Monday, March 31, 2008

Tomb Sweeping Day this Friday

Qing Ming Jie

Talk about getting your prayers heard. I just wrote about how much I miss Shanghai now when I live in Suzhou, and then five minutes later I get a sms from my lovely friend Monica who asks me if I would like to borrow her flat (in Shanghai, on Ulumuqi Lu!) from Fri-Sunday? Oh yes please!!!!!!!!!!! This Friday is a Tomb Sweeping Day (Qing Ming Jie) in China, which since this year is regarded as a public holiday in the country (However, not so many people seems to know it, I just told my AYI and she looked at me as if I was Santa Clause giving her Friday off...).

We will all be celebrating Tomb Sweeping day in differently: Monica will be going to Hong Kong (Jet-setter girl), I’ll be on Shanghai house duty and Chinese families will honour past ancestors by sweeping graves and offering foods sacrifices. Cannot wait!
Ps. Some emails from people across the world have appeared in my inbox, telling me they like my blog. This totally makes my day, so thanks guys! If there is somehting you think I should do to improve this blog (eg something you like to read about) just say the word...

I have no choice but to do this

It's time to stop denying...

Yesterday I bought myself a bike in order to be able to get around easier. The area where I live in Suzhou is not one tenth as crowded as my old Shanghai ‘hood’ at Ulumuqi Lu (Gosh, I miss Ulumuqi Lu!). Anyways, the bike that I found is if possible the ugliest thing I’ve seen, however, it was the biggest one they had.. so… What can u do if you’ve got long legs? This country definitely wasn’t made for people of my size!

Anyways, the bike was 380 kuai, the basket was 10 and after yesterday’s ‘exploring Suzhou by bike’-trip I have to say I am quite happy with it. Riding a bike is definitely the best way to get around and to see some thing you’d never be able to notice from a taxi window. So I’m happy. I just have to remind myself to remain calm once the older cyclists –and here I am talking about the men- start racing with me on the roads again (this was the everyday case of Shanghai).

The bike also fits well with my ‘oh-my-god-I-just-realised-summer-is-only-two-months-away-and-I-have-to-get-into-shape’ realization that I had yesterday after inspecting myself in the mirror. Gosh, I hate rushing into a better shape, but I don’t see any other choice. So this week will be my ‘trying-to-find-a-fun-way-to-get-in-shape’ week (…..aren’t you excited?! I am not). I will try as many being-healthy-and-moving-a-lot-options as possible. Today I am going for a free trial session at a gym, on Wednesday I am gonna try a spinning class, Thursday is all about pilates and if I feel completely wild on Friday I might do some belly dancing. Yup. A good ol mix of sports is what I need (at least that is what I am telling myself).

Arighty Monday blues and shapeless body –here we go!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Taking a dump in public

I sincerely and deeply hope that parents will stop letting their small children urinate/take a dump in public sometime soon. This is something I have no understanding for at all. Big cities like Shanghai and Beijing nowadays have plenty of public toilets that everyone can use so why on earth let your kid poo on the pavement? We don’t even let dogs do that! This is far from the ‘worse’ I’ve seen. Kids peeing in busses, metros or trains are even worse. I’m definitely not blaming the kid but I’m having a hard time understand the mindset of the kid’s parents. Why would you let your child do something like that?

FYI: this kid was out and about with his dad. So no, he wasn’t homeless (from what I could tell) and they were having a good time until he decided he had to go and the dad pointed at the pavement. Delightful.

Another one bites the dust

Another whipped fella.

I'm quite impressed of the ladies in Shanghai: what a power they seem to have over their men?! I can barely get my bf to hold my handbag for me when I bend down to tie my shoe laces...

Can you?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How to.... find a flat in Shanghai

Someone posted a comment (in Swedish) wondering how I got by setting up my life in China (flat, language difficulties and so on) and since I LOVE getting questions from you readers (it means someone is reading my blog -woho!), I’ll do my outmost to answer this one!

Moving to China was actually much easier than some of the other moves I’ve done in my life. Sure, a lot of paper work, but when I (before China) moved from Sweden to Finland the hassle was even bigger. And that’s quite ironic, seeing that Sweden and Finland are both Scandinavian countries that are supposed to provide easy solutions to Scandos wanting to move across the boarder.. Anyways, the point is: moving to China was/is fairly easy!

