Cultural Differences

I am sure you have heard of “culture shock” – but what exactly is it? I am from Austria and although I have travelled a lot and have been to China before it still hit me hard this time. I think it’s because it’s a big difference if you are travelling or actually moving somewhere. When travelling in China you will of course experience some cultural differences too and maybe even a culture shock.

Before moving to China I already knew some things that would expect me like for example

  • people making disgusting noises and then spitting on the floor no matter where (even inside, not just outside!)
  • holes in the ground instead of a toilet seat
  • people eating their food making noises
  • getting inside the subway first instead of waiting for the other people to get outside
  • no eye contact when talking to each other – especially when negotiating this is very strange to experience
  • people taking pictures all the time and saying “waiguo ren” which means “foreigner”. Now imagine we would do that in Europe with every Chinese we see on the street.

I don’t want to lump them all together. I know that not every Chinese is the same. When travelling you will meet very kind people and see that Chinese can be very open and friendly and invite you all the time. But when you move there you will have a different kind of experience, away from the tourist spots and you will get in touch with many Chinese in your daily life.

 

I have some Chinese friends that I really like and I love spending time with them. But still there are some cultural differences that sometimes don’t make it easy. I try do understand their culture. I try to understand how they make decisions or how they think but sometimes it does not seem logic to me. I just come from a very different culture. Maybe I am doing something they find disrespectful or disgusting too and I don’t even know about it.

I remember a conversation with one of my chinese friends:

Chinese: “Does your boyfriend have a house and a car?”

Me: “No, why?”

Chinese: “No? [being shocked] So how can you ever have any children if you don’t have a house?”

Me: “We can just rent an apartment. All of my family lives in flats and pays rent. It is not necessary to own a house so you can have children”

Chinese: “Hmm, there is a guy I like but he doesn’t have a house so I don’t know what to do about it”

Me: “No problem, you are still young and if he is a nice guy and you like him it should not matter”

Chinese: “We are not young anymore, I’m 25 and he is 27, it is important to have a house here in China. In China the girls only want guys with house and car. It is important for the future”

I tried to tell her that these kinds of things don’t matter to me. I don’t care about the salary of my boyfriend or whether he has a house or not. And I told here that both the woman and the man work so why would he has to own a house? She then explained me that boyfriends pay everything for their girlfriends. It was a very interesting conversation because we both were shocked of each other’s point of view.

Another story: At the gym there was a guy who wanted to add my WeChat (the Chinese kind of Whatsapp). He texted me in English and I guess he just felt so cool about it that he made up some story and added a screenshot of our conversation to his WeChat Moments (like posting a picture on Instagram) and pretended something that is not true. This is something I really don’t like here in China.

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Of course this kind of people can be anywhere in the world but here I have seen it a lot – they just like to pretend and appear something they are not. It’s fake. Why lie about such silly things? I get that there are so many Chinese people and they have this instict of competition but lying around is something I hate. They spend tons of money on fashion and beauty and brands and phones while earning very little money. But from experience I know that they even take credits from the bank just to be able to buy this kinds of things. So that’s something I just cannot understand at all. On one side they are complaining about not having money but on the other side they spend money on unnecessary things…. like my friend too. She is dreaming of going to Europe and wants to save money but guess what – she spends so much money on stupid things you cannot even imagine.

There are so many other things I could talk about but I am going to save that for another post.

Food Market in China

Javi and I are part of a group chat in WeChat (the chinese kind of Whatsapp) with almost 400 foreigners living in Nanning. An italian girl got in touch with me before I arrived in China and we chatted a lot. On the third day after arriving in Nanning I finally got internet on my phone (it was btw NOT blocked.. I just went to a different phone company and it worked without any problems). I cancelled my spanish phone number and now I got 10 GB each month for only 6 Euros. Awesome.

So I asked the italian girl if she wants to meet up in the city centre and that’s what we did. She showed us some places and then went to a street food market in the city center. It was really interesting there. Mostly the food there was: Tofu, vegetables, dumplings (jiaozi and baozi), fried insects, a looot of different kinds of meat and many other things I have never seen in my life before. Also many interesting desserts with fruits or pudding-kind-of things. We decided to have dinner there and try the food.

I decided to eat the Jiaozi (like meat or vegetable filled dumplings) and Javi and the italian girl ordered some tofu with vegetables and mushrooms and meat on a stick. What Javi and I did not know was that most of the food here is spicy – and we both don’t like spicey. A day later Javi and I went to a normal restaurant and asked for non spicy food but there was only so little. Almost everything was spicy!

One time we bought green pepper at the supermarket. It looks like normal green pepper, like in Austria and like in Spain – but it was super spicy! I could not even eat it (yes, it may sound like I am exaggerating but I really cannot eat anything spicy).

On the other side I love the fruits here in China – there are so many fruits that we don’t have in europe and they are super delicious. On the streets you can find many people selling fruits or fresh fruit juice.

