Tag Archives: Culture

Vlog about Cheating in China with Ling Ling

I recently had the pleasure of recording some vlogs with Ling Ling. We started off with the very heavy topic of cheating in China – we like to take it easy, obvs!

With emperors having concubines, cheating does seem to have been carried down into modern society especially among business men, the rich and the powerful, where having a 小三 a “little third” or mistress is seen as a status symbol. In some US cities, or so I am told, there are entire suburbs filled with mistresses whose squeeze is paying for their house in order to keep them at least in a separate country from the wife.

Does that mean cheating is more common in China? In 2015 of around 3.8 million divorces over half were down to cheating. However, it is difficult to say that it is only down to culture. As women are earning more money and becoming more emancipated, they are much less willing to accept cheating husbands. Sure, I have had my fair share of conversations with Chinese women who believed cheating just happens, is inevitable and at the end of the day they would probably choose to look away. But I have heard just as many women say that they do not accept it in this day and age.

I even know some particularly strong women who decided to go for divorce in the 90s in a third-tier city rather than suffer their husband regularly stepping out. Which at the time was an impressive move considering social stigma on divorced women and the acceptance that cheating men were just “being men” or had somehow been pushed into cheating because their wife wasn’t a good enough wife.

Anywho, check out the vid and let me know your thoughts about whether Chinese culture encourages cheating or whether it’s all just a matter of proportion.

Also, check out Ling Ling’s channel – she’s a very hard-working YouTuber and does some very cool stuff 🙂

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Rediscovering Germany

Disclaimer: This is a post I wrote about my last return to Germany, almost one year ago. I finally decided to post it, despite its rather negative tone. 

Selective memory is a dangerous thing, isn’t it? Having left my native country Germany nine years ago, and not having had spent a longer amount of time there in almost three years, I had myself convinced that it would be a great idea to move back “home” in the near future.
Yes, I had read all the reports about problems with both right wing radicals and supposed migrants and soaked in the fear mongering, always telling myself it’s the media, no point in taking it seriously.
But take it seriously I probably should have. That is the conclusion I have drawn from my latest visit to the Land of Pretzels, Cars and Kebabs. The day of my arrival, fresh off the airplane, resembled a bucket of ice water being tipped over my head; and not in a “I’m helping raise awareness” kind of way.

In just a short trip that took me through three cities to my final destination, I witnessed fights, altercations or a feeling of being under threat – sometimes all three at once.

Encounters in the Public Space

First off a shouting match between what from their appearance can only be described as probable PEGIDA marchers and the poor conductor, who had pointed out that smoking was not allowed on the platform. In response, a veritable thunderstorm of foul language was unleashed with the conclusion that these specimens announced they could do “whatever the heck they want” to put it mildly. This, so I have been told by a number of old friends during my stay, has become Germany’s new normal. Returning from China in the past usually meant a relaxing and pleasurable experience, with people being rather polite and considerate of others in the public space. It seems incidents such as the above are now not uncommon as the behavior towards other people has changed for the worse.

Cologne New Years’ Aftermath

Next stop Cologne. One hardly has to repeat the events of New Years 2016 that have made the city’s main station infamous. The after effects though are as tangible as they could ever be. There was police everywhere on the premises; you could have cut the tension with a knife. After I asked one lovely policeman for directions to my following destination, he immediately warned me to be on my guard since “there are a lot of thieves especially in the station, and a bag such as yours is particularly easy to grab.”

So I found myself skulking up and down Cologne train station feeling doubly exposed not only due to the easy-to-steal handbag but with a massive and glowing red suitcase that screamed tourist at anyone in a 100m radius. The black one then, next time.

Beggars, Junkies, Alcoholics 

Upon arrival in Bonn, I was about to attempt to purchase an underground ticket, an unnecessarily complex process in the former capital, when something moved at my right elbow. Not registering what was about to happen, I turned to the young man with snake tattoos on his arm and a shaved head with a quizzical look on my face about to ask for help. Now, I cannot say for sure whether this was actually a junky, though he definitely would have fit the description. What surprised me about myself is that such people begging for money was completely normal even when I was growing up in Germany. This is also why train station toilets have blue lights, so said junkies can’t find their veins and shoot up in there; a fact of which I was painfully reminded when I set foot in the local “blue loo”.