You can solve the housing problem in a few different ways. You can post your own add at pages like or craigslist, or, you can simply reply to one of the 1000nds of adds that are already there. We tried to find out first flat that way but found the process to be a bit slow, not to mention confusing, as we, seeing it was our first time in Shanghai, didn’t know the city very well and didn't know in what area we wanted to live.

Another way is to simply walk around in an area you like (I recommend the French Concession or Jing'an) and drop by any of the real estate agencies that are scattered around city. They will (most likely) show you flats straight away and are normally very helpful. Some of them speak English, but it really helps if you know some Chinese, or, if you bring someone who knows a little bit.

If you end up renting via a real estate agent you’ll have to pay (on top of the first rent and the deposit) an agent fee. This fee is compulsory, and you’ll split it with your landlord. It’s a one time fee, but yeah, I know.. it still sucks. If you rent from a private person you don’t have to worry about this fee.

Some things to think about:

* ALWAYS try to haggle down the rent a little bit!

* If you cannot lower the rent, then ask for additional things for the flat; eg a portable oven, a new washing machine.. well, anything you feel you need. You are most likely to get it.

* Make sure that someone translates your contract to English before you sign anything.

* Most landlords will suggest that you pay a huge deposit (2 month’s rent) as well as the rent for the first 2 months. We have always haggled this down to 1 month worth of deposit and 2 month’s rent. Don’t let them freeze a huge deposit for you. You might run into troubles getting it back (I’ll get back to this issue in another post).

* Ask the real estate agency or the landlord to help you organize an AYI if you’re lazy and don’t wanna bother with doing the dishes and the laundry…

Hm… I think that’s all for now!
I’ll get back to the other questions later, but I hope this helps someone a little bit!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Me -a giant baby? (!)

Korean Bibimbap

I went to eat some Korean bibimbap for lunch yesterday. I love Korean food and bibimbap is my all-time favourite. The area where I live have loads of Korean residents, and restaurants, so finding a place here isn't hard. However, I tend to return to the places I like, so therefore me and my friend went to a cosy joint where we've been before, and also know the owner a little bit. He was, like usual, delighted to see us, and we received an extra load of kimchi before the bibimbap was served. Once our stone pots arrived I started stirring, when the owner came up to me.

-You are doing it wrong, let me show you!
-Ehum.. okey. Well, I have stirred before.. but sure!

The owner took the spoon from my hand, added some spicy sauce into the pot and started stirring. From my point of view, his stirring technique wasn't that much different to mine... But then he suddenly goes:

-Haha, you are like a giant baby! Can't even stir your own food!!!

Excuse me?!

A giant baby? Cannot stir my food? A GIANT BABY!? Out of all things I've been told I am/look like since I got to China ("fatty/giant/ wonder-woman/golden girl"), this one definitely takes the prize. I am not Jonna -giant baby -Wibelius.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lose a pound or 2

I told my little brother before he arrived here that China is a ’slimming place’. At least for the first 6 months when you tend to get stomach sick quite often.

He didn’t believe me.

Until now

My brother bought some ties...

Well u can never have too many of those, right guys?

(who said girls were shopoholics?!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An interesting ride

We had a quite interesting train ride the other night.

Me, mom and my brother Joel had tickets to the 8.20pm train from Shanghai to Suzhou. I had bought the tickets as late as 6pm the night before, in Suzhou, so there weren’t that many seats left anymore, and we all had to sit in different train coupes (Mom was in coupe number 13, I was in 3, and Joel was in 1).

At the platform we went to our different coupes and I found my seat. Soon a Chinese man came to sit between me. Then suddenly another Chinese man showed up and asked me to move. I showed him my ticket and imagine my surprise when he then showed me his, and it turned out we had the exact same seat number and train coupe on our tickets! Only difference was that he was going to Changsou and I was getting off on the way, at Suzhou. The fact that we had the same seat on our tickets caused a stir in our train coupe. Everyone around us got involved and at least 5 people offered their seats to either me or the man. The man, however, refused to sit, and then our two identical tickets started to circulate around the coupe, with people comparing them and discussing which one was fake and which one was real, and I had to describe where I had bought my tickets, what I had paid for it, and so on. Old as young, no one wanted to miss out on this drama and I received sympathetic nods and smiles from different corners, meanwhile the standing man got some gibes about his ticket probably being fake. (No one believed that I had a fake ticket). I was watching the drama unfold thinking to myself that ‘thank lord it was me who was in this coupe and not my mom or brother. They would have never been able to handle all this with their language limitations’.

