Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not being a twosome at 29 = unhappy life?

Life's about this. Full stop.

Had an interesting chat with one of my Chinese friends, C, the other day. She’s one of those friends that I have always considered being quite open minded (she and her boyfriend, for instance, are supposed to not eat pork because of her boyfriend’s religion, however, they still do, and when the parents come to visit they hide the meat in the bottom of the freezer), or well, that was until we had a chat about love and marriage.

My friend C started telling me about her cousin: a 29-year old, career woman, who’d done two degrees at top universities and who was now working as a lawyer in town.

-Excellent! I exclaimed, until I realized that C was looking at me in horror.

-How can you say that? All the has is her job, she has no husband, and she might not ever have children?!

-She’s only 29, there’s still time?
I tried.

From the look of C’s face I realized that there was no such thing as “still time.”

C then went on to describe the unhappy life of her cousin, which, I am sorry to admit, sounded rather great. She’d not only done 2 degrees in order to achieve an excellent position as a lawyer, moved across the country, gotten a good salary, and claimed she was happy with her life.

According to C, however, one could not be happy, if alone.

-Worse thing is, C went on, she’s not even ugly! She’s quite beautiful, and she’s got a good figure….!

I shrugged my shoulder, oblivious to what I could say.

-You don’t happen to know some laowai looking for a….

-NO! Come on. Let her meet someone on her own!

-Ah… she never willl!!

-How do you know?

-Because she hasn’t yet!

-But she’s only 29?!

-Only?! It’s almost already too late….!

Useless to discuss –the message is clear. Being 29, single and a career woman is apparently still considered to be a minor catastrophe in China. I guess we are to wait some 10-20 years before this mindset starts to change.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Best of: SH-SZ train rides

The first time I wanted to go to Suzhou by train I was quite lost. On the same Friday as I wanted to go I went to the train station during my lunch hour, and lined up in the wrong, 20-meter line. I could not communicate at all with the ticket seller, who frustratedly pointed at the “English speaking service"- counter next to his. Another 20-meter line later I was told that all the tickets to Suzhou had sold out, but that he could sell me a standing ticket. I took it.

I felt lost as I walked into Shanghai Railway Station later that day, but managed to locate the right waiting hall. However, as soon as the gates opened people around me went crazy, they started running and pushing, and I felt as if I was in the middle of 42983642364 people having panic attacks. I didn’t know what to do, so I simply ran with them.

Although I had a standing ticket, I still had been assigned a special carriage and ran over to that one, just like 3827462634876 other people. This was before the bullet trains, and I entered a stinky, dirty train, where people were packed as sardines on top of each other. This was during winter, and I was wearing a thick jacket. On the train it was hot as in a sauna.

About halfway to Suzhou I fainted. I didn’t actually hit the floor, because when I passed out I was in the middle of an ocean of people, so they caught me in my fall. Nobody stole my bag and when I regained consciousness I was assigned the seat of a nice looking older gentleman, who gently but firmly pushed me down. A giggling young couple opposite me handed me a bottle of water.

And that’s how I eventually ended up in Suzhou!

Since that ride, I’ve caught the train between Shanghai and Suzhou about 246876463446 times. I’ve enjoyed the change from slow, T-trains to quick D-trains (so called “Bullet trains”), and I’ve realized that people running on a platform is about as usual as people running in the forests back home in Sweden, and nothing to bother with. Unconsciously I’ve obviously been affected by the stressed-out atmosphere, and more than once have I managed to make a fool of myself: being caught at the ladies’ room, climbing over a fence….

I’ve also met some interesting train buddies, where the most interesting one must have been the guy referring to himself as a “man with sex appeal.”

Ah…. Train memories. And now, they are all over. I’m not going to catch that train to Suzhou anymore, at least not for a long time. I have to say that it feels quite nice, even though it’s the end of a great source of blog-post-inspiration.