At the sight of this stranger however, I was totally thrown. He did then very kindly help me out, but within seconds station security walked up to tell him to stop “harassing” me. He did ask for some money to buy a slice of pizza, even suggesting I can come with him to check he is truly buying food not alcohol. I gave him some change and sent him on his way, musing about how hard it is to fight stereotypical thoughts from entering your mind.

The grand finale to my disconcerting welcome in Germany was the last trip of the day on the underground, where a man in his fifties was barely able to remain slouched upon the platform seating with once again six police men and women gathered around him. Clearly drunk out of his mind, upon being told to get up and leave the station, the man stumbled around so violently he almost ended up on the tracks. After putting on a pair of gloves, one of the police men gingerly tried to lift and steer him, an attempt that desperately failed.

Alcoholism in China

Again, this is not in itself a terribly uncommon sight; especially at German cities’ main stations. But for some reason, it is rare to see a run-down alcoholic on his own in such a state in China. The inebriated might violently stumble around but there will always be friends to support them and get them home – since drinking is such a sociable activity. Generally speaking, it is rare to see an alcoholic homeless man out in the open. Beggars, yes. But these people, most Chinese I spoke to have claimed, are often part of an intricate network, trying to make money, in many cases playing emotional music as they drag themselves through underground carriages trying to look as desperate as possible (which to be honest they often truly are). Alcoholics, on the other hand, often hide in their own homes and are socially sanctioned through a traditional drinking culture closely tied to doing business.

In the end, this was not at all the welcome back I had expected. And it was just the beginning of a row of discussions and revelations in relation to safety, society and employment in Germany, that have given me a lot to think about.

Mangjing Village; A Disappearing Way of Life

Life recently took me to a rather unexpected place. It’s called Jingmaishan (or Jingmai Mountain) and is made up of 14 small villages that are colourd with ethnic minorities, mainly Bulang and Dai. 


A three-hour car drive from Xishuangbanna, I thought I knew what to expect – palm trees, sun and unique architecture. I’d actually even forgotten about fog, a starry sky and the scent of fresh, wet grass. The memories that Manjing brought to mind after years in dry and dusty urban giants were melancholic and bitter-sweet. However, what I didn’t expect to find were the people. 

Sure, everywhere in the world there tends to be a difference between big urban centers and small rural villages in the way people carry themselves and the way they behave towards each other. It’s common to greet people in smaller placer irrespective of whether you know them or not. 
But particularly Mangjing village, the base from which I explored this stunning area, absolutely turned my preconceptions on their head. 

Without fail every person we encountered would offer tea – this region’s main source of income – but not in the way that many tourist places in China do, where their ulterior motive is always to sell their product after. Rather the people here just socialize in this way. While I was waiting for my group, one of the locals, whose toilet I was standing next to, kept offering for me to use it if I needed. Another ran off to return with a branch from his ancient tea tree as a present. 


There is just genuine affection, warmth and a sense of community here that I have never seen in quite this way anywhere else, even less so in the big metropolises of China.

This attitude towards life and relationships is visible in the local architecture. The ground floor of their buildings is entirely open; there are only wooden beams that keep the whole structure standing up – and so it’s common for people to take a short-cut right through your house. While there is a second floor that is a closed-off room, the doors in this village aren’t locked and it isn’t uncommon to just pop into anybody’s house. Of course it has to be said that most people in the village are actually related and few outsiders have made this their permanent home. 


The contrast with Beijing couldn’t be more obvious. The bemoaning of how cold and isolated people are in big urban centers is nothing new of course. However, I think this is even worse in China than in any other country I’ve been in. Part of it is certainly the sheer size of cities. Beijingers can only muster a weak smile when they hear that London hit a record high in terms of population – totaling 8.6 million people. Try 21.7 million. 