Anyways. When the train 30 minutes later arrived in Suzhou the man could take over my seat and everyone had calmed down a bit.

I met up with mom and Joel in the taxi line, thinking I had some story to share, when mom went:

-There was a Chinese guy on my seat.
-Mine too!
Said Joel.
-Mine too! Said I, startled.
-Yeah but no wonder. I cannot believe you managed to get us the wrong tickets, mom went on.
-Wrong tickets?
-Yes, these tickets are for the 20th, but today is the 21st.

As it turns out, mom and Joel had had adventures on their own. Joel had arrived to a seat where a family was eating their KFC dinner. When he showed his tickets a minor hysteria broke lose in the coupe and although he insisted he could stand and started walking towards the end of the coupe, he was gently pulled back and pulled down at the seat, leaving one family member standing.

Mom, on the other hand, was the only one who ended up having to stand. We she arrived at ‘her’ seat, a Chinese man was already sitting there. When she showed her ticket he glances at it, quickly confirmed that her date was wrong, and left her standing outside the toilets for the whole train ride. I cannot believe that out of all the people, including ourselves, that in total viewed our tickets during that ride, he was the only one who bothered to look at the dates!

Anyways, it was great to laugh about it afterwards. I don’t think the tickets office purposely sold me tickets for the wrong night, however, in the future I will be a bit more careful with checking the dates on my tix!

A crowded Shanghai railway station

The Haiku Experience

I know I have wasted a lot of blog space on writing about Haiku, my favourite Japanese restaurant in Shanghai, but just look at these pix?! Haiku’s sushi rolls are outstanding. I brought along my mom and bro and they both loved it (and my brother isn’t easy to impress). If you’re dropping by Shanghai don’t miss this yummy experience. The restaurant is located on 28B Taojiang Road near Hengshan Road, but make sure you make a reservation, because the place tends to fill up, especially on the weekends (021-64450021).

Ninja Roll (tempura shrip, crab, onion and spicy sauce on top)

Princess Roll. Everyone's favorite.

Speaking of my brother and mom, btw, they left this morning. Saaaad. But we had a great time over here together!

Roxy Rolito -tuna, cream cheese and 119 sauce. Yum!

Oh, and some people have been asking my why I removed my Tibet post. Well, I can handle people calling me brainwashed and stupid and yadi yadi because of my opinion, because we all think differently about things in this world. But I cannot handle personal threats being emailed to me. So I decided to remove the post. This isn’t a political blog after all. I would have loved to write about my view on these sorts of things, but that will have to happen in another blog, and at another place.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An intensive day in Suzhou is about to take place

After a lot of train rides (Suzhou-Shanghai) today is going to be an all-day-long-in-Suzhou-exclusive for my mom and brother (who are here until Sunday, in case someone wonders).

We are planning the following things:

• the pearl market
• the silk market
• Shiquan Jie (maybe I can convince them to visit the recently opened Bookworm café)
• The Humble administrator’s garden
• A canal ride (if the sky remains as blue as it is right now?)
• Some massage
• Tiger Hill
• Horse back riding at Lakeside.
• Suzhou museum

I get tired just at looking at this list. And I know we are obviously not going to make it all. But I deserve some credit for trying, right? Especially since I am not a sightseeing-loving-person. Anyways, the reason why I am sharing this is because I just recently moved to Suzhou, and I might have forgotten something crucial in order to get the ultimate Suzhou experience? Have I? Suzhou-knowers, speak now! We only have until Sunday, and I am planning at least 2 more escapes to Shanghai!

Victims of bugs

All of my recent visitors have come to China with their spirits high, only to eventually crumble as victims of evil stomach bugs. It doesn’t matter if they prepare themselves with stomach flora tablets (or whatever they are called), fluids, shots or disinfection hand spray –they still all get sick, one way or another.