Monday, March 29, 2010

An everyday novelty

I had a great "last" Suzhou wknd, with one of the best parts probably being catching up with my friend Rocky (alias the Hunan boy). Rocky and I have known each other for 2 years now. He used to be a personal trainer at the gym where I went, and we quickly became friends. When we got to know each other, my Chinese was quite terrible, but I didn’t care, I kept talking to Rocky, and him, not being able to say much more than “hi and bye” in English, was happy to listen to my bad pronunciation.

I’m really happy I persisted because over the years we have become good friends. When I went to Hunan’s capital Changsha last spring, Rocky’s family (who lives in Shuangxi, some hours outside of Changsha) invited me to their home and I had a wonderful time with them at the countryside.

I left Suzhou for Shanghai 3 months ago, however, so Rocky and I have not seen each other for a while. So, when I came to Suzhou for my “last wknd” I decided it was time to catch up. And he agreed.

It was great to see him, and he looked happy to see me too. One of the first questions he asked was:

-You La, how much do you weight now?

(some things never change, huh?)

Saturday came with wonderful weather so we decided to go for a bike ride at Jinji Hu (Literally translates to: “The lake of the Golden Chicken”). We rode for a bit before a guard told us that we were not allowed to ride our own bikes at the lake area (“only the rented ones!”) and decided to walk.

Now, it’s one thing being on a bike and riding through throngs of people without as much as paying attention to them. But when you walk, people really see you, hear you, and vice versa. And I soon noticed that Rocky and I walking together along that lake, was quite a novelty to some of the people around us.

I’m used to being stared at in Suzhou when I walk somewhere with my boyfriend (after all, we are “the monkeys” -and when people stare it is mainly at him because he's considered to be so "perfect" in the eyes of Chinese people), but this was completely different. This was not the usual, curious staring; this was real, raw, staring! When we walked by some people they went completely quiet, obviously listening into what we were talking about while glaring at us suspiciously. And it’s not as if we were holding hands or anything. Just walking next to each other and chatting in Chinese. Maybe the fact that he is taller than me caused some of the attention? After all, I’m supposed to be one of the tallest flagpoles in Suzhou. I guess some people must have thought we were dating.

During the early days of this blog I wrote a post commenting on the fact that you don’t often see a Western girl with a Chinese guy, meanwhile the combination of a Western guy and a Chinese girl is very common. It was a kind of immature post, and it caused a storm of comments (and emails from guys telling me everything from “get lost, you know nothing!” to asking me if I’d like to go out with them and try for myself). Since I wrote that post a lot of things have changed, and I now know some western girls dating Chinese men. After being stared at while out with Rocky for a walk, however, I wonder how they learn to deal with being a novelty while in public.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Suzhou, one last time

A Suzhou saga of two years is coming to an end. Tonight I’ll catch the train to Suzhou for the last time (for a long time), to spend one last wknd in my old “hoods.” I moved to Shanghai early this year in order to start a new job (and a new life) and since then I’ve only been back to Suzhou a few times. We’ve kept our flat there, but now it’s time to give it up and to move on for real –my significant other is joining me in Shanghai and if we go back to Suzhou in the future it will be as visitors. We both agree on the fact that we don’t want to live there again. There’s nothing wrong with Suzhou, but Shanghai fits us both better.

During my 2 years as a blogger based in Suzhou I’ve received a lot of emails from people interested in Suzhou. I thought I’d put together a little Suzhou guide for y'all, however, not now, then I’ll be late for work. In order to write the “best” possible guide –I’d like to ask you what you’d like to know about Suzhou? Hotels? Restaurants? Sightseeing? Shopping? Living? Studying? Running/sports? If you have any questions related to life in Suzhou -post them in the comment’s field and I’ll make sure to do my best to answer them when I write my Suzhou guide.

This wknd is full of “goodbyes” (well, my boyfriend –who is still living and working in Suzhou- has been attending goodbye-dos since late last week, when I called him last night he was "gone with the ferries" after a gan-bei session with his Chinese workmates). I’ll be meeting with Rocky (alias the Hunan boy –who has inspired a LOT of my blog posts!) as well as with one of my best Chinese girlfriends, and then there will be an official going away-party and so on.

