Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's big in Berlin is peanuts in China

Eat this, feel great (right?)

I’m back in Sweden after 3,5 intensive days in Berlin hanging out with fellow Swedes working all over the world. I had a fun experience when I went with a fellow China-based colleague to visit Berlin’s famous mall “Ka De We” that’s supposed to be “huge” and “massive.” We entered the mall and walked around for a bit, until I couldn’t help myself for any longer: “They call this huge? This is peanuts!”

I’ve obviously been damaged by 4 years in China. Still, I remember the first time I went to Beijing (spring 2006) and a Chinese friend took me to one of the world’s largest malls, located in the outskirts of Beijing. The mall was so large that it took almost 30 minutes to walk around it! My friend told me that if you visited every shop in the mall, staying for a mere 5 minutes in each shop, it would take you more than one week. Now that’s big everyone! However, hands up to Ka De We still, as it had a fantastic deli section, turning me into a mad woman on a (chocolate) shopping spree. How’s a bar of 100% (that’s right!) chocolate for instance? Me and a fellow choco-holic managed to convince ourselves that 100% chocolate actually cannot be bad for us, but rather, the more we eat, the healthier (although maybe not thinner?) we’ll get. A moment later I stepped out of Ka De We, asking myself what on earth had just gotten into me, and made me spend 20 euros on chocolate –thinking it’s going to be good for me? Oh well.

I’ll now spend a few days in Sweden (as a national holiday in China is coming up, tomorrow’s China’s national day –good timing of this trip I must say!) before I go back to my dear Shangers. Running is definitely on the agenda, especially after consuming all of my "healthy chocolate." It's beautiful over here at the moment. Blue skies, a shining sun, and fresh, crisp autumn air. Ahhh, heaven. Amazing that I didn't learn how to appreciate this until I moved away from here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Berlin

Unfortunately there will be a limited amount of blog posts this week, due to me being in Berlin to attend a meeting. I simply have very little time for anything but listening, networking, and discussing, not to mention drinking coffee during all the coffee breaks (this is a Swedish meeting, after all!).

Have to take this opportunity to mention that I hold great respect for those business travellers that go back and forth between China and Europe. This is the second time I'm in Europe over the last 2 weeks, and I feel pretty knackered. Also, my whole body is completely messed up. It doesn't know when to sleep, eat, feel hungry, feel full, feel active, and so on, leaving me having to battle the feeling of napping at 4pm and the feeling of having breakfast at 2am. Oh well, could have been worse. Some people actually do this every month. Or every single week?! Respect.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mooncake mania

Not as innocent as it might look...

Mooncakes are now available in all shapes and sizes, containing everything from rice and sausages to ice cream and coconut. In other words: how good your mooncake taste is totally determined by the content… and your tastebuds, obviously!

However, one thing to be remembered is the fact that mooncakes are everything but a “small, cute and innocent snack, perfect to go with your afternoon coffee.” Over the years, a lot of newspapers around the world have written libraries of articles about what a calorie bomb a mooncake in fact is. According to an analysis by Singapore's Health Promotion Board, a baked mooncake with four egg yolks contains 975 calories and 46 grams of sugar -half the recommended daily calorie intake for an adult. Many shops have recently started to offer healthier versions though, with less salt and white sugar. But still, be aware of this before you start munching!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Mid-autumn Festival

The national holiday/festivals are quite something here in China. Yesterday was the Mid-autumn Festival and a lot of people ended up working last Sunday so that they could have yesterday off. Where I work, this was not an option, so I was one of the few people that had to go to work yesterday. Because we had to work, the management in our building had to work, coming to open the door for us, helping us to access the elevator etc. Not very convenient. Then, lunch came and we went to our favourite Thai place to have their standard, 30 kuai lunch sets… only to be greeted with a: “No lunch sets today! It’s a public holiday!” Aha… so off we went to another (Japanese) place. Same story there. I tried to order my usual “grilled salmon with rice set meal” but was told by the waitress that it was impossible to get.

Why?!” I tried.

“It’s just impossible today!”

“But what if I pay a bit extra?!”

