.
Also not in the picture (as I’ve already eaten them):
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.
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!