I feel helpless in terms of knowing how to help them. During my first eight months in China I got sick quite often, and lost about 5 kilos, but then it just ‘stopped’ (and the 5 kilos came back, damn!) and now I haven’t been sick for about 1 year (even though I have been travelling both to Europe and other Asian countries during this time). What’s the magic? What do u people do to prevent visitors from getting stomach bugs?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Getting a 'special price'

Today I’m off to the fabric/tailor market at the south Bund in Shanghai. I love the tailor market! It’s everything the fake market is not, including; fun, reasonable (in terms of prices), and reliable. I know many people have made things they haven’t been happy with there, but like always in this blog, I am only speaking on behalf of my own personal experiences. And I’ve always been satisfies with my jackets/skits/pants/dresses/shorts/shirts… (ehum.. Yeah, I’ve sort of made quite a lot of stuff at that market)

I use different tailors every time (the tailor market consists of 3 floors full of different shops), however, there is always one shop I return to.

I’ve become a regular at this particular shop has because of a simple reason. They always give me a better price. And how did this happen, you may wonder? Well, after returning to the shop three times the sales people started recognizing me and I knew they liked the fact that I could speak some Chinese. Every time I had a visitor in Shanghai I brought them along, which meant more business for them, and a better price for me. However, they always told me (in Chinese) that I shouldn’t tell anyone else about my ‘special price’ and sometimes they even charged me extra in front of other people’s eyes just to give me money back when no one was looking.

Now, don’t think I am naïve. I know I am probably still paying more than the Chinese people that go to the same shop. But last time one of the men took me aside and showed me some receipts of other westerners’ orders. Three hundred kuais for a dress, 90 for a shirt… I only pay about 100 for a dress and 60 for a shirt. The oldest man in the shop also said something funny when we were talking:

-Hey, your Chinese is pretty good now. Before I could barely understand you but now I can.

Cheers! Nice to know that someone can understand me… (Mind me, that's my hurt ego that is speaking...)

Anyways, I suppose what I wanted to say with this post is that it really pays off to come back/bring new business to shops/tailors in China. I know that the phrase 'special price only for you my friend!' is completely worn out in China but at times, there can be an underlying meaning to the words. At least in my opinion.

Hurt ego

I went to buy train tickets the other day. Next to me in the line was a young Chinese couple who gave me tired looks. When I started ordering the tickets in Chinese their attention was caught and soon I heard the guy ask the girl (in Chinese)

-Do you understand a word of what she is saying?
-No, not one!

Aoooooch! Talk about getting your ego hurt. Stupid young couple. Why did I have to understand what they said?!

However, I did receive every single ticket I asked for (a total of 6 different ones) so at least the ticket seller must have understood me… Damn. This was a setback!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Faking it

I had an old pedicure voucher so I decided to get my highly neglected nails done some weeks ago….

Sitting at an upscale Spa reading a magazine, two older western ladies with American accents came to sit beside me to get their nails polished. They started off by telling each other about the last weeks adventures, including crazy taxi drivers, spicy food and cheesecakes at Starbucks, before they went on to something deeper, namely shopping.

Woman 1 started with praising Woman 2’s new handbag; a black, fake, Gucci purse.

W2: Yeah isn’t it adorable! I bought it at this amazing market!
W1: Where is that market?
W2: At Nanjing Lu… It is called something with fashion…. Maybe it is fashion market!
W1: You have to take me there!
W2: Yes I have to! They have amazing bags there! Leather and stuff! And the prices are good too. You just have to be a bit stubborn!
W1: Oh, how is that?
W2: Well, you have to haggle the price down. But don’t worry, I am good at that! I bought this bag for a very special price!
W1: Special price?
W2: Yes, a special price. The sales girl wanted 800 yuan for it! And I mean, it is a nice bag! Look at it, real leather!? [holding out the bag so the other woman can look again] But I got it for 400 yuan!! Now that is a good price!
W1: Yes, 400 is very cheap! You are so good at haggling!
W2: Hahaha, well, no.. but if you want to I can help you to get things cheaper.

Lord. And I always wondered who those people are, you know, those that buy all that fake, shitty stuff. Well at least now I know why people are so keen on selling it…

Friday, March 14, 2008

Straight talking

Got to share this one with you...