So long, Suzhou!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A glimpse into a different world

Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before: I went to a model agency to cast models!

The first girl I met at the agency was a super skinny Amazon woman wearing leather pants and a hat. She (and yes, it was a GIRL!) introduced herself as “Jimmy.”

-Are you a model?! I said in awe. Everything about her was so… “it”-like.

-No, silly! I’m just here to help you cast the models!

-Oh… Eh... right. Of course! 
(note to self: get a male name to drop at super cool occasions. Shall I go for John or Johnny?)

Now, some important notes to tall, just-happen-to-have-hips, western women in China: if you often feel big when walking on the streets of China, then never, ever enter into a model agency to cast models in China. Sure, you won’t feel like a flagpole any more, however, surrounded by women that are way taller than you are (+ super-skinny and drop dead gorgeous -with no hips, seriously?! How is it even possible!?), you’ll feel like a jelly tart.

Now, I have not been to that many (eh, more like: none) model castings in Europe, however, some things still surprised me in China:

* Some of the models wore so much make-up that you could not see what they actually looked like. Their hair was often down, flying around their heads, or super styled in curls. I thought the whole idea of a model casting was to see them “au neutral” so that you get an idea of their raw look and know how they can be styled?

* The shoes, the heels… Like I said, I’ve never felt smaller. However, when someone puts on 5 inches heels (even though they are already 180 cm) and claims they are a fulltime, professional model, I expect them to be able to walk in those shoes… why would you otherwise want to make such a bold statement? Unfortunately, I saw a lot of tripping and even some slips that looked close to breaking-a-foot-dangerous. Careful, Bambi beauties!

* Although I was literally a jelly-tart woman next to these Amazon beauties, they all were so shy towards me! If I was that tall/skinny/hot, I’m sure I would shine with confidence.

Once we had finished the casting and picked our models (yeah, unless some of you already guessed: we are planning a catwalk) all the models threw themselves over jars of candies?! This was rather interesting to watch. First I thought: “wow, those girls are eating candy, just like us, deadly jelly-tarts!” then it hit me that “hm… this is probably their first meal of the day.”

Interesting to get a glimpse into the world of beautiful, skinny models, however, I’m pretty glad I don’t have to do this job every single day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shower goes fruit basket/trash can

Wrapped in plastic in order to protect yourself form the rain -fine. But wrapped in clingwrap before a gym workout? -Weird.

I’ve written a fair deal of gym posts since I started this blog, but seriously, I cannot help it: there’s something about gyms in China?!

Yesterday I did a good, 8km workout at the treadmill before hitting the shower room. As always, not my favourite part of working out, seeing that people use those showers to clear their throats/as bin bags.

Yesterday I was particularly unlucky. The first three showers I tried were either out of hot water (only happens to me I bet, all the other bloody showers had hot water! There was bloody steam rising from most shower booths!) or the water pressure was simply too low.

When I finally managed to locate a hot-water + normal pressure shower I looked to my left and saw a pile of something orange in the corner.

“What the h**” I thought to myself, looked closer and yeah, very well. A pile of orange peal! Somebody had taken an orange to the shower, eaten it, and put the peal on the floor in the shower. Seriously man? What are some people thinking?! How on earth can you just leave the trash on the floor of (what’s supposed to be) a hygienic shower room? Disgusting.

The fun didn’t end there. Once I stepped out of the shower and walked over to my dressing locker, I realized that the woman next to me was wrapping her body in clingwrap? Body part by body part was wrapped up, before she put her gym clothes on. I’ve seen similar “wrappings” take place at my old gym in Suzhou, however, I cannot help but wonder: why? Is it so that your clothes won’t go wet when you sweat? Because if it is, there are other solutions, demonstrated by most girls using the hairdryers. Who said they are only for drying your whole body after a shower? Lately I’ve noticed a lot of girls drying everything from their wet socks to underwear.

