Katarina, this awkward British girl who is always tired (sorry, it really is the best way to describe her) often exclaims ‘this seems like a sitcom moment!’ And yes, sometimes life in China seems too bizarre and crazy to make up.
When I’m having the time of my life I’d let out a gooey-eyed warm ‘only in China’. But when everything goes pear-shaped (circa stolen-phone-in-a-Hong Kong-toilet-by-a-Muslim-woman episode) I’d let out a vein-bulging ‘only in China’ shriek. So in this comeback post I thought I’d focus on the good, the bad and the downright pathetic moments I’ve witnessed, experienced and sadly been victim to.
1) Lecturers are so chilled.
I remember a time where lecturers would bleat on about geopolitical relations and occurrences that buck the political trend (e.g. President Trump-let’s not go there now). Where lecturers would bemoan about how students merely wish to pass and do not wish to drink from the very fountain of wisdom and knowledge that comes from every word they articulate. Where lecturers would shoehorn an Amazon screenshot of their failing books in between slides and urge us to buy a ‘much needed’ copy.
In China, lecturers are either very relaxed or blasé to the point you know they have tenure and don’t give two chickens’ feet if you pass or fail. Lecturers in China will organise social outings on weekends for you to get to know the local area.
I mean, who isn’t excited by the prospect of going to a town with the highest number of government officials?!
Have a seminar with five students? Well, Starbucks it is!
2) Asians are a mystery and need to be photographed for visual evidence.
Now, Chinese people taking pictures of foreigners is normal (normal/abnormal it is all relative to me now). But, being brown-skinned and Muslim in Ningbo China is a wonder to many, least of all Chinese people. Applying for a teaching job does not involve a normal application process, involving pictures of yourself and questioning your level of English because not being white means your English is surely not as good?! Now, as I am fully into my rant I might as well mention the international student who was intrigued by the sighting of a brown-skinned Muslim girl and wrote back home to mention it. What far-away homogenous land is he from? Just Germany.
3) What 9-5 work hours? There are 24 hours in a day.
It will come as no surprise that Chinese students are incredibly hard working, and their work ethic is contagious/infectious. At first I thought ‘well, at least it will encourage me to work harder and get better grades’. Little did I know I would end up having meetings regarding a university business consulting programme at 11pm and last until after midnight. Little did I know I would end up waking up to and sleeping to the sound, memories and messages regarding deadlines, surveys and data analyses that are yet to be conducted. It still scars me to this day…
4) Social interactions.
My theory is that the one child policy (with all its many flaws and ethical considerations) has greatly enhanced a Chinese person’s social interactive skills and made them to be friendlier human beings. Their attitude to social interactions is treated like a full-time job with a clear job description: make international friends. In China I meet people for the very first time and they invite me for a home stay and ask to take a picture to mark this pivotal moment in your soon-to-be blossoming friendship. This compared to a British persons attitude is very distinctive. British people are so unperturbed, you can have a great conversation and you will still end the conversation with a mere ‘see you around’. And there’s that special moment gone undocumented…
5) Eating to live.
By now you are probably too aware of the vegan struggle. My worldview, or at least my perspective on food has taken a sharp shift, from being an ‘eat to live’ kind of gal to a person satisfied with survival. Nowadays in China if I can get a rice dish with sides of tofu and vegetables (with no indistinguishable slithers of meat hidden in) I am very pleased. So much so that I pretty much ate the same food for every meal of the last five months! I even used that plummy British word that no one uses in everyday life- chuffed. I was chuffed with the vegan food. That is probably enough to indicate the struggle….
Thanks for reading!