Yesterday I went to do laser hair removal (for the bikini line). All you girls out there should know why. And all you guys? Well, shaving is a pain!

A tiiiiiny bit embarrassing however, was that the laser treatment took place at a plastic surgery clinic?! When the taxi driver dropped me off he saw the sign, glanced at my boobs and gave me a superficial smirk. (It's not what it looks like, dude!!)

Before I got to see the doctor I had some 'consultation'. A gorgeous (however plastic) girl came to greet me and started off by telling me how fantastic I looked. (Not convincing –especially not when it comes from someone plastic-fantastic).

Then, we sat down and went through the treatment and the prices. FYI, it’s not cheap, but not outrageously expensive. Average, I suppose it the word I am looking for.

-Okay, so are you ready to meet the doctor? Plastic girl asked. She will look at your ‘situation’.
-Ehum, okay…
I said, feeling a tad uncomfortable. Eh… so the doctor. Is it a woman or a man?
-Oh! It’s a WOMAN of course!
Plastic girl said, and I sighed in relief. And you don’t have to worry one thing! She is perfectly and 100% straight, if you know what I mean?! She added, giving me her most understanding look.
-Eh… sure. Well… Good! I guess?

(Too much information?)

The treatment itself was very quick and not as painful as plastic girl had told me it would be. Plastic girl had even mentioned I could get tranquilizers before my second treatment if I found the first treatment to be too painful. Tranquilizers? For a burning little pinch? Naaaah, I don’t think so!

Now, don’t worry sensitive readers who are not one bit interested in my laser treatment, I won’t give any more details. I just thought I’d let you know that in China you are entitled to know if your doctor is straight or not. In case you’re interested, that is.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The new Chinese Labour Law

Today I went to a seminar about the new labour law that became active from January 1 in China. I had some sort of idea about what the new law was about (that it was in favour of the employees and about giving them more securities) but I didn’t know just how much it favoured the employees! Western companies that still haven’t implemented the new law in their company should really act fast!

This is one example of how the law can hit an unprepared Western company in the face.

A Chinese man was working for an European company. He had a monthly salary of 1200 yuan. His job was to sort nails –he had to separate the bad ones from the good ones and the good ones were put in a box and sent to Europe. However, he somehow managed to put some bad nails with the good ones and those were sent to Europe, leading to a 300 000 yuan loss for the company. The Chinese worker was fired, but felt that he had been mistreated and went to the court.

And who do you think the court favoured? Yes. The Chinese worker.

Why? Well, because in the European company’s contract with the employee, there was no specification of what ‘a great company loss’ actually was. The Chinese judge simply didn’t consider 300 000 yuan to be a big loss for the European company, and therefore favoured the Chinese employee. The European company ended up having to pay him a severance fee.

Obviously, it’s very important that Western companies include a clause in their company handbook/ employee contracts about what they consider to be a great company loss. (I would recommend people to write something really low, like 3000 yuan).

Anyways, this was just one out of many things I learned today. I thought I’d share this knowledge.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Listen up!

A lovevly American couple has interviewed me about my spendings in China... in case any of you are interested, the podcast can be downloaded from this address:

If you cannot go that way (don't we all love the great firewall of China?) u can use the following link:

Happy listening!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

11 things to do

11 things to do with my visitors in Shanghai

1. Hit my favourite shops along Fuxing Lu in the French Concession.
2. Sushi at Haiku Dining on Taojiang Lu is a must. Best Japanese I’ve ever had!
3. A river cruise at the Yangpu River so that they can take their Bund photos. Better than being crammed with tourists at the actual Bund. And the view is great from the cruise. You get both sides in one go. Perfecto!
4. Getting clothes made at the tailor market. I’m a regular!
5. A facial/massage at Yoga Space on Gao an Lu. Kinda pricey but worth it.
6. A pedicure at Peyoni spa on Dagu Lu
7. Cheap, traditional foot massage somewhere close to Shanghai University. Only around 35 kuai for one hour and much better than many others.
8. Eat the spicy eggplant dish at Hunan Xiangcun Fengwei on Ulumuqi Lu. Together with some bamboo, some beef with green chillies, and the chef’s special tofu dish. Gosh, I am already drooling!
9. Baozi, pancakes, dumplings and anything else yummy that the street stalls on Ulumuqi Lu has to offer in the early morning hours.
10. (If it gets hot) Mango sorbet at Charmand in the crossing of Fuxing Lu/Huaihai Lu. Addictive!
11. City planning museum at People’s Square.