Ah… Chinese gyms. Some of the things I see simply make me laugh, like a girl reading a book in an aerobic class, a girl doing a sexy dance in the stretching room, or a man having a picnic at the treadmill. But finding a pile of orange peal in the shower? Nah, that doesn’t do it.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at a Chinese gym?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life's good

Although I don’t have as much time to spend on this blog as before, I have to say that I’m in love with my “new”-old Shanghai life. My new job is challenging but fun, and I enjoy being back in the “city” after 2 years in Suzhou.

Looking back at everything I’ve done, I’m glad I decided to stay in China even though I’ve been real homesick at times. All in all I’ve soon spent four years of China, and I feel like life over here is just getting better and better. I’ve experienced so much since I came here in 2006, and there is still so much to come. Ah… life’s so good right now. I almost wish I could hit the “stop” button.  

Suzhou old town
Olympic torch frenzy, Suzhou
X-Games, Shanghai
Needs no introduction, no?
Visiting Rocky's family in Shuangxi, Hunan
Mountain village, Yunnan
Slippery slip in the mountains of Yunnan
Soon to be the Swedish Pavilion at the World Expo, Shanghai
Beijing Olympics
Chinese TV show

Running competition in Suzhou
Live to eat 

Food, food... amazing food!
Horseback riding in Suzhou
Meeting "China's Galliano" Lu Kun
Trekking in Yunnan
Crazy wedding shoot in Suzhou
Eating snake in Changsha
Wonderful friends
Zhu Jia Jiao

Friday, March 19, 2010

Going to Hohhot!

Xilamuren Grassland -picture from

Yeah, so like I said some days ago: I’m planning a long wknd in Inner Mongolia’s Hohhot! I seriously cannot wait to go –I love visiting new places. And the grasslands of Inner Mongolia is said to be beautiful! I’m obviously planning view them from the back of a horse, however, since my dear bf isn’t that into horseback riding I’ll probably have to do some serious convincing first. Another thing I’m looking forward to is eating Mongolian hotpot, and visiting the Great Mosque and the Dazhao temple. But I have four whole days -so what else should I do? Where should I go? What should I eat? What must be seen? What can be skipped? Please share your best Hohhot travel tips! I’m not going this wknd but later next month. Can’t wait!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Don't try calling strangers

Don't call for the sake of calling

Never try calling someone working for a company unless you know their full name. Chances that you are going to get through their receptionist are slim:

This I learned some weeks ago when I tried to get hold of a marketing manager of a Swedish company based in Shanghai. The receptionist told me “he” (that later turned out to be a she!) was out and that she didn’t know what time “he’d” be back.

I tried other people:

-Somebody else working with marketing?

-Not available.

-Some Swedish person working there?

-At a business trip.
Would be back earliest in 2 months (!).

-The manager!?

-In a meeting all day.

I soon realized it was useless. It didn’t matter who I asked for –even the cleaning lady was completely unavailable since I didn’t know her last name.

I had two other people calling trying the same thing before we all gave up and decided to call the head office in Sweden. Via them (because there, surprise, surprise, you can actually talk to people when you call!) we got the name of someone working in Beijing, and via the Beijing woman, we finally got the name of the marketing manager in Shanghai. Next time I called I got through straight away. And when I went for a meeting there one day later, I miraculously met several Swedes working away at their desks:

-Oh, recently got back from your trip?! I inquired. 

-Trip? They said, looking at me as if I was from another planet. 

In other words: don’t try calling someone working over here unless you know their name. The receptionists can be quite tough, working like a spam filter and only letting through those that are “inside enough” to know who’s doing what.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wknd trip booked!!

I'm going far away from this kind of scene...

Finally, we booked a trip to somewhere... that is totally random! I swear, you guys are going to think I'm odd who's travelling to this particular place at this time of the year. It's not really the "ideal" place to visit, however, I'm always keen on seeing something completely new, hence why I picked it. Can tell you this much -there will be a lot of nature and hopefully also some pretty awesome (but different) food! Not to mention some severe temperature differences between night and day....! Anyone who can guess where I'm headed? 