The social isolation that comes with big cities seems to go hand-in-hand with some of the social developments bemoaned in recent years. Particularly the lack of empathy and unwillingness to help people in traffic accidents or facing violence in public for fear of ending up branded as a perpetrator. There is a lot of mistrust, a lot of apathy, and sheer loneliness. 

One of the people in my group told me that when they were growing up in Chongqing, the community felt much more like the one in Mangjing village. 
But this lifestyle too is under threat. As projects to increase tourism are expanding and the locals strive for a more materialistic, city-like lifestyle, not knowing the cost it holds. 

It is clear this will have a considerable impact on people’s lives and attitudes. For one, if the number of tourists increases, it will become inevitable for locals to start putting locks on their doors. As soon as they start shutting people out out of necessity, this will inevitably erode the incredible closeness that is the essence of Mangjing’s community. Development is, of course, unstoppable; but the loss it will entail is very costly indeed.

Marks and Spencer Fails in China and So My World Ends

Okay, that is maybe an ever so slightly overdramatic title…those delicate millenials and their FWPs (first world problems). But let’s get real for a minute here. When the news hit that Marks & Spencer will, in the near future, be closing down ALL of their China branches, it was as if my heart had shattered into a thousand Mince-Pie-shaped pieces, and here’s why:

My previous traumatic M&S experiences

Ah, I remember it well. I must have been about 13 and in that phase when holy England was the be all and end all. I was yet to become jaded by the experience of actually having lived in England, its rent prices, food prices or just prices of any kind, and of course… Brexit. Our regular visits to my English family in Harrogate and London had instilled in me the impression that England truly was all about Afternoon Tea at Betty’s, lengthy trips to the ever so slightly nippy beach and fancy barbies with the neighbours, you know, the white garden fence, splendid backyard, sophisticated kind of mingling associated with the British middle and upper class. In short, I grew up under the impression that all of England was posh. It was like a Disney movie sprung to life. Oh, the joy.

Okay, well, wot’s any of this got to do with M&S, you’re surely wondering, for I have once again wandered off on a tangent. M&S represented all this poshness (poshity? poshure?) and when I was around 13, it actually opened in my German hometown of Frankfurt/Main. Right on the main shopping street. There it was in all its middle-aged clothing range and egg-salad sani glory. Oh, goodie! It was the treat of treats for my mum and me, when we were out on a weekend day shopping, to pop into M&S (because as Brits, you pop, don’t you? Such sophistication) and browse the underground food section, settling most of time on ginger snaps and shortbread. And then, a year or so later, guess what? It closed. Turns out that in cool, eco-aware and money-saving Germany, posh was about as out of place as, say, durian. Though much less offensive to the nose, M&S just didn’t make it in Germany. It took me quite a while to get over the heartbreak.

Rediscovering M&S in the UK

And then just like that, a decade later I found myself in golly old England, as a student. Now, I must admit from my previous comments, it might seem that I did not enjoy my life in England. I’d like to assure you that I did love many aspects about it. But I came away with a much more grounded, balanced view of the nation. Especially after a year in Newcastle, which was bonkers as da yoot like to say nowadays. There’s only so many toppled over drunk womens’ nickers you can see, before you decide it’s time to call it a day. But for all the things there were about life in the UK that weren’t as Victoria Beckham as I initially thought – the binge drinking, the weather and the cost of alcohol to binge drink away the depression brought on by shitty weather – M&S was always there, my steadfast companion that reminded me that somewhere in the United Kingdom, there were still people upholding regal Britain. Mr Li and I once managed to spend 100£ after a particularly enthusiastic M&S shopping spree. Hey, there were cherries, don’t blame us. Not conducive to weight or spending control, but all the more fun for a bit of nostalgia of the posh days of old, M&S just was all that’s British. Living in Britain meant, I had access anytime I wanted. And just like that, said access that had been feeding my addiction to overpriced but ever so fancy nuts with Chilean chili and Peruvian pepper coating, and other exclusive spices combined with regular items to suddenly make them a “must-have”, was cut short by my return to China.