“No, impossible!”

“OK, then I’d like to have one plate of salmon, one bowl of rice, and one miso soup?”

“Sure, no problem!”

Yeah, that’s how “impossible” it was.

Try calling someone on this very day with a work errand:

“Eh… sorry, I’m at the beach! Can we talk later?!

Right. So. Useful. Day. At. The. Office.


However, my workmate told me one story that made me smile. After having to work non-stop for the last 5 months, covering all the ups and downs of the Expo, apparently a lot of the journalists obtaining Expo accreditation were sent by the local Government to Hainan Island during this Mid-autumn festival.

“Just to relax and have fun!”

Couldn’t that have to include all of us that have been working our a***s off because of the Expo? Oh well.

Today’s a new working day for me and my workmates, while apparently others have it off? It’s a bit confusing this whole “work one weekend and get a few weekdays off.” Everybody seems to follow different systems and I simply cannot keep track. My favourite Shanghai blogger “Woai” has written a pretty good post describing it all, you can read it here.

Happy Mid-autumn festival everyone! But be careful with the moon cake consumption! Tell you why in another post…

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hot yoga

Love this, but sometimes you've got to change it up a bit

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of running, something that makes me feel great, but at the same time guilty. Because what happened to the yoga and my new life as a yogi-in-the-making? Well, it’s hard as you cannot be as flexible with yoga as you can with running. I can run pretty much any time of the day (when not working). Morning, lunch, after work, weekend… For yoga, you need to sign up 1-2 days in advance otherwise the class might be full, then you really need to plan your eating because there is nothing worse but turning up for a class with a bloated stomach… Then, since I am everything but a yogi-pro (more like a “terrible, stiff wannabee”) you can only go to certain beginner classes, as everything just a tiny bit advanced screams “danger” to me. So, once I’ve managed to battle all of the things above, I can go ahead with the yogi life. Not the easiest if you ask me, especially since my day plan changes at least 2 times a day and I never know how long I have to work until.

Yesterday I worked until 7pm and then headed to the 7.30pm hot yoga class. 7.30 pm is a bit late for me, since it’s my prime-hunger time, but I coped with this by force-feeding myself some sushi (and a small tiramisu, well come on, you need something good when doing over-time hours, right?!) at 6pm. Still, when stepping into the 39 degrees heated yoga room at 7.15pm, I felt like turning around and running home. I started sweating even before the class began and when we finally started, I thought I was going to die. I had to put a towel on my yoga mat as it got so slippery from sweat…. Sorry, too much information.

However, I’m delighted to tell you all that I (for once in yoga circumstances!) did surprisingly well! I have actually done some hot yoga before (back in 2007) and fortunately the class pretty much still follows the same moves and poses. So even though the class was entirely in Chinese (which can be hard when you need to listen, focus and move at the same time) I could follow the moves quite well (except for once when we were doing a seated post, and the teacher suddenly ran over to me, an alarmed expression playing on his face, and told me I was using the wrong leg. Eh… righty. He looked more embarrassed than me, and I quickly changed around. Oh well).

Afterwards, I was sitting in a pool of sweat, battling a small headache (that came when we went from lying down on our bellies and doing some back exercises to seated poses. Does anyone know why you get a headache from this? I could tell from the fact that I saw at least 2 other people rubbing their foreheads that I was not the only one suffering from this one), and feeling pretty beat. I treated myself to a taxi home, had a long shower and a small snack, and then went straight to bed. Slept like a baby (which is unusual for me), and today I woke up feeling… pretty d** good! Almost as if someone vacuumed me, inside and out: I feel real cleansed! And best of all, no stiffness, no muscle ache, no soar legs… This is the beauty of yoga, something I have to remind myself of so that I never stop going. Really recommend yoga to all of you out there who are like me: stiff, flexible like a fridge, and simply… not into it. I think when you are the least impressed of the whole idea of yoga, it has the biggest chances of doing great things to you. It’s a great combo if you do a lot of running, and it’s actually really nice to get a change of scene (calm, yoga room instead of treadmill) once in a while.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Got a problem? Just laugh it out!