UPDATE: for those that cannot be bothered to read the comments, some of you guessed right. I'm off to Inner Mongolia!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Random requests at a parking lot

Most Wanted Joint

I spent Saturday in Suzhou –packing and cleaning. We are definitely staying in China for some time still, but our new Shanghai flat is much smaller than the one we had in Suzhou –so a lot of stuff has to go.

After a Saturday full of throwing away stuff we felt fed up with being locked inside and got ready to take the 5.30pm train to Shanghai. We walked out on our yard, carrying large bags, and being quite in a hurry when we saw a group of four Chinese -3 women and one man, with so much hair wax in his hair that it looked like glue- stepping out of a car.

-Heeeeey! Laowai, laowai! The wax-man yelled, and we, thinking it was just the ordinary “hello laowai” moment, continued walking without paying them any attention.

..That was until I suddenly heard the wax man literally call for us.

-Please wait laowai, I have a question!

We turned around, facing the wax man and three older ladies.

-You live in that building over there right? The man said, pointing at our building.


-And you are moving out very soon?


-That’s what I thought. So today I brought this 3 ladies to show them your flat!
He proudly gestured to three small ladies at his right side.


-Can we go and see it now!?
One lady asked.

-Er, we are going to Shanghai, I said, nodding towards my large shoulder bag.

-Ah OK… said the man. But can’t you show us the flat before you go?

-We don’t have time! We are catching the train.

-Oh… no time….
The wax man sounded seriously disappointed.

-What time is your train, one of the women said. I am sure you have time to show us the flat before that.

-The train is leaving quite soon, we have to go now actually,
I said. We don’t have time to show you our flat (“How about calling first?!” I wanted to screem).

-That is a shame, the wax man said, looking at us as if we were enemies. So when will you be back then?! (Just as if we had broken a non-existent appointment?!)

-Well… we are… ah, why don’t you just call me next time?! My bf said. 

-Ah.. OK. You want me to call you. I understand, the wax man said.

-Are you sure you don’t have time to show us the flat? One of the ladies urged. You will still make your train. It’s fast to get to the train station from here! They all smiled, and one of them attempted to pull my sleeve.

I gave her a dark look. Enough with the bull-sh*t. And we left.

Just imagine that, huh? You take three ladies on a house hunt on a Saturday afternoon, however, you forget to inform the current tenants, so instead you jump on the first laowais you see on a parking lot?! (our living area is huge, there are at least 40 buildings in there!). Fortunately they are the “right ones.” Then you try and convince them to show you their flat even though you know they’ll miss their train if they linger?! If that’s not random I don’t know what is?!

Friday, March 12, 2010

More than meets the eye

One would think this was a serious aerobic class in full throttle. And I guess it was. But not for everyone:

Apparently, the aerobic class, with bom-ba-da-bom-tunes blasting from the speakers, was also a perfect place for reading a book! Who would have guessed?! Not me, anyway. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If there's a will, there's a way

When I say I need a run, I mean it

I’ve had a bit of a rough week, with a lot of stuff going on, making my mood anything but stable. Yesterday I decided that no matter how much work there was on my desk by the end of the day, I would still hit the gym in order to burn some energy. I kept my promise… but just as I was about to leave for the gym a strange feeling hit me.. Did I really pack all my training clothes? I decided to have a look, and very well. I had packed all my training clothes, except for a sport’s bra. There’s no way (on earth) that I will hit a gym wearing a normal bra, so the remaining question was: could I bother going home, picking up a sport’s bra, and then head back to the gym? (It’s definitely not on the way, rather, I live in the opposite direction) However, after a moment of mental self-consulting, I decided that I very well could.

So I went home, found what I needed, spent extra time on a crammed metro and arrived at the gym one hout later than planned, but hyped about the thought of hitting the treadmill. I had dinner plans at 8pm, so I went over to the reception and asked to “rent” a towel a 5 kuai so that I could shower and head out straight after my workout. Imagine my surprise when the (RUDE!) guy behind the desk said:

-No towels today.

If it would have been any other day I might have shrugged my shoulders and left, slightly annoyed. This particular day, however, his words made me see red.