Here are some pictures of the food market:

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The arrival from the airport to the city of Nanning

If you read my last post you know how long the journey was and can maybe imagine how tired I was because i was not able to sleep at the plane…not even for a minute. So I arrived in Nanning at the airport and a chinese lady, who was on my flight from Guangzhou to Nanning, helped me negotiate the taxi price (100 Yuan instead of 150 Yuan = 12 Euros). First of all – the people talking to you on the airport saying: „taxi, taxi, taxiiii“ are only wing men. They bring you outside and then call their friends who are driving around all day long to pick up people from the airport. He talked to like 3 different people and no one could take me because they either had some other customer going to another direction or whatever reason I did not understand because they were speaking chinese the whole time. After a while waiting outside he called another person and finally took me and another chinese girl to the city center. It was a lot of trouble for them to find my address and despite talking to like 5 different people nobody knew the street where I had to go to. They all tried to tell me that the address is wrong and the street name is a different but similar one but I was 100 % sure of the street name. But I did not have any interent so I was not able to show them. Anyways he took me and while driving to the city center the girl next to me helped me figure out the street name (which was correct of course!).

In the taxi it was so difficult to not fall asleep, seriously. I felt like I reached my limit. I could have fallen asleep within a second. It was a trouble for the taxi driver to find the street name but he kept driving around to find the right house number which I found really nice. So I took out another 10 Yuan of my wallet to later give him tip. The chinese girl next to me saw that and when the taxi driver was not looking she took the 10 Yuan and put it back to my wallet and pointed that I should not give any tip and that 100 are okay. So I am not sure what that means. Was 100 Yuan too much? Or are tips not usual here? No idea. (I later found out that in China it is not common to give tip)

We found the right house number and I got off the taxi. It was around 14 o’clock by that time (time in China, 6 hours more than in Austria). There was a China Mobil store right next to the entrance so I wanted to buy a SIM card to finally have internet on my phone again. But of course it would have been too good to be true. She said that my phone is blocked and the SIM card does not work on my phone. Great.

So I went back to the entrance of the apartment and waited there for my boyfriend. Of course it would have been easier to just wait for him 2 hours at the airport but that was not possible because someone from his work picked him up.

So I waited and waited… moving around to places in the shade because I was wearing long jeans and a short sleeve shirt. It was so humid and hot – I was so hot and sweaty I felt really awful there. So it was 15, then 16, then 17 o’clock. Then I thought that something cannot be right. He was supposed to arrive at 16 maximum at the apartment but I waited for one more hour because you never know (delayed flight or traffic or whatever reason).

So I walked around to find a restaurant with Wifi which btw is not easy at all. The places around that area are all small restaurants without any WiFi and because of the broken luggage I could not walk around that much. Luckily I found a fast food pizza place and they had WiFi.

And then I saw the message of my boyfriend Javi… he got picked up from the work colleague but they brought him straight to work to do his first training and he finishes at 19. They seriously cannot wait one day? Like travelling for around 20 hours is not exhausting plus the jetlag. Anyways he got to meet the whole team and all so that was great for him of course. I tried to stay at the pizza place as long as possible. I finally was able to contact my whole family to tell them that I arrived safely. After answering all these messages my phone ran out of battery. There was no plug in this restaurant…not even a toilet. So my final message to Javi was that at 19 I will go back to the entrance of the apartment and told him the street name again.

I was relieved and thought that this time it would work. So I went back to the entrance and waited there…and waited… and waited. I put the straps of my bags around my feet in case of robbery. I sat there and just could not resist anymore and fell asleep. Not for long, always for a few minutes but it was a hard fight. Have you ever been so tired that you had to fight but you just could not resist? It’s awful. So it was 21 o’clock and I started to get really worried. Now my options are: Keep waiting but I have no battery nor wifi and everything was already closed OR look for a hotel but that means walking around with 3 luggages and one of them even broken and not knowing where to go because… well, because no internet. And old people say it was better back then without internet. People were loosing a lot of time waiting or looking for each other. If I would have had internet it all would have been much easier haha.

So I sat there thinking the whole time: „should I stay or should I go“ 😛 and I seriously was about to go look for a hotel but imagine if I go to a hotel, I would have Wifi and I could charge my phone and text him BUT Javi did not have WiFi either so he could not have read the message and maybe was looking for me the whole time and would have kept doing this for hours. It is horrible not knowing what the other person will do or where he/she is when we were supposed to meet up.

I think it was around 21:15 when he finally passed by the apartment and we saw each other. I cried of relief and he just hugged me a lot. He was running around the streets looking for me for more than one hour. We than realised that the community we live in is so huge it has many different entrances in different streets as well. He kept asking chinese people about the street name I told him and they all told him different directions although it was only 5 minutes walking distance. Not even the security guy of the building could tell him where the street is and since he did not have internet either the only thing left to do was running around.

Anyways it all ended well.

As you can imagine I fell asleep within seconds once in the apartment.