"What's so funny?!" "Nothing -that's why I'm laughing!"

I’ve written blog posts in the past about the fact that Chinese people often reply with a laugh/giggle when faced with something uncomfortable/when they don’t know what to do. I know it’s all innocent and harmless, still, it has managed to freak me out from time to time, like for instance when I speak Chinese to people and all they do is laugh back at me…

Anyway, laughing or no laughing, I still cannot get away from the fact that at some times, the whole “giggle reply” makes very little sense to me. Like yesterday. We were having a staff meeting and our boss told us that due to our massive workload, we now have to do some compulsory hours of overtime. I, like many others, wrote it down in my diary with a silent sigh, thinking about all the stuff I had to do and all the yoga classes I’m going to miss, just to watch my closest workmate (a Chinese girl) scribbling in her diary, while giggling away. Once the meeting finished, I couldn’t help but asking her:

-Why are you laughing?

-What do you mean?

-Why were you laughing when we were told that we have to do a lot of overtime in the near future?

-Oh, it wasn’t a laugh!

-It sure looked like a laugh to me!

-Well, it was one of those “can’t help it” but laughing laughs.

-You were just told we need to do x hours of overtime and you couldn’t help but laughing?!

-Yeah, kind of. It’s not that serious. Like a “oh well!” laugh!

-Right…. Okay…

Man, I need to learn from Chinese people! When faced with something they don’t want to do, they don’t whinge, they don’t complain, they don’t head to the gym on order to “run off their frustration” or head home to stuff themselves with comfort food, or get an ugly, unattractive frown on their forehead for the rest of the week... Rather, they just giggle, as they don’t know what else to do, and go on and do it. Talk about having a positive outlook on life. I want to learn. Now!

Monday, September 20, 2010

DVD vs Cinema: 1-0

Fishy snacks

I can count the number of times I’ve been to the cinema in China on my left hand. It’s probably been 3 years or something since the last time. So yesterday when we were out walking, and realized that a cinema was showing “Inception” in English, we decided to go for it. Only to once again be reminded why one should stick to 8 rmb DVD:s when in China.

Overall, the cinema looked OK. Enough leg room (kind of like an airplane). Comfy seats. There are small things such as bad air-conditioning system, but at the same time, if the air-con would have been on full blast that would have been bad too. So not going to complain about that. What was not so nice, however, was the fact that the whole cinema salon smelled like fish. In Sweden you bring a bag of candy/crisps and maybe a soda when going to the movies. In China you bring dried fish snacks.

Then there was the talking. I felt really old when I turned to my “neighbour” and asked her (a mom and her grown-up daughter) to please stop talking during the movie. It’s definitely OK to react, to scream or to laugh when at the cinema, but to constantly sit and talk? It got a little bit better when I told them (they were quiet for 10 minutes) but then they started again, and eventually they both left when there was still 30 minutes left of the movie.

Another thing worth pointing out: the amount of people bringing whole junk food set meals to the cinema! I almost felt inspired, especially considering how cheap a meal of Maccas is in Shanghai. Also, way better than all that dried fish, regardless of the constant bag sound.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Crackdown on students and cheese?

Bye bye, 7km here..
Hello, gym

Back in China after 5 intensive days in Sweden (can’t believe I was home for such a short amount of time, it felt like forever?!). The thing when I go home like that is that I behave real… strange, trying to cram in all of my “this is what I love about Sweden-things” in the short amount of time I have.

I spent Mon-Wed in Stockholm where I attended a seminar, and during this time I also managed to squeeze in some insanely early morning runs, just because “I had to make sure I went for a run in such fresh and crisp air now when I had the chance.” Only problem was that there were no running trails where I was what-so-ever, so I ended up going back-and-fourth on the small piece of land that I found, obviously looking like an idiot according to those few people that were unfortunate enough to see me (I know this because at breakfast that day, my Indian neighbour greeted me with a puzzled expression, eventually asking: “did I dream or were you actually running around outside my window at 5am this morning?!”)