Shanghai = M&S Paradise

Once I’d moved to Nanjing, it quickly became apparent that getting my M&S fix wasn’t going to be easy, but there was hope. Shanghai, just an hour on the high-speed train, was proud home to not only the shop and an imported food section, but an actual M&S café, where they’d whip up frozen quiches and fish & chips. It was the bees knees. Now every trip to Shanghai would be accompanied by a massive stock-up on teas, freshly baked bread, and anything on offer that particular day. One work trip, just around Single’s Day, I went crazy in the clothes’ section and returned home with an almost entirely new wardrobe. I ended up in Shanghai just often enough to make the binge shopping last until the next time. And so, every visit was really special, to be treasured to the max.

There and Gone in a Flash – The M&S Beijing Story

So, then I moved to Beijing. No M&S. The notion! Scandalous! But the good news was on its way – 2016 saw the opening of our very own Marks and Sparks. And not far from my office either. Half the time, I would pop in there (popping again, see, see, I AM posh!), not to actually purchase anything – god no, have you seen the prices?! Especially when you’ve been to M&S Hong Kong… – but simply for the M&S feeling. That warm feeling of my British side, that envelops me whenever I set foot in there. No M&S café in Beijing either, to my utter disappointment, but beggars can’t be choosers and so I found myself more often than not headed straight for the “about-to-expire-and-therefore-actually-cheap” section.

Once I had just gotten used to being able to buy Mince Pies and fancy chocs, though, the terrible news came: M&S will be shutting down all of their China branches in the foreseeable future. ALL OF THEM? For the next few months my British friends and I would mourn our future loss over lunch frequently, and speculate when the big shut down will be, and proclaim that we will clear the damn thing out – but only once the final sales are on. And then we’d giggle and acknowledge that maybe always buying from the “about-to-expire” section was part of the reason they are shutting down.

And there you have it – my grand M&S love story – can you believe you read it all. Every word. I’m certain you did 😉 It’s taken me a 1000 words to very non-succinctly state a simple but sad truth: M&S was, is and always will be a little piece of my “other” home, and without it, wherever will I get terribly posh and overpriced flatbreads? It’s a real issue…

Here’s to M&S, just too posh for the harsh world out there…I love you.

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A Love Letter to my Chinese Mother-In-Law

Looking back at some of my posts, I realise that most the quirky anecdotes and the weird stuff tends to involve her, my MIL. That might give the impression that we don’t get along but that’s actually not the fact at all. The main reason that most of my funny and weird China stories, such as rearranging wardrobes, happen with her, is simply because she is the Chinese person I am closest to and spend the most time with. Mr Li doesn’t count, as his long time in the West and my terrible influence have turned him into as much a confused culturally non-identifiable mashed potato as I am. After five years of having him in my life, and thus her by association, I have come to learn a few things about her in relation to other Chinese mothers-in-law that make me thank my lucky star that she is indeed the MIL I ended up with. So, here we are. My love letter to my MIL:

Being Supportive of us Dating

To start off, I have to say cudos to my MIL for never once suggesting to my husband that dating a foreigner was something bad. I know a few other WWAMs, such as Jocelyn, whose potential parents-in-law had misgivings about their son dating a Western woman, since we stereotypically tend to be seen as “loose” and heartless monsters who will abandon their duty to look after their parents. My MIL was never anything but welcoming to me, even when I could be a total bitch when I was struggling with culture shock.

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The day we got our certificate

A Strong Woman to Look Up To

I think one of the things that I really appreciate about her is the fact that she is a business woman, who owns her own kindergarten. In a country, where still the ideal role of a woman is to take care of the family members, young and old, it is rare to find a woman who has such a successful career, and a family. Actually, being a divorced woman in rural China in the 90s – that’s some pretty tough stuff –  and she has been through some really intense shit in her life. But she came out of the other end a strong and successful woman, a total trail blazer. I have only two words for that: Absolute Awesomeness.

Giving us Space

I find one of the common worries of dating Chinese men can be the fact that many Chinese family members, particularly the mother, struggle with the concept of personal space in the way we Westerners think of it. Most Chinese parents expect their sons to live in the same city as them, many even on the same street or (scary thought) under the same roof. However, this, from what I hear and experience myself, can lead to conflict very quickly, as two strong headed women from two different cultures often tend to have clashing opinions. Our husbands, the poor sods stuck in the middle, are often not outstanding at managing these cross-cultural issues either. I’m therefore incredibly glad that my MIL is accepting of the fact that we won’t be moving to Inner Mongolia and have our own lives.

