You think this is weird? Welcome to China!
When I talk to my family and friends back home, either on Skype or on Whats App Call (such a genius invention!), they often ask me what is life in China is like. They want to know what the differences are between everyday life here compared to life back home. They want to know what the weather is like, how the food tastes, how many people were on the metro this morning, how much you pay for clothes and what the city looks like between the skyscrapers. They are generally very curious about what people in Chengdu are like. I always try my best to answer their questions in as much detail as possible, but I often find that there are some things about China you just cannot explain. You have to experience them yourself. Still, I would like to share some of my “What China is really like” knowledge with you and tell you a bit about what I experience here every day.
Living in China’s food capital, Chengdu, it almost certainly means putting on some weight. However, for some reason this seems to be quite surprising for people at home. “In China they eat so healthy and they have lots of vegetables so how is this even possible?”. What they do not understand is, the food here is simply amazing and there are just so many new dishes to try that you do not want to miss out on anything! If your Chinese friends invite you over for dinner or want to take you on a city food tour to introduce their favourite dishes to you, you do not want to offend them by saying no. Luckily, there are quite a lot of gyms here in Chengdu…
It is very common to share dishes here in China so when you have lunch together you often order several dishes that are served in the middle of the table so everybody can help themselves. If you are invited for dinner you can be certain that your host has prepared one dish per person. That might sound like a lot of work (and I am sure it probably is) but if you think about the concept of sharing dishes this actually makes sense. Your host can be sure that no one goes hungry and as a guest you are able to enjoy a variety of dishes rather than just one. Just think about all those times that you spent dreading the food at Western parties, but had to put on a brave face in order to please your host…
Direct English translations of Chinese dishes may sometimes sound, well, a little exotic and slightly misleading. I do not mean this in a negative but in a positive way. One of my favourite dishes is 鱼香茄子 , translated to “Fish flavoured eggplant”. If I had known this before I tried it I would have probably thought twice about eating it. But don’t judge a book by its cover (or in this case a dish by its name)!
One of the most striking things I noticed about China when I first arrived here was the fact that it is always incredibly loud. Of course this is somewhat normal for a big city but there is a difference between big city noise in China and big city noise in the rest of the world. This is probably because the Chinese love all kinds of entertainment so there are always various radio or TV programmes on all at the same time. Display screens are literally everywhere.
The traffic here is also super loud. Not just because there are so many cars but because everybody, particularly taxi drivers, seems to love honking their car horns for no apparent reason. After more than three months of living here I have come to the conclusion that this is probably not the unfriendly “get out of my way why did they even give you a driver’s license!” kind of honking you often find in the West, but more like a way of communicating. After living in China for a while you just blend out the noise and it becomes normal.
If you are feeling unwell here in China you often hear “just rest and drink hot water”, as if this was some sort of miracle cure to make all kinds of pain disappear immediately. You know what? It works! This may seem totally weird to Westerners and I must admit I felt a bit strange about it as well when I was first given this piece of advice. After all, if you want a hot drink why not just drink tea or coffee? but just like with all things in life, this is something you’ll eventually get used to. Drinking hot water is actually really good for you!
If you are a foreigner like me, get used to people whispering “Wooow, beautiful” when you walk by. Even if you actually look your ‘worst’ on that day. It gives your ego a nice boost and I often cannot help but think how nice it would be if people at home did the same. At least to some Chinese people I look like a top model, so I do not have to worry about make-up and clothes all that much. I am not sure how many family albums or WeChat moments my picture has graced so far but it must be a lot. I often ask myself what people do with the photos after having taken them but I guess I´ll never find out. All that remains to say then is: Happy snapping!
Last but not least, some of my “top weird China experiences ” :
- One morning, when I stepped in the elevator there was a young gentleman on a ladder trying to change the light bulb. I was slightly confused and wanted to take the other lift but the repairman apparently thought that this was not necessary. He asked me to just ignore him and kept on working while the lift was going up and down…
- When I took an overnight train, people tried to sell me singing fish and toe clippers.
- There are no seat belts in taxis’ in Chengdu.
- Chinese song covers of popular Western pop songs are extremely funny.
- There are cars with only three wheels.
- There are so many things Chinese people manage to stack on their bikes…
- No limit on where you can sleep in China – everywhere is a possibility.
- Shops or restaurants vanish over night.
- Two days later there’ll be a new shop in it’s place.
- There are employees for literally everything.
- Some buildings have elevators just for scooter drivers.
If you want first hand China experience, apply now!