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Unread May 7th, 2013, 02:48 AM   #1
Nashida
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Curious About China?

Since it's been brought up a few times, and I've been horrible to you guys by not sharing any updates whatsoever, I figured I'd set up this thread so you could all come hound me with questions.

So go ahead, ask away? What would you like to know about? Culture shock? What exactly it is I'm doing? Just how have I managed to survive 9 months over there?

All will be answered, if you only just ask.
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Unread May 7th, 2013, 07:01 AM   #2
Aerazura
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Ooh me!
What was the biggest thing you had to get used to when you started out there? How about something about China (custom, food, tradition) that you would like to see become the norm in the rest of the world?
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Unread May 7th, 2013, 06:04 PM   #3
Nashida
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Oh gosh, I think the hardest thing to deal with is the "red-taping" here. You will never get a straight answer to anything, and a problem that should only take 10 minutes to fix, tops, can take upwards of an hour, and it's usually because they don't know the answer but don't want to make it known that they don't know.

It's called guanxi - saving face. It's basically "I don't want to look like a fool in front of this person, but if I say something that's wrong, then they look foolish," so many Chinese try for something in the middle, typically an "I don't know" response. To a foreigner, who's used to "Just fix this, why's it so difficult?" this can get very frustrating. And don't get me started on returns: they just don't happen.

Second hardest is probably the general attitude towards foreigners. Most of them are pretty curious and will ask me all sorts of questions, many of them just stare (but quickly look away if you make eye contact with them). A good few of them will call out to me "Hello, laowai, hello!". Laowai in Chinese means foreigner - literally "old outsider". It's not polite, but not meant to be an insult either. Saying hello back usually causes laughter. A good music player and earphones helped fix that.

I think something I'd like to see back home, well, two things maybe, is their sense of openness. My favorite thing to do since I've been here is to go line dancing. Many evenings, especially in the warm weather, groups of people young and old gather in city squares, parks, any open space, and just line dance. It's kind of like an organized flash mob. And if you so much as look like you're dancing even a little bit, somebody will come over and pull you into the group, lol. Had that happen in Shanghai. I never see parks in the States used like that, if ever. It's like after dark people forget them. The other thing traces back once again to guanxi - except this time it's about favors. Many people will act with kindness towards random strangers without thinking of "what's in it for me?", they just do it. I was on a public bus heading into the city when my allergies made me start coughing so forcefully I buckled over. An elderly gentleman jumped out of his seat and offered it to me so I could catch my breath, and dragged me into it when I said no, it was okay. I made him sit back down when the fit passed, however.
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Unread May 9th, 2013, 01:10 AM   #4
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This is already really interesting to read. I'm afraid I'm not in the right frame of mind to think of any questions at the mo - hopefully later on!
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Unread May 9th, 2013, 07:22 PM   #5
Nashida
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No worries, I'll be around when you do think of one (or two, or several).

I forgot one other thing I wish more places did (or if they do, make it more well known): a public bike system. Quite a few cities, mine included, have this nifty card system. Much like a subway card you can reload, this card lets you pay for the subway, bus lines, a taxi, ferries (Hangzhou is located on the Grand Canal and there are ferries you can take all the way to Beijing) and can even be used as a kind of extra debit card (like those Green Dot cards in the US).

My favorite thing though is that these cards also allow you to rent bicycles from various stations around the city. It costs 300 RMB to set it up (about $50), 200 RMB goes toward the bicycle and the remaining 100 can be used however you wish (such as the bus or metro lines). The 200 RMB deposit is given back to you when you return the card. It's used mostly so if you ever take out a bike and something happens to it, they can put the money toward a new bike.

Getting a bike is easy: there's a small scanner next to each bike, just place the card on the scanner and the lock unlocks. To ride, it's free for the first hour, then it's 1 RMB/hr up to 3 hours, with it become 3 RMB/hr after 3 hours. If you're savvy enough and know where all the stations are, you can borrow and return bicycles multiple times, and it won't cost you much, if anything. My boss and I cycled the West Lake this way over the Tomb Sweeping holiday. We didn't pay anything, just kept checking out and returning bikes.

There is one downside though, and that's the seats. You can't adjust them yourself, and sometimes the attendant at the station doesn't have the tools to do it for you. So if you are of short frame and all the seats are too high for you, you're stuck. I've had this happen a couple of times when I decide I want to bike to the subway station, only to find they are all too tall for me.
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Unread May 13th, 2013, 06:33 PM   #6
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Ahhh, that's so cool! I love stuff like this, I'm sure you are learning so much there!

As for the bike system I TOTALLY agree. Unfortunately where I live in Texas everything is so spread out that a bike system would be ridiculous, but I have heard of such things in more major cities like Austin and Denton. I know there are a lot of places in Europe that have them, in fact I plan on utilizing quite a few of them when I travel Europe this summer. Specifically Berlin, I've heard it is a beautiful city to bike through.