Another thing I do when I am back to Sweden is to eat. I eat as if there is no tomorrow. As if I am never going to be fed again, or never get a chance to eat Swedish food again. So in a way it’s probably good that I kept doing those rather fanatic runs otherwise I might have rolled off that airplane.

The flight back did not provide me with any exciting experience worth blogging about, however, I should mention that I once again got stuck in the passport control, where the man inspecting my visa started to question me in Chinese:

-Are you here to study?

-No, I work. Can’t you see that from my visa?

-So you are not studying?

-No, are you looking at the right visa now? I know I have quite a few. Shall I help you find the right one?

-No I have the right one here
(shows me my residence permit that clearly states that I am here to work, not to study).

-So is there a problem?

-Well you have so many study visas…

-Yes, I was studying here before. Then I found a job…

-So you were studying before?

-Yes, of course, since I have all those study visas….


Are they doing a crack-down on phony Chinese-language-students aka people with work visas? Sure sounds like it! Well, that and cheese.

Because when I eventually moved on to the baggage claim there was a dog sniffing all bags, barking and scratching every five minutes. Cause of reason? Well, nothing as exciting here... Rather, I saw quite a few packages of cheese being removed. My load of Swedish chocolate, however, didn't manage to interest the dog. Good dog indeed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Celebrating a 9-year anniversary with myself


Today I celebrate my very own 9-years of leaving abroad anniversary! And how to celebrate that in the most fashionable manner? Well, of course by being "home" in my native Sweden, haha! I’ve had a very typical, Swedish day:

6am –wakeup, jetlagged
6.30am –breakfast consisting of Swedish sour milk, oats, berries and mom’s homemade sour dough bread. Add a large coffee to that…mmm, heaven! Nothing beats a Swedish brekkie.
8.30am –off to the forest for a 7km hilly run. Gorgeous autumn day. Fresh, crisp air. Thinking to myself: “do people who live here actually know how lucky they are?!”
12pm –simple lunch: oven baked fish.
1pm –off to visit my oldest sisters who had an adorable, little baby girl one week ago! Welcome to this world, Malou!
5pm –quick catching up with a good friend
6pm –dinner: salmon cooked to perfection. I could eat myself stupid over here. (Man, I have to get myself an oven again in China!!)

Quite an ordinary day but at the same time not. It’s not every day you fall in love with a new little family member.

Nine years ago, at this exact time, I was a young and lost Swedish girl who flew to London, not knowing what to expect. Six months later, I was studying journalism in Australia. Three years and a degree later, I got my first job in Finland. The job awoke a new interest, and one year later I arrived in Shanghai, China, armed with a suitcase full of hopes and dreams.

So that's it: My (grown-up) life story (so far) in a nutshell. Looking back at it all now, I have to say that life's pretty cool.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My blue week

After a rather rough week at work I’m getting ready to head to the airport in order to do a quick business trip to Sweden. Can tell you I’m keen to get away, as I’ve managed to tick most boxes for disaster this week:

Monday –always a hard day to motivate yourself. This time I tried extra hard by heartily going to the gym after work. Sure, it was about 30 degrees at the gym, but who cares? I was there on a mission! So, up I went on the treadmill, determined to beat the Monday blues. Running, running, sweating, sweating… feeling as if my head was going to explode of some sort of inner heat shock. Ignoring the feeling. Focusing on the run. Which actually went quite well… until. Treadmill suddenly stopped. Yeah, just like that. I had just passed 4km on my distance counter and was about to get comfortable. And then… it stops?!

Furious I decided to step over to another treadmill as fast as I could. Unfortunately I was a bit too hasty in my moves, which resulted in my brain turning itself off, only thinking about “getting to the next treadmill a.s.a.p!!” So, stupid, silly, slow-brained me stepped on my friend’s treadmill in order to get to the one next to hers. Only problem was that she too was running at a 10km/hour pace.

Yup. 3 seconds later I tumbled to the floor, hit my shoulder, hip, bum, and knee, not to mention my pride.

-WHOOOOOOAAAAHHHH!!!! The whole gym section went (of course we were at the very front, well on display for fellow runners behind us).