Not Pressing Us on Children

While the rest of the family is a different story, I am incredibly lucky since my MIL doesn’t put pressure on me to have child. This is very uncommon in China, and I think it has to do with the fact that my husband’s parents are divorced. Maybe she wants to see if we can make it last? Who knows. All I know is that all I get from her in terms of procreational pressure is the occasional “Doesn’t your husband look cute with his little niece.” Thanks MIL, I really do appreciate it.

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After marriage pressure comes…baby pressure!

Being OK with Us Moving Back to Europe

This is a big one. Many Chinese parents I know of, and more so those with sons, are heavily opposed to the idea of their child moving to another continent, because “who will take care of me in old age?” So the fact that my MIL is totally on board with the idea of us returning to Europe at some stage (mainly for breathable air) is not a given. She went to Germany for the first time this summer and overall seemed to quite enjoy it. There is of course a possibility that she would like to join us in Europe but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

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Home sweet home.

Almost Always Picking My Side in Fights

This is a really interesting one. From the beginning, when Mr. Li and I tend to go at each other, I’d say 90% of the time my MIL would be the one to talk him down and who picks my side. Especially in the beginning of our relationship she was the reason we didn’t break up many, many times. I have actually had to force myself not to call her to knock some sense into him when we have had the occasional fight. This has been a massive help to me, since I am aware that especially when it comes to cultural conflict, it’s an easy thing for the Chinese relatives to gang up on the foreign partner. It’s probably the same the other way around. So her being able to see my side is something I really appreciate about her.

Spoiling Me

Yeah, I have to say, my MIL tends to spoil me rotten. She will always buy things that I don’t ask for and often even feels the need, when she buys endless stuff for Mr Li, to buy me something too so I don’t feel left out. She will go out of her way to make me comfortable and constantly feed me food, if I let her. When you are in a country far away from your own mum, it does feel nice every now and then to be showered by such affection.

Being Pretty Cool to Travel With

I think this is the funniest one in a way. After Mr Li and I got married in China last year, I went on a 2-week honeymoon not with him but with my MIL. He was working as usual, the workaholic. And it was actually pretty awesome. She never travelled much in the past but is now in a phase of her life where she is really enjoying exploring the world. And so I know that if I ever want to travel to a cool place and my hubs is busy, I can just ask her if she wants to go. And actually, she is as active as I am, so she is totally down for a busy schedule and looking at loads of places, as opposed to my little couch potato of a husband ;P

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Our MIL-DIL Honeymoon at Qinghai Lake

So, yes, while at times certain elements about Chinese culture drive me insane, I have to admit that overall I have been incredibly lucky with my MIL. She’s definitely not what you’d call a traditional Chinese mother-in-law!

Cultural Differences in AMWF Dating – A Deal Breaker?

 

Cultural differences; they’re such a big deal that we devote entire blogs to them. And often they are responsible for some of those “bang my head against a wall” experiences; but are they truly impossible to overcome?

Recently, when Mr Li was complaining about how I’m a lazy slob, whose idea of cleaning up is gathering all my clothes in a large pile and chucking them into my walk-in wardrobe, I couldn’t help but feel amused at how banal this little spat seemed. In fact, it was very similar to ones I had had with German ex-boyfriends in the past. And that’s when it hit me; Mr Li and I have somehow managed to pass that initial culture shock and have entered the phase where most of our irritations about each other involve our daily routine on the one hand and political disagreements on the other; things that most mono-cultural couples argue about.

A Rocky Start

This wasn’t always the case. In fact, in retrospect I feel like the first year of our relationship we mostly spent arguing due to cultural differences. Whether it was about the fact that I would tell my girlfriends about our fights and thereby “air our dirty laundry in front of everyone”, or that he would say some things that were highly insensitive in my own culture; for the better part of two years there was no shortage of things to fight about.