I have a question! Food! The good, the bad, the ugly...the surprising! Tell all, food is such an interesting and particular facet of culture, I'd love to know what discoveries you've made, both pleasant and unpleasant.
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Unread May 14th, 2013, 04:59 AM   #7
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Oh god, the stories I could tell about the food.

For starters, be careful if you have gallbladder trouble if you come here. Chinese cooking, at least in the region of China I'm in, uses a lot of cooking oil. They sell jugs of stuff at the supermarkets as big as chlorine drums. I've had a couple of gall attacks here because of the sheer amount of oil.

That being said, there's plenty to love here in regards to food. There's a saying in Chinese: "The East is sour, the West is spicy, the South is sweet and the North is salty." Living in Hangzhou and being so close to Shanghai I fall into the East region, which is famous for things such as preserved vegetables, marbled star anise tea eggs, and seafood. Each region has its own signature dish, but it's possible to sample all regions. I've had dim sum here, a delicious dish called Mongolian hot pot, stir fry, you name it. And in many of the bigger cities there is plenty of Western influence, as such places like steakhouses, Italian restaurants, even places like Pizza Hut and Starbucks line the corners.

The best things are the night markets. There's a number of streets around here that, at night, will come alive with hundreds of food carts making street food. You can get sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, beef and lamb kebobs, naan, noodles, pot stickers, baozi (large steamed buns) for very cheap (usually 1-5 RMB a piece; less than a buck), and for the most part they are very safe. I've never had a problem with them, and they've been a nice treat while bar hopping with friends.

If I had to pick a favorite, I'd have to settle on two of them. One is the hot pot, an interesting style of dish where a large pot of broth is placed in the middle of the table and brought to a boil. You then order all sorts of meats, vegetables, fish, and put them in the broth to make a soup. Once cooked you can fish out what you want from the pot and have your own bowl of soup. Usually we stick our chopsticks into the pot and grab what we want, it's more fun. The other is called xiaolongbao, which are these very delicate dumplings filled with pork, shrimp, or vegetables, and a bit of soup. These are steamed in bamboo steamers and brought out piping hot. Put one in your mouth and the dumpling melts away.

Now...the weirdest thing I ever ate happened on accident. My Chinese was still awful, and I went into a small restaurant for some noodles. One dish in particular looked good, but I couldn't read the characters. I got out my phrasebook and learned the name was Waist Flower Noodles. Thinking it was something fancy like the rose blossom chicken I've sampled before, I ordered it. The dish comes, and there's no flowers in it except for these oddly colored brown ones. I couldn't place the taste at all, it was very strange. I took a closer look and realized that the brown things in the soup.....were kidneys. Kidneys cut in such a manner that when they were boiled in water, they blossomed. Like flowers. Hence the name, Waist Flower Noodle.
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Unread May 18th, 2013, 03:42 AM   #8
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Oh man this is awesome. I have a friend from China who I am going to school with right now who is always teaching me the China way and feeding me her weird food. Probably not as crazy as the food you can get over there.

I have two questions. (The first one goes into several but really comes from one.)

1: What is the actual living there like while working for the Mouse? Do you live with anyone in your apartment? Is your apartment different from living back in the USA in any way?

2: I know I have you on facebook so I have seen a few pictures from China, but do you have any favourites from China that you would love to share with us?
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Unread May 19th, 2013, 06:30 AM   #9
Nashida
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The living question I can easily answer for you right now, the picture one will have to wait a bit as my VPN is giving me issues and I can't log in to Facebook without it.

As far as living is concerned, Mickey's taken great care of me. Each cast member that comes overseas receives a housing stipend of 3500-4350 RMB per month on top pf their pay (that's about $600-750 a month). I get 4000 RMB a month in Hangzhou, and lucked out that my place only costs 2300 RMB a month (less than $400). It's one bedroom, one large Western bathroom with walk-in shower, combined kitchen and living space. It's pretty decently sized and is actually meant for maybe a couple. Plenty big enough for me and the bunny. And it came furnished, so I didn't have to rush out for a bed, or a sofa. It also came with a fridge, a hot water washing machine, two TVs, a large desk, and a number of other things.

I didn't have an apartment back in the States. What I get paid here for rent wouldn't even cover having a room in a shared home back where I live. I was still living with my parents in the States because there was no real way I'd be able to live on my own with the wages I was making. I would have to make choices each month; do I have hot water, or heat, or power, or do I get to actually buy groceries this month. Not here in China. My rent's cheap enough, as is things like hot water and power (I just paid 80 RMB this morning to refill my hot water meter; that's $15 and it'll cover me for a month and a half) that I have plenty of pocket change to send home.
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Unread Aug 8th, 2013, 12:01 PM   #10
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I have a question! How long are you going to be over there? Or are you already back? :0
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Unread Aug 12th, 2013, 06:12 PM   #11
Nashida
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I've got about a month and a half left here, then I'll be heading back. I just booked my flight for October 9th. Excited and sad at the same time. I'm ready to come home, but I still feel like I'm not quite done here yet.
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