-That’s IMPOSSIBLE! That’s not OKAY! I need a towel. I NEED TO WORK OUT!

(again, I normally don’t yell at people, but…)

-Well sorry, we don’t have any.

-No, this is not okay. You always have towels. If you suddenly decide not to have towels you need to inform your customers in advance so that we can bring some ourselves! I didn’t bring a towel today just because I thought I could “rent” one from here!


-Well you have to find me a towel. I am not leaving. I need a towel otherwise I cannot workout.

-Eh.. maybe you should speak to the manager?

-Yeah, where is he or she?

-Eh… he will come in 3 min.

I waited for 3 minutes, feeling angrier by the minute. I simply refused to just go home. 

The reception guy was really annoying:

-I know this situation is really annoying… (he said it in a sarcastic way).


-Why don’t you go and workout first, have a shower and THEN come and see if we have found you a towel?

-WHAT?! How am I going to shower without a towel?! (
I wanted to say "do you want me to walk out naked and ask if you have now found me a towel?!" but I don't know the Chinese word for naked, so I left it like that)

(I guess his suggestion here was: "why don’t you do like all the other girls at this gym and dry yourself off with the hairdryer once you come out of the shower").

Then, 2 girls suddenly arrived (manager?). The reception guy told the girls they needed to find “this laowai” (pointing at me) a towel.

-There are no towels, the girls said.

-There HAVE to be towels! I know there are, somewhere! I don’t care what kind, you just have to find me a towel!

-But there are no!

-Please. Try!

The girls sighed, rolled her eyes and went away, only to come back 30 seconds later…. Carrying a LARGE, WHITE, TOWEL!

-Oh, I found one.

Oh my, oh my. At that point, however, I was too relieved to continue bitching about their lousy attitude towards problem solving, I simply accepted the towel and went to the ladies changing room.

Once at the gym all the treadmills were busy. However, I didn’t even consider the thought of giving up this workout, or settling for anything else but running. I simply located a girl who was walking along to a clock ticking down (she only had 4 min left), and I was rude enough to stand behind her and wait for her to finish and get off. A number of people realized what I was doing. Some laughed, some pointed, and some tried to sneak in between when they realized the girl would be done soon! But I was faster and once I got up there I enjoyed the best 7km run I’ve done in ages… ahhhh. Relieeeeeef!

Once I made that 8pm dinner I felt rather proud of myself and my nagging-attitude. If there’s a will there’s a way –this appeals to most of the “impossible to solve”-situations in China. It's not as if I have not been told that I "cannot run" before... 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Metro moments

A captured metro moment from 2007

Fellow metro-commuters in Shanghai, have you noticed lately (at least during the morning rush) that more and more people nowadays stand on the right hand side of escalators?! That way, it’s almost as efficient (Hold your horses, I said almost) as the London underground system (where I believe you stand to the left, but I might be wrong?) where you literally get walked over if you accidently stand on the “walking hand side” of the escalator. Of course, there are still a few cases of people (OK, not just a few, more like… some millions) standing on the left hand side when you come walking, but with a gentle push/tap on the shoulder, a good 90% immediately move to the side to let you through. Good stuff. 

Unfortunately not all people are as friendly/helpful. I’ve had cases where I’ve gently tapped the other person’s shoulder (in 98% of the cases it's been middle-aged Chinese men), and said something like “不好意思(bu haoyisi= pardon me)” indicating I want to be let through. But do they move? Oh no?! In one case, the man turned around, looked at me, and stood like a brick of stone on his spot, refusing to even let me squeeze between him and that person to the right. (When he started pushing me back with violence I decided to give up).

Still, a great improvement from previous years, so Shanghai metro –I have hope!

One thing I still wish people could relax a little bit about is getting on/off the metro. The other day we had a work-dinner after work, and me and a few colleagues caught the metro just one stop to get to the restaurant. We were a group of five, and since the metro was quite full we stood just at the door. I immediately felt the push from behind, some guy that tried to squeeze in between us to stand JUST at the door, so I turned around and told him that we too were getting off at the next station. He looked like he understood, and for a short second he stood back… until something must have hit him (maybe that eagerness to STAND at the DOOR) so he still decided to elbow his way through our little group and catch the spot JUST at the door. (Guess he’d been taught never to trust laowais?).