And then, what NOT to do:

1. Fake market
2. Nanjing Lu near the Bund (too many annoying people trying to sell you everything from prostitutes to fake Rolex watches)
3. Yu Yuan (was there last time, and I like the gardens in Suzhou better)
4. Pearl Market in Hongqiao (why go when they actually have a real pearl market in Suzhou)
5. Eat overpriced Western food.

No thanks!

Mom's Chinese attempt

My mom and my little brother are coming to Shanghai this Friday. Yup. All the way from Sweden. It’s my mom’s second, and my brother’s first visit to China.

I’m happy mom has been here before because it takes away some of that first-time-in-China-nervousness (for her). Last time she was heading this way she was so over the top excited about the trip that she, 6 months prior to leaving, signed up for a Chinese language course for adults.

Her group started out with 12 enthusiastic students aged 35-60, and an even more enthusiastic Chinese teacher. However, when I spoke to mom after her first lesson she sounded kind of troubled because it was so hard. The fact that haft of the class didn’t turn up for the second class didn’t make things better.

After her second lesson she made a confession: “I know I’ve always taught you and your siblings never to give up easy, but this course is simply too hard for someone in my age! I don’t understand a word of what she [the teacher] is saying. I simply have to drop it!”

Still, mom’s a stubborn woman, and decided to give it one last go. That became one painful last lesson. Because mom was the only student. She had a one-and-one with the teacher that she still doesn’t want to talk about.

Anyhooo, that’s in the past and to prepare for her second trip, my mom doesn’t have to take any courses or read any Lonely Planet books; she’s got me! I can’t wait to get her here!!

Looking for love

All people have different reasons for coming to China. Some want to make money. Some want to learn the language. And some want to get married to a Chinese girl. At least if you believe one of my new ‘class mates’, a Korean boy named Zhe Zhan. When he was asked to introduce himself for the rest of our class and explain why he was learning Chinese he said:

-I’m learning Chinese so that I can find myself a woman.
-A Chinese woman?
The teacher asked.
-Any woman. If she’s not Chinese then maybe my language skills will impress her.

Yup. We all have our reasons.

(Note: Zhe Zhan has studied Chinese for 1.5 years. He claims the reason he hasn’t got lucky yet is because his Chinese is not good enough).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blind Man Massage

This weekend I had my first blind man massage. I’ve heard a lot about this kind of massage and I was keen to find out how different a rub from a blind guy to a normal person can be, so I decided to give it a go.

My masseur was a girl, so I had high hopes for her being a little bit more gentle than the blind guy who rubbed my boyfriend’s feet (judging from my boyfriend’s face, this guy was rough!) but oh how wrong you can be? It was the most painful rub I’ve ever had, but like always (after a rough rub) I slept like a baby that night. Swedish massage might be soothing and smooth but Chinese massage is all about releasing tension. And it does. That’s the price of the pain!

I bet some of you wonder if blind man massage was different to normal, Chinese massage. In my opinion –no, not much. Sure, it was painful, in fact –very painful, but Chinese massage is always rough. My boyfriend, however, seemed happier than usual after his blind rub and said it was one of his best massages ever. Well, there you go.

I’m curious to know if anyone else has a different experience of blind man massage, so please, if you have any input, let us know in the comments field!

Friday, March 7, 2008

"Love" without limits?

A Chinese friend of mine works for a German company. The other day she told me that the company’s CEO was a very ‘special’ and ‘busy’ man.

Oh, how is that? I asked
Well, he is a special man because he is 55, married to a German woman who lives back in Germany with their 2 children, meanwhile he is living over here with his Chinese mistress. Apparently the whole company knows about it, but not the wife.

Nice one. (I wouldn't call him 'special though'...)

And how is he busy? I continued.
Well, the same reason, and also, he’s managed to make his mistress pregnant, and she’s keeping the baby. So not only is he busy now, but he is going to be even more busy in 9 months!

Oh, so another one of those mix-and-match-couples that normally consist of an older Western man, and a young, Chinese woman.