And I, embarrassed like no other, quickly got up, and literally jumped on a new treadmill and started running at a mad, 12 km/hour pace. It hurt everywhere, and even though I was avoiding the mirror, I could still see that everybody were staring at me, making bets with themselves about when I would crack. Uh… awful start of the week.

Yeah, so that was the start, now I bet you can all guess how the rest of the days went.

I’ve been sleepless in Shanghai due to a bruised body, not making sleeping (unless on the stomach, which causes breathing difficulties) comfortable.

My left bum has the shade of blue-purple (not in a charming, cute way). It hurts to sit down.

When I on Wednesday night went for a relaxing yin yoga class my otherwise so calm and “Namaste”-like teacher had turned into Military man, forcing us all to do rather physically challenging stuff. Do I need to mention that I literally squeaked with pain?

To top this off, I yesterday found out that our office ayi has been making coffee using tap water. No wonder my stomach’s been living it’s own life lately?! Bodes well for a 10-hour flight, huh?

If I get to Sweden alive and with no new bruises, I swear I’m going to become a better person.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

EXPO Health -健康世博

The moment of truth is here...

Meanwhile the rest of the world is talking about how obesity is becoming our new, global health problem, China is taking action: urging its population to measure their waists and calculate their BMI. Look what I received in the mail yesterday! All the equipment I need to see if I’m overweight!

I must say that I was positively surprised when I realized that in a country where 98% of the women are smaller than me, they still follow the international BMI scale, which means I am neither fat nor obese. Yay! Also, the “health package” included a measurement tape, so now I have spent the morning measuring everything I could possible measure on me (yeah, I really mean everything. I learned, for instance, that my right foot measures 25 cm from toe to heel meanwhile my left one measures 25,5cm. Now isn't that something?!).

When I first picked up my package from the mail I started laughing, and couldn’t help but asking one of the management men (who’s constantly parked outside our elevator on the ground floor) what all of this was for:

-It’s Expo health, he said. Because of the Expo, we should all look good and get in shape. Then we both started giggling.

Super clear instructions so that no one can mess up...

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Chinese birthday

Some weeks before I did my blog-comeback I celebrated my bday in Shanghai. Keen to have a party as always (there’s no better excuse!?) I was scribbling down “birthday drinks” the Friday following my birthday (as my actual birthday took place on the Sunday before) in my calendar. A Chinese colleague walked in as I did so, curiously peeking at what I was writing.

-Next Friday’s your birthday? She said.

-Oh no, it’s actually this Sunday, but I’m going to celebrate it next wknd because this wknd doesn’t work for various reasons.

-Oh… but… like.. how can you celebrate it afterwards?

-Well, it’s not a big deal when you celebrate it, it’s more of an excuse to go out and have fun.

I could tell from my colleague’s facial expression that she did not agree with me.

-So what are you going to do on Sunday?

-I don’t know. Eat some cake and take it easy I suppose?!
I said.

-OK, I see…

My colleague left my room, only to come back, 5 minutes later, dragging another 2 of my other Chinese colleagues.

-Is it true that this Sunday’s your birthday?! One of them said, wide-eyed.

-It sure is!

-And you are not going to celebrate it until next Friday?!

-Eh… that was my thought
(was there a hint of accusation in her voice?!)

-That’s not good!! You must celebrate it this Sunday!

-Eh… but I…

-Look, we have been talking. And we have decided that if you allow it, we will all come over to your house this Sunday to celebrate. The Chinese way.

-You will?!

-Yes, we will eat some Chinese food together! How big is your kitchen?

-Eh… not so big.

-Oh… OK. Well then we will make food in advance and come over. Is that OK? Can we come?

-Eh… of course you can come! You are super welcome, but it’s like… you don’t have to go through too much trouble…

I stopped short as I saw the confused expressions on my 3 workmate’s faces.

-Sure! Come! Bring all the food you want!

And boy, did they do so!

