In the year 2013, I moved to China, spontaneously, for a year. Check out my post about Teaching English in China
When I was there, I came across many unexpectedly fascinating things, that I had never seen on my travels before. The Chinese culture and people were something I learnt about very fast, and many day to day things I saw may not seem out of the ordinary to say, someone who has grown up in China.
This blog entry is dedicated to the weird and wonderful images that will remain in my mind forever.
Men with their belly’s hanging out by having tucked up t shirts
Many Chinese men seemed to have a ‘way of keeping cool’ that I had never seen before; folding their t-shirt half way up their torso to reveal their.. er.. belly. *Calling all men*- does it really keep you cool?! Whether it was a teacher, principal, factory worker, or just a passer-by, there were bellies galore. Bewildering.
Shop music blaring to the point of not being able to even shout at the person walking alongside you
I was walking to the local shop and I overheard music gradually becoming louder and louder.. until the point where I was actually screaming at my friend walking alongside me, and she still couldn’t hear me! It had a heavy bass, and it sounded similar to trance music from the 90′ s- anyone remember ‘scooter?!’
Even inside the shops you couldn’t actually ask the assistant for anything because the music was so overbearing! A lot of the time an employee of the shop was talking on a microphone about the latest deals and the other shop assistants instore were constantly clapping in (or out) of time to the music! *Note: This does, in any way at all, attract people into the shop.*
Squat toilets with no door
Everywhere I went, I seemed to come out with some sort of wet substance on my shoes. After waiting what felt like a lifetime, you would enter the cubicle, often with no door, and of course it is always a squat toilet as expected. If you were lucky, you could even find a trench style toilet where the toilet slopes down at one end, so it all gathers and goes down one plughole- and all with no door.
Napkins and tissues
I learnt in China, to never take these items for granted. Ever.
When in Asia, always remember to take wet wipes, hand sanitiser, or tissues out with you. In restaurants, I never seemed to have tissues or napkins on the table; I actually rarely find a toilet roll dispenser in a bathroom, let alone toilet paper.
Shopping was difficult for a number of reasons, unless I went into the city of Guangzhou and found a failsafe H&M.
1- Normally, I am a S/M in size. In China, I was an XXL, a size which is not easy to find.
2- Everything I saw had sequins, glitter, or hearts and stars. I felt like it wasn’t my usual style…
3- A lot of the things had really, really bad English on them, and as an English Teacher, it wasn’t the most intelligent option!
4- The sizes usually didn’t quite match what it actually said on the label.
5- The shop assistants in the UK don’t tend to tell me something wouldn’t fit me, or I am too fat. Yes, that happened a lot in China, and I loved it when I proved them wrong!
6- Walking into a shop, seeing something you like, taking it to the cash desk, and paying for it. Never take this for granted girls.. in China a few people didn’t want to serve me. Not for a negative reason, but because I was clearly foreign and they didn’t want to attempt to speak English to me. *Cue giggles from the cashier*
Ok, so I lived in a remote village; but the thrill of seeing a westerner never actually seemed to wear off. I should have made a tally of just how many times I said hello in a day. Let’s work it out.. I taught roughly 1000 Students a week, and there were still around 7000 students I didn’t teach. If I saw just half of those in a day, that’s definitely over 3500 hello’s. I thought it was a phase and it would pass, but no. Literally everyone who saw me said hello. Walking down the street… “HELLO! HELLO! HELLO!“ and if you tried to say anything past that, it was just followed with another “HELLO!”
I now know how it feels to be a celebrity. Really.
People longingly stared, gasped, pointed, nudged, whispered, even screamed when they saw me or any other foreigners alongside me. I understand that I was the first ever westerner in the village of Gaoyao, so it was new, but it was as if they didn’t realise that I knew people were looking, or know that people were whispering, or pointing at me. It was definitely a strange sensation, that I’m sure I will never experience again. My childhood dream of being famous quickly dissapated.
I would be sitting in a sunspot, having a nice lunch, and someone would be taking a photo of me. I would be walking along the road, someone pretending to be on their phone, and then that person would take a photo of me. I would be teaching my classes, and a student would, not-so slyly, lift their phone and take a photo of me. I know this because I actually saw the photos on the Chinese version of Facebook!
With all of these things, I actually enjoy every single day in China. It was a journey of learning, and something not many people get to experience. I grew in myself, my teaching abilities, and my confidence.
I loved going outside every single day with the unknown ahead of me; the unknown feeling of if the sky will be blue or foggy, if the students had built on their English from the previous class, and sometimes I even miss China; the carefree, stress-free life that it was.Tweet