Then, around the two-year mark we hit a low point and almost broke up. What saved us? Well, as fate would have it, China did. By coming here, I finally learned how utterly clueless I had been in terms of understanding Chinese culture. Here I was, having studied the language for years, having been surrounded by Chinese friends, and still I realised very quickly that in terms of cultural understanding, I had only scratched the surface. And while right in the beginning of our return I really struggled with some of the changes in behaviour Mr Li exhibited, brought on by a Chinese surrounding, after a while we both managed to settle in and become more comfortable.

Then, Mr Li had the glorious idea of getting involved in Couch Surfing, where he met a few “real Germans” for want of a better word, and our relationship once again progressed to a whole new comfort level.

The reason, I would say, is that both of us started to realise that certain behaviours of our partner were actually culturally influenced, and this realisation meant that, if this was not a deal breaker, we could stop fretting about it and accept that if we wanted to date someone from that culture, this was just part of the package deal.

The other reason however was that in the face of people from our partners’ background we actually noticed how much the other had adapted to our own culture and how accepting and culturally sensitive they had become compared to other, less experienced people from their cultural background.

Most importantly as time went on, we figured out how uniquely fitted we were for each other, and that our relationship worked mainly because we were both stuck somewhere in the middle.

So, yes, cultural differences are something that can put a lot of strain on a relationship, if they are not dealt with; but ultimately if you are willing to put in the effort to understand your partners’ culture (and of course they yours!), and meet them half way, then there will come a day when the worst of your fights is who forgot to turn on the washing machine in the morning,…again. (Yeah, it was me.)

That being said, this is coming from the perspective of a childless woman who is not living with her Chinese in-laws; that, my dears, is a whole other story.

 

 

 

Has China Changed Me? Reflecting on Flexibility, Finance and Food

Recently watching Whisky Tango Foxtrott (great movie btw, Tina Fey, you are my hero) and all this talk of the “Kabubble” inspired me to take a close look at myself and how my behaviour has changed after three years in China and…what would you call it? The Bebble? The Beijubble? I’ll have to work on that. Anyway, without much ado, here are the main ways in which being in China and with a Chinese husband have changed both my thoughts and actions.

1. The Value of Family 

When I was 18 I couldn’t wait to get out of Germany and see the world. I was never a person to miss home easily when there were so many wonders to be discovered. Being in China has changed my outlook in this regard at least a little. I would now consider moving back to Germany, a country I had thought I had turned my back on forever, partly because it would mean being closer to my family. Maybe I’m just getting old and sentimental. But mostly it’s China. The importance of family here and the value placed on it has increased the value I place on my own family in my life. Tough to my husband’s dismay that doesn’t necessarily relate to a number of his more…shall we say interesting…relatives. And while we are being honest they are probably the main reason I appreciate how normal and drama free my own childhood was.


2. Opportunity for Pickiness 

Career-wise I think moving to China was both a blessing and a curse in disguise. Having had little practical experience in journalism, I would have never been able to find such work in the UK. China gave me a start into written journalism and then the opportunity to work for the country’s largest broadcaster. To be perfectly honest the main reason is my Caucasian descent, which in the past equaled unimaginable opportunities in China (as more talented people flood into the Land of the Dragon this trend is starting to shift). Being able to speak the local language also helps of course. The problem, if you want to call it that, is that now I have tasted blood and want to stay in this line of work – and I feel I am entitled to pursue this career dream – something I would never even have dared consider back in Europe. It won’t make life easier, that’s for sure. But if it works out, it will be a whole lot more fun.