I know there are many exceptions, that some of them are very happy, that love has no age and yadi yadi… but seriously… where do you draw the line? Who are all those Western men who come to China, forget about their family and pretend that they are 20 years old again? And who are the young, pretty Chinese women that settle for another woman’s man (or, soon to be leftovers?) Is the taste of money really that good?

I can’t help it, but I have to let it out: Yuuuuuuuuuuk!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Can we talk about something else?!

Da Lao Wai he Xiao Zhong guo ren

My height and my weight.

The most-wanted-to-be-discussed-topics amongst Chinese people.

Like I’ve mentioned in other blog posts (“Eat Bread –Grow Tall!” for instance!) I’ve already had a Chinese teacher who was obsessed with my height and always wanted to bring me to the front of the classroom and ‘show’ the rest of the class that I was taller than him. (And the class obediently replied with ‘ohhhhs’ and ‘aaaaahs’. It was rather our of control).

Now I have a teacher who is obsessed with telling other people how fat/skinny they look.

During our first lesson on Monday, she recognized one Korean girl that had been her student last semester too.

-Oh, Ming Xi Ling! Good to have you in my class again! Look at you –you’ve really put on some weight! Your face is quite chubby! But it is lovely! You look very lovable!

Chubby face? Put on quite some weight? Lovable?

My a**

I thought I was safe for comments until I yesterday walked passed a Chinese mid-age couple and the Chinese man said (in Chinese)

-That foreigner is especially big!
(And as if insulting me wasn't enough, he also called me lao wai! –I HATE being called Lao Wai?! Basically it means ‘old foreigner’)

Cheers dude.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chinese manners, lesson one.

Today I learned 2 new ways of politely declining in Chinese. I already know about 4. How many ways can there be to express one thing?!

Anyways, for those who don't know, here's a lesson in Chinese manners:

When a guest arrives to a house and is asked by the host what s/he wants to drink, s/he should reply: “It doesn’t matter!”, namely: ‘”随便” (sui bian).

And why? Well, because if the guest asks for a coke, and the host doesn’t have any coke to offer, it’s an uncomfortable situation.

By replying ‘it doesn’t matter’ you’ll never risk letting your host lose face.

And I thought Swedes had a tendency to overdo politeness? Man, we’ve got much to learn!

Toilet user manual

Seen at one of Shanghai's metro stations.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Sometimes those cringlish ones are just so funny! I love the 'throw the currency' part!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Caught up in week one

Beyond reach?

School is on again and I am finding myself lost for words. The first week of Chinese (no matter what level) is always a bit of a struggle for me: I forget characters, I stumble on words, I forget characters, I pronounce things wrong, I forget characters and oh.. did I say I forget characters? Characters are the biggest struggle in my learning process.

The class, at level 3, is as expected: me, and loads of Koreans and Japanese. Oh, and one Brazilian girl. We have already teamed up.

The teachers are lovely; all helpful and smiley and patient. But this is week one. Or O-week (O for Orientation) as they call it at Australian universities (they might call it that at other places too, I have no idea). Everything is a bit sugar coated and wrapped. I know that as soon as this week is over, reality will kick in and we won’t be spending two whole lessons (come on!) on one chapter. We will then have to learn about 50 characters a day and there will be a lot of reading, as well as painful writing, and we are also expected to hold presentations on different topics in Chinese. And then there will be exams. That you have to pass in order to continue on level 4. Which I really want so I have to pass. I have to pass. Have to. Pass.

At this moment, when I am still at the ‘hang-on-a-minute-what-am-I-doing-again-here?-Oh-yeah-that’s-right-I-am-learning-Chinese!’ –stage, things feel a bit blurry and overwhelming. But I suppose it is just a phase. And I have to remind my self of the reward at the end of the tunnel: I’ll be able to speak Chinese fluently. I’ll be able to write and read. I’ll be able to order the best dishes at the Chinese restaurants. And… hopefully I’ll also be able to land my dream job.

But at this moment –all of that seems beyond reach.

Now I better go and learn some characters.

Warm. Upstairs. Really.

During Shanghai’s cold winter months, you might have to work a lil’ extra to make those frozen customers choose your café...