At 10.55am (the time we had decided on was 11am) they knocked on my door and stumbled inside my tiny little apartment. Someone brought her son, someone brought cake, and all of the others brought copious amounts of food. The table filled up. The stove and microwave were working overtime, people were scattered around on the floor (I didn’t have enough chairs), and we ate and ate and ate.

After dinner, a Chinese version of “happy birthday” (yes, I got to blow candles and everything) was sung. Then someone managed to pull my deck of UNO out of a drawer. The discovery of the deck resulted in excited roars, and we ended up playing UNO for about 3 hours. Then they all left.

I was left with no mess (not only did they all cook for me, but they also cleaned up every single little kitchen device they used, even though I told them just to leave it) and a table full of food.

Although it was nothing “super special” I still think it was one of my best birthdays ever, and I can just tell you all –if you ever get a chance to celebrate yours with Chinese people, make sure you grab that chance!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Typhoon" leaves Shanghai flooded

The last two weeks in Shanghai have been following a similar pattern. Sunny, warm mornings and rainy, thunder-stormy afternoon/nights. Yesterday a typhoon was said to pass by Shanghai, something that resulted in a lot of schools being closed. The wind, however, proved to be the smallest problem. The rain a bit more so. As you see from the photo and the video (that I took at Hengshan Lu), a lot of Shanghai’s central streets were flooded last night and of course it was impossible to get a cab. I came home soaked and tossed yet another pair of shoes into the pile “ruined by the rain shoes.” Let’s see what today’s gray sky has to offer. According to the weather forecast it’s going to rain for the next 5 days in the city, meanwhile the temperature will still stay above 30… mmmm…. Lovely. Not.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The aggressive VS the modest laowai

A friend and I were talking about how different foreigners in China are when it comes to speaking about their Chinese language/culture/living skills. I have a friend who doesn’t speak a lick of the language, doesn’t like Chinese food, only hangs out with fellow expats (preferably Swedes as he’s Swedish himself), thinks that China is messy and annoying, but then who, as soon as he bumps into a prospective important person (a PIP as we tend to call them), uses China in order to umpf-up himself and his skills:

“Yeah well, as I have now lived in China for quite some time (2 months to be exact), I have a good, basic understanding of both the language (not if you go beyond “ni hao” and “zhe ge”) and the culture (says the guy who complains about that people are so “loud at restaurants!”). I would definitely say that I know the local market (says the guy who some weeks ago explained to me why he would rather target expats than locals with a high-end product. And yes, yes, my chin dropped to the floor) and that I could have a lot of useful advices to companies that are thinking about starting up a business here.”

This guy is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many people like him around, and I have myself to blame for being so modest. I don’t refer to myself as neither fluent in Chinese (oh no, I can speak it, and have meetings and discussions in Chinese, but I cannot discuss science in Chinese), nor as some kind of expert on understanding Chinese culture (even though I’ve realized that a lot of laowais that claim they have a good idea of the Chinese culture, do not have any Chinese friends, have never worked for a Chinese company, and base their idea on the fact that China is “different” to where they come from).

Still, I cannot help but to think that I’m the loser in the game. As I cannot promote myself, I would probably lose a discussion against Mr Know It All who, in fact, does not know anything. Or, well, actually. I probably wouldn’t if we had the discussion in Chinese/with some Chinese people... hehe.

What do you think gets you the furthest in China: being humble or being aggressive?

Come fall, come, come!

Gear up for some more fashion!

Finally, it’s September! I really looking forward to the autumn weather to kick off, but not only the weather, but also some of this fall’s highlight. I will be travelling a lot in September (for work) but I’ll make sure I’m here in October, as that month is probably going to be the busiest/best month of the year:

1. NOTCH Festival (Nordic-Chinese music/art festival)

2. Shanghai International Jazz Festival

3. Shanghai International Fashion Week

4. Closing of the World Expo (expect some fantastic events + a Swedish crown princess in town).

It’s going to be fun, fun, fun, or what do you guys reckon? Which event are you looking forward to (attending or reading about) the most?

Now please, hot, humid sun, disappear from the sky so that I can start wearing all my cool autumn outfits. I’ve had it with summer dresses for a year or so (or at least until we are going to Australia this Xmas).