3. Diverging from the Discourse 

Being in China, a communist-run country, has definitely changed my views on the world. It has enabled me step out of the fairly limited discourse that exists in the West, including such broad statements that communist leadership is straight out of hell or Chinese people have no freedom of expression whatsoever and see that the truth is a little bit more nuanced than that. I do know that even so much as suggesting that there are some things the leadership in China aren’t bad at is probably as disturbing to most Western ears as the comments I get from countless Chinese who hear I’m German: “Oh yeah, Hitler. Great guy!” But it just takes a simple look at Chinese high speed railway infrastructure, which I maintain is among the best in the world, to realise they must be doing something right.
Ironically, although I wouldn’t call myself the biggest fan of certain political realities, my more favourable opinion of at least some aspects of China’s policies often means I automatically get pushed into the “Defender of China” role. Hello, I am DOC, the latest super hero on the block. JK. Or am I? It is quite frustrating to see how just mentioning the idea that maybe there are also positive sides to something that is seen as Satan’s spawn in democratic and individualist cultures always ends up with me sounding like a propaganda machine.


4. Lazy Eater? No more!

Growing up in the West I was such a lazy eater. What I hated most was dealing with any food that needed to be “handled” in the slightest way before stuffing it in my mouth. Peeling prawns to me was some kind of cruel joke. What? I’m meant to work for my food? Preposterous!!
In China, unless you want to miss out on some of the best dishes, you can’t afford to be such a choosy chewer. Peeling the hull (is it a hull? Or skin? Or armour? Who knows!) off a scampi with my bare teeth and chopsticks is now the least of my problems as I enthusiastically munch away on splintered chicken bones and suck meat out of little crayfish legs I have sardonically ripped off the poor creature.
No more mashed potatoes and creamed soups. Three years in China mean I get down and dirty when it comes to dinner time. Right down to the bone. My mum must be so proud of me.



5. Flexibility or Chaos?

There was once a time when I could hardly imagine that planning a holiday two days in advance and deciding what to do on a weekend on that actual weekend would ever occur to me. In traditional German fashion I was on track to become the Organisator. Hasta la vista, baby; but at 3:30pm exactly please, and no minute later.

In China life just isn’t like that. I can’t help but chuckle with amusement when my mum (an honorary German of almost 40 years) is non-plussed at the fact that our plans change more often than our underwear. As you can imagine this makes planning a Sino-German wedding akin to walking over a patch of glass shards. If you are not a yogi master, you are going to get hurt. My mum calls it chaos, we prefer to think of it as flexibility. It’s the only way to stay sane. I plan to write more on cross-cultural wedding escapades soon. Let’s see how long that lasts. Oh, time to change my underwear.


6. Money Talk

It wasn’t till I was out at dinner with some “old outsiders” (Get it? Get it? If not, look up Laowai) that I noticed how drastically my small talk has changed. When a colleague mentioned they recently purchased a new item, my first question was not what colour, what model or any technical specs but rather “How much?”. “You’re so Chinese, Laura” was the exasperated answer and with a flash of surprise I realized they were right.

I do not feel ashamed to ask people for their salaries anymore – probably something I need reign in when back in Europe. Does this automatically mean I am money obsessed or that the pink papers with Mr Mao’s glorious features are the only thing that matters to me? I wouldn’t say so; but I do appreciate Chinese realism concerning finance. I mean, call me cynical, but what’s the point of having your dream career if at the end of the day you can’t even pay the rent for a fridge-sized flat. We tend to like to pretend back in Europe that money doesn’t matter. It does folks. Deal with it.


7. Hot Water, Holy Water

I know, I know. It’s the obvious one but still I think it deserves mention. No matter whether it’s 40 or -40 degrees outside, every Chinese restaurant will serve you free HOT water, always. In the office and at every single “water cooler” in the country you have the options of either tastebud-scorcher or “cold”, and by cold I mean room temperature. It’s to do with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the idea that hot water cools you down.

During my recent trip to Germany I found myself bordering on a breakdown at the fact that getting at plain hot water was about as easy as trying to climb Mount Everest in high heels. It just ain’t gonna happen. Now, it might have been the placebo effect but I genuinely felt miserable for the first few days and I put it down to mostly a lack of hot water. Certainly not jet lag or airplane induced cold.



8. Accepting the Unacceptable

Especially being in an intercultural relationship forces you to be more accepting of behaviour that doesn’t conform with your own culture. If it doesn’t, I’m guessing the relationship won’t be lasting very long.
It is easy in such a relationship for both sides to overlook how accepting your opposite has actually become of your cultural quirks, because to you they are totally normal.