The funniest cases are still all those people that push like mad in the metro, RUN off the metro as if their houses were on fire, and then, finally, when they get to the escalator –they just stand there, rather than continuing moving upwards.

Speaking off the metro –Shanghai’s new metro system (with new lines and plenty of new stations) is simply G-R-E-A-T N-E-W-S-! I’m loving every little bit of it, especially line 7 that’s now connected to Line 1’s Changshu Lu. Simply great. Me and my significant other are planning a metro-exploring weekend someday in April/May (when you don’t freeze your fingers off every time you step out the door) where we are going to spend 2 days catching all new lines, getting off at stops we’ve never heard off before and explore the surrounding. We used to do this at the magazine where I worked back in 2007, and it's not as bad as it sounds... you actually get to see quite a lot of new stuff. I promise to report back to you afterwards.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Compliment or crush?

Whatever you do -as a girl- only pay attention to the guys

Sometimes, China’s just so funny. While western guys can receive an unlimited amount of compliments over here (from men as well as from women), there’s a clear line when it comes to women. The other day I went shopping with four Chinese girlfriends. We are not super close, but have known each other for some years still. They are all a bit younger than me, and especially one of them (her name is Luna) really likes me and the fact that I’m tall, blonde, and big-nosed.

We went into some shops and were all trying on clothes. I had one of those good (and rare) days when everything fits, and my dear friend Luna simply would not hold back on the compliments:

-Ah, Jonna, you look so great in everything you try on today!

-That’s perfect on you!

-You’ve got a great figure!

I was blushing/”nail-nali-ing”/”bu gandang-ing”/and so on (yeah, accepting a compliment is simply not my thing, especially not here in China) until one of the other Chinese girls decided she’d had enough:

-What’s the matter with you Luna, the way you speak to Jonna one would think you have a crush on her?!

-Come on… I’m just saying she looks good in this dress.

-No you’re not. I think you like her. 

-Yeah, I think you do! Another one filled in. You've been speaking to her as if you like her all day long!

(Yikes. Uncomfortable situation number ONE. Chinese girls are fighting over if one of them has a crush on me or not?! And all she did was paying me some compliments?)

-I don’t, come on.

-Well, so how come you don’t have a boyfriend.

-I have not found one I like.

-Well maybe you like girls. Maybe you have a big problem…

-Hahhaha, well well, shall we all go for lunch?!
(I decided it was time to step in and change the subject -and what better way to do so than distract them with lunch?).

However, the conversations continued over the food when Luna asked me if I wanted to try her salmon pasta (we were having a Wagas lunch).

-Seeeeeeeeee….. you totally like her!!! You've got a problem! You like girls!

Both me and Luna sighed.

Man! There’s no way to get a compliment over here, is there?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tasteless party

What a weekend! Since I’ve now been living in Shanghai for 2 months, we decided that it was time to throw a small housewarming party.

Now, housewarming parties are not really a unique kind, so in order to do something different we decided to have a theme at our party, namely “bad taste.”

Shopping proved to be the best part of it all. We headed straight to the small shops on Fuxing Lu where I tried on everything from flower-power pants to zebra meets leopard dresses. I eventually settled for a skintight golden/leopard shirt, a high-waist black/gold skirt, and a silver/snakeskin jacket that was way too small for me. All in all: I looked like jungle girl going disco.

My bf picked his outfit from another shop. We knew straight away that it was going to be fun, because the moment we walked in, the sale’s girl went ballistic.

-OH MY GOSH!!! You are the most handsome man I have ever seen! She gushed to my boyfriend.

She followed him around, stroking his arms, giggling and picking out stuff for him to try. She had no idea that we were going for something rather tacky (and that we therefore actually kind of liked the stuff she picked), and said “yeeeeeeees!” and “perfect” to every single shiny garment that he agreed on trying on.

