Tag Archives: life

Long Distance 2.0

Can you believe we are already almost halfway into 2018? I certainly can’t!

This year has brought some major changes…drumroll…Mr Li has moved back to England to pursue a PhD degree, while I have stayed behind in Beijing.

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve done long distance – we had 2 years between Nanjing and Beijing/Hohhot. I knew that moving to another continent wouldn’t be as simple as being just a 4-hour high-speed train ride apart. In the olden days, we managed to see each other at least once a month. While we have managed to meet up twice in the first 6 months of our separation, the major issue I did not take into consideration was the time difference.

Good night, England./ Pixabay.com

When I go to sleep, he is barely done with class, whereas when I get up, he is already in dreamland. This is making video chat sessions not the easiest thing.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that probably because of that difficulty, I am finding it a lot more difficult to live apart. Maybe I am getting old, or I’m just too uncomfortable with being alone – but his move has resulted in me cramming my social calendar with lunches, and drinks, and other meetups, just because I feel like I have to. I always knew I was quite a social animal, but recently I’m almost finding it concerning how I simply cannot go two days without seeing friends.

But it’s not all terrible – the space I am getting is making me try out new things, and rediscover old passions such as – hold on to your hats because I’m about to geek out hard for a minute – puzzles. I just love doing them, and I don’t care if it makes me sound like a pensioner with a pipe, it’s just too much fun.

Should I stay or should I go? / pixabay.com

I was really struggling especially during the early months of the year with the question of where my life should be, and whether I should just call it a day and run back to Europe. However, at the moment, objectively speaking, there are just so many more reasons to be staying where I am. And Mr Li will be back by the end of this year for a stretch, so at least that’s something.

Right now, this is just another reminder that cross-cultural relationships like ours will often take place across two different countries – the irony being that in our case we kind of mixed up the countries. I never thought I’d end up marrying a Chinese man, who’d run off to England, while I’m stuck in Beijing. For now, that is.

Have you had similar struggles? Did you dare move back home without a job in place?


High Time for High Tea @ The British House, Qianmen

Did you know there’s a Harrods in Beijing? I had absolutely no clue. Probably to do with the fact that it’s not technically called Harrods but rather “The British House”. The celebration of all that is upper-class British can be found just a two-minute walk from Qianmen, in the same neighbourhood as Capital M used to be.

The Scones

Maybe there’s something about the Qianmen location that makes for particularly outstanding scone production. To this date, the scones you can find at TBH are the best I’ve had in Beijing. They’re sizeable for one, and you get one each of classic and raisin. They’re fresh, they’re fluffy and they come with delicious cream and strawberry jam, that the efficient and courteous staff will refill upon request and without hesitation.

That’ll be scone within seconds

The Tea

They have a fine selection of loose leaf British teas, as well as some special options for the more adventurous. Sadly, the rose tea I was most excited about was not available on the day. Small disappointment, but the fresh peppermint is definitely a reliable choice for someone like myself who isn’t the biggest fan of black teas.

Sanis & Cakes

The Sanis turned out to be tiny bites, that were gone in one quick swoop. Egg salad, salmon, ham and cucumber are definitely very traditional choices. Indeed, the overall afternoon tea experience was probably one of the most “genuine” in the British sense. No weird Matcha flavours or crazy concepts here, just good old fashioned high tea as it was meant to be. My only complaint re the sani bites is that they were indeed a bit minuscule. Granted, the big scones will fill you up, though I personally wouldn’t’ have minded swapping the trifle for larger savoury options. The trifle was the only item that I wasn’t that impressed by, just a bit bland and boring, but the red velvet cake and the mille feuille made up for it by being simply delicious.

IMG_1693 2
Scrumptious scones, sanis and sweet treats

The Place

The tea set and crockery was simple and elegant, with the unmistakable Harrods H, and was an indication of the overall décor. Very light and tasteful, it was a great place to just sit an entire afternoon and relax. Which we did. In fact, I managed to reach a level of relaxation, I have failed to replicate at any of the other locations we’ve been to for tea. I think it was just the right amount of food to fill you up but not make you feel like a stuffed duck plus the lovely environment and the friendly staff, who were helpful, on the ball and never pushed us to vacate the exceedingly comfy sofas we were parked on.

*Downton, where all the lights are bright*…that’s how the song goes, right? No?

In conclusion, if you’re looking for the Downton Abbey experience, look no further. This is definitely the place to relax traditional British style. And once you’re done you can go downstairs and buy all kinds of overpriced Best of British items in an attempt to feel really regal.

Costs: 168 rmb for 2 scones, 4 sanis, 2 sweet treats, a strawberry trifle + refillable tea

Address: 煤市街廊房头条交叉口东北角北京坊西区4号楼1层101

Phone: 010-63132122

A New Generation of Constant Availability

This passing weekend a strange constellation of coincidences led me to a surprising insight into the lives of our millennial generation.
Mr Li had taken a flight back to his hometown on Sunday after we had a big birthday celebration on Saturday evening. I spent Sunday afternoon with a friend and then got home around 4pm. While I did have it on my mind to send a message to Mr Li to ask how his flight was, the afternoon in the crazy hot Beijing sun had actually exhausted me. So I just sat down on the sofa, put on some random TV show and just let it wash over me. After a while I nodded off. Until at around 9pm, when someone rings the doorbell. Still half asleep I was a little wary since I hadn’t been expecting anyone and as Mr. Li and many other local acquaintances often point out, one has to be very careful about who comes a-knocking in China especially when at home alone. Even more so as a “vulnerable woman”, as much as I dislike this idea.

It turns out, it’s one of my friends who lives a metro stop away checking in to see that I was okay. Since I had not been in touch with Mr Li and his repeated phone calls had gone unanswered with my phone on silent in another room, he had gone into a panic and had convinced himself I had been run over by a car on my way home from brunch. He contacted every single one of our friends and of course no one could reach me.

It was at this moment that I realised two things. Number one, I had always felt that Mr Li and his mother both tended to freak out very easily as soon as one wasn’t in constant contact with them. Once I came to Beijing while we were doing long distance and the same thing happened – for maybe 12 hours we just didn’t look at our phones and promptly a relative stood in front of our door to check if we were still alive. I do not know if this is my particular partner and family’s idiosyncrasy or a general tendency for Chinese to over worry, though I do feel it may be the latter. I could tell both him and his mother were genuinely worried; I myself was torn between appreciation for their care but also utter bemusement with a tinge of being overwhelmed. My mum and I might not message each other for a few days, and neither one of us has a meltdown about it (well, I do get the odd “Are you still alive?” if I don’t get in touch for over a week #daughteroftheyear).

But the other realisation I had was just how connected we are nowadays and how expectations of being connected and availability have changed. Part of me was just totally “socialised out” after the weekend and so I was happy to just lounge about all by my lonesome on the sofa. I actually really enjoy a little time out from the phone and chatting every now and then. But my not being available for just a few hours caused my husband and MIL to be convinced I was lying in a ditch somewhere and it shocked me how constant availability is just a given nowadays. It’s no surprise so many people suffer burn out when you have to constantly be “switched on” that way.

On top of that I feel like professional and private life have, especially through the emergence of smart phones and chatting apps, become entirely inseparable. It is not uncommon for work mails to arrive on people’s phones in the middle of the night, and who can resist the ding of the phone? No one, that’s who. Yet, we hardly resist it when at work either. Message from husband, MIL, best friend; we immediately have to respond. It’s not a very healthy way of living, I find.

I believe that it is very important for my sanity to every now and then just chuck the phone in a corner and say “screw the world, I’m N/A right now.” Though maybe next time I shall warn my immediate family members in advance.