Point in case: I think the moment of revelation of just how much my accept-o-meter has risen occurred when I returned from a trip to Germany to find that my MIL had gone through the entire flat and rearranged everything. Including my underwear. Now I have discovered through much discussion that this a) is not necessarily exclusively a Chinese MIL phenomenon, there are other cultures and households where this might happen, and b) the male species finds the idea of mummy in law folding their undies and rearranging their entire closet not that unappealing.

Maybe I’m just a territorial German b***h but I can assure you that I think I deserve an award for biting my tongue so hard it almost ended up being my dinner. I am convinced that 90% of my European friends would have gone batshit crazy at what can and would be considered a gross invasion of privacy in many a European country. Ironically it’s not the first time this has happened. But that’s a story for another time.

In the meantime, keep calm and rearrange the closet. But only once MIL is gone.


Well, this is all I can think of for now. How about you? How as your accept-o-meter changed since you have been in China? And how many crayfish can you take apart in one minute? Would love to hear your stories! 

Blogger Recognition Award

Okay, so let me start off with a huge apology! I hang my head in shame, since it has literally been MONTHS since I received this awesome Blogger Recognition Award from my dear fellow blogger at Crazy Chinese Family – when you get a minute go check out his crazy stories and his cute family (including the awesome Nathan, future superstar)!

Okay, so let’s move on the RULES (yes, that German part of me just can’t resist a good set of rules).

blogger-recognition-award

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the rules of the Blogger Recognition Award:

Rule 1: Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

Rule 2: Provide a link to the award creator.

Rule 3: Attach the award to your post.

Rule 4: Nominate fifteen other bloggers, excluding yourself and the person who nominated you.

Rule 5: Write a brief story of how you started your blog.

Rule 6: A piece or two of advice to new bloggers.

Rule 7: Comment on the blogs you have named here to let them know you have nominated them.

My nominees:

As I write up this list, I see a bit of a trend emerging…can you spot it?

  1. Speaking of China (grandmistress of AMWF blogging)
  2. My Hong Kong Husband (hilarious stories of Momzilla and one of my first regular reads)
  3. Diaries of a Yangxifu (the always reflective and insightful – plus beautiful – Sarah)
  4. Lost Panda (run by an incredibly talented artist and Kung-fu Queen who lives in one of the most rural areas of China – I tip my hat)
  5. The Inner Mongolian (life of the hugely fascinating Susanna, a Scottish sister in crime who moved to India only to end up with a husband from IM – a trend I am spotting)
  6. China Elevator Stories (by the marvelous Ruth, who as it turns out graduated from the same Uni and the same subject as I did – infinitesimally small chance considering our crazy major)
  7. West Dates East (another sister in arms and frequent commenter who makes me feel read and validated <3)
  8. Cooking with a Wallflower (some serious mouthwatering going on here)
  9. Oh God, My Wife is German (he’s the balls, and his German wife is hilarious)
  10. Xi’ananigans (another AMWF located in one of my fave Chinese cities)
  11. The Love Blender (very insightful blog that goes deep into cross-cultural dating issues)
  12. Susan Blumberg Kason (author of Good Chinese Wife – a must read for AMWFs)
  13. Ember Swift (talented singer, who also happens to be a queer feminist married to a Chinese guy)
  14. Jess Meider (another amazing singer with a Chinese husband, who gives insight into TCM)
  15. China IQ (China expert who tells it as it is)

 

How I started my blog:

Within a couple of days of deciding to get married to my Chinese boyfriend of almost three years, a number of China-crazy things happened; the type of things that make a person think “I should be writing this down”. And that’s what I did.

Advice:

For many years I felt I should have a blog because a) I am a journalist and that’s just something we do and b) that’s just something we do. But although my move to China might have been reason enough, I didn’t start until the above mentioned flood of craziness. And I have (more or less) not stopped since. My advice: you’ll know when it’s time for your blog. Don’t force it just because writing a blog’s just something people do. Wait until you are bursting with stories.

Hope you enjoy my slightly AMWF-heavy reading list!

Thanks to all of you for being an inspiration.