In the end he went for a gray, silver sequence suit jacket, a check-patterned hat, a tight t-shirt and some golden jewellery chains. He looked like a complete yuppie and the sale’s girl looked like she was going to pass out on the spot:

-Oh my Gosh! You look SO GOOD!!

(We laughed so hard we didn’t know what to do!).

While he was paying, the sale’s girl turned to me:

-Is he your boyfriend?


-Oh my GOSH! You are so lucky! SO LUCKY! I admire you!

-He’s indeed very popular in China.

-Well, he is the most handsome man I have seen! And you…..! You too are very
…. (long look at me) special!


-Yes, in fact. I like the both of you!

-That’s nice of you to say.

-I love your nose!

-My nose?

(small moment of hesitation).

-It’s the biggest and most beautiful nose I have ever seen!

(I had to bite my lip not to have an uncontrolled laugh fit)

-Ehum, right. Eh… thanks!

She waved goodbye when we left, opening the door and yelling:

-Come back soon! You are my favourite laowai couple!!! After us. We were high on laughter as we hit the streets.

The party itself was a blast, despite an insane number of strange cancellations from our friends:

2 girls confessed they were preggers and couldn’t make it, one guy confessed his girlfriend was preggers and that he was going to Korea to get married (!), one girl had to work, another one thought it was raining too hard outside (…), and then one guy broke his arm in an ice-hockey game the night before?! Hahaha! We still managed to pull a crowd, however, and ended up having a great time. People had really made an effort and one guy actually showed up in a dinosaur costume.

My boyfriend was a hit in his pimp-outfit, meanwhile my Chinese girlfriends expressed their disappointment in me:

-Jonna, you actually look good in those clothes. I would totally wear that on a night out!!

Go out as the golden meets silver jungle-disco girl?! (well I shouldn’t say too much –because that’s exactly what I did some drinks later). I guess our taste levels are different!

Bad taste party calls for bad taste-snacks: we picked these up at our local bakery
Mmmm, green bean bun anyone?!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Korean or Japanese?

I've been keen on trying to learn another language for a while now. Since Finnish is not happening (still cannot count to 10...) I've been thinking a lot about Japanese or Korean. I think Japanese would be the most natural choice, seeing that the Japanese characters are often the same or at least similar to Chinese (even though the meaning differs). However, I'm a huge fan of Korea and Koreans, so that's what I'm leaning towards. Anyone who's had the experience of learning either language that can give some hints or recommendations? 

When I was in Seoul back in 2008 and spoke to a local he told me that if I could speak Chinese (which I could not do that well at that point -but he didn't know that) Korean wouldn't be too hard to learn, especially not the reading and writing part. Their words and pronunciations, however... Well, it will be a challenge I'm sure. 

Another decision to make -do I study at a school (evening classes) or do I get myself a private Korean tutor? A tutor would be comfortable, then again I'm kind of a fan of the classroom environment, especially in the beginning of learning a new language.  

Finally -do I have time for all this? Definitely not! But that's the beauty of it all. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

The New Bund

Went to visit the Shanghai Archives yesterday and got a pretty good view of the “new” Bund (that’s still in the making). Such an important landmark for Shanghai –and still it looks far from ready. The Bund renovation has been going on for more than one year now. One part of the project was to dig another tunnel, or an underground roadway, leading you straight to the Bund without having to cross the busy road.

The Bund back in 2006

Future tourists can also expect tropical fish tanks and special walls that change colour as wind conditions change, or at least that was the talk one year ago (mind me, I have not been following the development with great interest -not excited about the fish tanks though. I hate seeing captured animals). My personal wish is that they ban all vendors form the Bund. I’ve never really enjoyed the place, because just like Badaling area at the Great wall in Beijing, you cannot walk one meter without being asked if you want to buy something.

Let’s see how it all turns out. The Bund, just like many renovation projects in Shanghai, is a race against time and part of Shanghai’s “Expo facelift.”