I went to China in January 2018 and have had an amazing time (best decision I ever made). The Great Wall should be on everybody’s bucket list! Forbidden City was awesome too. Tian’anmen Square was disappointing but the museums around it were fantastic.
Here’s what I learned 2 weeks in…
So, 2 weeks after arriving in Beijing. What have I learned?
1 – It’s cold in Beijing
2 – The canal outside my office frequently freezes over – it’s really cold in Beijing
3 – There hasn’t even been a single second where it’s been above freezing point since I get here – it’s really really cold in Beijing
4 – Everyone has a private and professional VPN so the great firewall of China doesn’t really work
5 – You can get parking tickets for bicycles here
6 – Pollution in London is much worse than here
7 – Everyone’s always in a hurry
8 – KFC is more popular than McDonald’s
9 – It’s a complete myth that everyone in China speaks English
10 – I’ve yet to see fried rice on a menu
11 – If you get lost, you’re screwed because every street in a residential area looks the same
12 – If you say a word in the wrong tone or pitch, people often don’t understand you – I can’t wait to start Mandarin lessons
13 – Chopsticks are easy to use but you still look like a prat in front of Chinese people when you’re trying too hard!
14 – Despite what the British media tell you, football is not popular with the kids here. Badminton is though.
15 – There’s 2 different kinds of plug socket and nobody knows why
16 – Loads of people have dogs even though there’s nowhere to walk them
17 – The roads in China are actually even scarier than people think – zebra crossings and red lights don’t appear to exist
18 – Chinese dumplings are amazing
19 – You’ll never pay more than £1.50 for a pint (usually less than £1)
After Beijing, I worked in a city called Lishui, near Guanzhou, which is near Hong Kong. We think that there were only about 20 westerners in the city. I’m not kidding, people stared at us like we were monkeys. One time, 2 guys crashed their bikes into each other because they were staring at 4 white guys walking down the street! However, having said that, people were really welcoming! In fact, they tried to speak English to me all of the time, which was a pain because that meant I couldn’t practice my Chinese!
I played Open Mic nights and quickly worked out how to win a crowd in China. 1 – Introduce yourself in Chinese. 2 – Finish with Hey Jude! I actually met a Champions League winner at one of these. It was strange seeing him filming me when I had no idea he was there!
Anyway, I’ll share one more story before I finish. I was on holiday with my girlfriend at Lunar New Year in Vietnam. We went into a bar after the fireworks and they said we could stay for one drink. There was a couple there who we got talking to, an American bloke and a Polish girl. They invited us to come back to their flat for vodkas and wine. We didn’t think anything of it when she had to scan cards and stuff with military personnel. On the way to her flat, we ran into a guy who was really friendly. He asked us where we were from, recommended a place to go in Hanoi and thanked us for coming. It turned out that the Polish girl worked for her government as a diplomat and she said, “Do you know who that was?”. It was only the blooming Prime Minister!