I'm dying to find out if they during summer have a similar one, saying '2nd floor is very cold'.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I am going to the Olympic Games!! (or okey, I THINK I am going!)

Long before I even moved to China I knew that I wanted to go to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

And now I am one step closer!

We’ve finally ordered tickets (from Europe, it was waaaaaaaaaay too troublesome to order from China! And I simply couldn’t stand the suspense of all those lotteries) and in one week we’ll find out of we get them or not.

A VERY annoying and stupid thing about ordering the tickets that I really hope they change for any future game (just in case Jacques Rogge is reading this?) is the fact that if you sign up for, let’s say, the cheapest seats to the track and field and they have sold out, you have to be ready to pay up for whatever tickets available. Meaning: even though we ordered tickets for 24 euros we might have to pay 100. Sure, I can understand the thought behind this (they need to sell those expensive seats too), however, what if we end up with the most expensive seats to every competition?! Gah, I don’t even wanna think about that! (And neither does my bank account!).

We’ve ordered ticks for swimming, diving, track and field, the men’s basketball final (a pure treat for me, I am a old bballer! Played since I was 12!) and the women’s beach volley final (a treat for my boyfriend, and no, of course he hasn't played before. He just wanna check out the chicks). We wanted to get tickets for the soccer too but the cheapest seats were 50 euros so we decided to watch that one from a pub instead.

So in one week, once our tickets are secured, I guess the rest of the madness starts: getting flight tickets and booking a hotel. I am kind of worried about both. If no flight tickets are available I suppose we’ll have to catch a train. However, you cannot pre-book train tickets in China: the earliest you can buy them are 9 days before departure. NINE DAYS BEFORE DEPARTURE??!?! That’s insane? I am going to get a heart attack if I have to wait until 9 days before my planned journey to know if I am going or not??

And if we don’t get a hotel.. hm… yeah well then… hm… I don’t know?! Anyone got a spare room for rent during the last weekend of the Olympic Games in Beijing? Feel free to email me: jonnawib(at) (But note, that I ain’t no mega rich ‘lao wai’…)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Phone call from home

I’ve been living abroad for the last 7 years. I’ve been travelling extensively, I’ve been stuck in tricky situation and I’ve lost my credit card at least twice. However, my dad normally never worries about me. Like, really. I go home to see my family once a year and then we catch up.

It is not the same with mom. Not at all. Mom and I are on the phone at least once a week and we email each other quite often. But dad.. well dad. Is just dad. He knows what he has to know via mom. So he never calls me. And rarely emails. Unless something really bad has happened.

Obviously, I freak out at those occasions. Like once, during my first work trip to China. I was in Beijing doing an interview when my mobile buzzed, and when I picked up it was dad!

-What’s wrong?! I exclaimed.
-Are you safe? He replied.
-Of course I am dad, I am actually in the middle of something… and why are u asking if I am safe?
-Well I read about a typhoon in China!
-But dad, I am in Beijing. The typhoon is in south China!
-Well you never know!

No, I guess you never know.

Just the other day, something similar occurred. I was typing away on my computer when my mobile phone rang and I saw it was dad.

-Has someone died? (I couldn't help myself. It was my instant reaction when I picked up the phone!)
-No, but I have something important to discuss with you. One of my clients is heading to Shanghai and I told him you live there and that you work for the Swedish Chamber of Commerce. So he really wants to meet you!
-Dad, I live in SUZHOU, and I DON’T work for the Swedish Chamber of Commerce. I went to ONE of their seminars.
-But you have contacts there, right?
-Not really….?
-Well it doesn’t matter! You’ve been to their seminar, you know the drill! I am sure he’ll be interested to meet you anyways! You can tell him about doing business in China!
-But I don’t do business in China!
-But you can speak Chinese!
-Yes, but that has nothing to do with doing business in China?
-Well, let him just take you out for dinner! I am sure it can be useful.
-Okay dad, but you know I have moved from Shanghai to Suzhou.
-Where’s Suzhou? Can you take a bus or a taxi to Shanghai?
-It’s a two hour trip by car from Suzhou to Shanghai. I guess I can take a train…
-Excellent! Yes! You take that train! I will give him your number okay?

Like I said. My dad never calls me unless he has something really important to say.

Me, mom and dad at a karaoke bar in Shanghai.