My flight to China: THE FULL STORY

After 42 hours I finally arrived in Nanning! It was the craziest trip. It all started like this: My flight had 2 stopovers (Vienna to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Guangzhou, Guangzhou to Nanning) with the company China Southern and KLM. On Friday I left my hometown at 04:00 in the morning to take the train to the airport in Vienna (2 hours train ride). It was the only train at that time so I arrived early and had to wait (3 hours) at the airport. So far so good and everything was easy in Vienna and also on the flight to Amsterdam (1 hour 50 minutes flight).

In Amsterdam I had to pick up the luggage because it was operated by KLM and then I had to go outside and check in again with China Southern. While waiting for my luggage I checked my next flight to Guangzhou. It was supposed to be a 2 hour stopover in Amsterdam.

Then I found the shocking news: My flight to Guangzhou got cancelled. I already travelled a lot but a cancelled flight has never happened to me before so naturally I became a little bit nervous. I went to the information desk of China Southern, which btw was crowded…of course….

So I had to wait for a long time until I got an information. They said that both of my flights have been cancelled because of the Typhoon. There was no flight available and the only thing they can do is book me on the same flight but one day later. So my 26 hour trip just became a 42 hour trip. So I was stuck in Amsterdam for 24 hours and the only thing I thought was fuck, what am I going to do here for so long? I had a loooot of luggage. It was heavy and also broken and walking around with it is no fun. I went to the informaton desk to ask for a plug/battery station because my phone was almost dead and I explained him my situation. The guy after me in line said: „I think I got something for you“. So he pulled out of his bag a 2-day transportation pass for Amsterdam. Valid for all busses, metro etc. And on top of that the guy at the information desk said: „I got something for you too“ and gave me a city map and told me that there is a luggage storage downstairs. I actually didn’t even plan to go to the city because of all the luggage and everything but I kind of got pushed because of these 2 guys and became really excited about it. After thanking them I went down to the luggage storage and left my luggage there for 15 Euros (price for 2 luggages for 24 hours).

I hopped on the bus and went to the city center of Amsterdam. It was a great day. It was warm and sunny and in the evening a friend of mine who I haven’t seen for a few years came to visit me after work. He even convinced me to just stay at a hostel overnight and get some energy instead of spending the night at the airport. I booked a hostel for 19 Euros, it was called Orfeo. It is very basic but cheap and I didn’t need more than just a bed. At the same time I cancelled my hotel in China because I was supposed to arrive one day before my boyfriend (who has access to the aparment) and because of the delay we arrived on the same day.

The room in the hostel in Amsterdam was for 6 people (2 bunk beds with 3 levels). In the middle of the night at like 03:00 some dude that made a lot of noise arrived. He slammed the door several times, ate really loud and disgusting and smelled awful…like a mix of alcohol and weed, just really disgusting. Other than that I slept well because I was really tired.

It was my second time in Amsterdam but so much better and more beautiful than the first time. The first time I went there for Queens Day and the whole city was covered with people wearing orange shirts. This time I kind of saw the real Amsterdam and I loved it. Especially that so many people go by bike instead of car! So the short and unplanned city trip was all worth it.

In the morning after breakfast I went back to the airport. I picked up my luggage and then went to do the check in. There was a huge line and I think it took me around one hour until I finally was inside. Also because my luggage was broken (I broke some handles and then the airline broke the rest of the handles, so now I have a huge and heavy luggage without any handles – imagine going with that somewhere, every step turns into an obstacle haha) it took much time because I could not do the self-check in of the luggage and had to bring it to the „oversize and special luggage area“.

And then I finally got on the plan to China!! But first to my next stopover in Guangzhou. When I first booked China Southern I honestly was a little bit sceptical because I read so many negative references about it. But it was great. A blanket, pillow and headphones were on the seat, I got 2 full meals which tasted really good as well, I watched 2 movies, listened to music and studied some chinese. I tried to sleep but I just could not sleep at all. But it was a great flight and comfortable (I know 12 hours sitting around is not comfortable but considering the circumstances it was comfortable haha). All I wanna say is that China Southern positively surprised me. 12 hours later we arrived in Guangzhou!

When I left Amsterdam 2 different people told me that I would have to get the bag and check it back in again in Guangzhou, like I did in Amsterdam. So when I arrived in Guangzhou I asked another person and she told me that she is sure that my bag will be transferred directly to Nanning so there is no need to do the check in again. I was a little confused but I kind of trusted her and went to the next gate, waiting for 3 hours for my final flight to Nanning. While waiting for my flight a really nice chinese lady started talking to me in English. We talked a lot and exchanged our WeChat numbers (It’s the chinese kind of Whatsapp). She only had a stopover in Nanning though because she continued to her hometown in the north of China. The flight to Nanning (1 hour 40 minutes) was great too and I did not expect to get such a big snack (actually it was more like a full meal) on such a short flight. In Europe you usually just get a cookie or nuts… or nothing.

After the flight I felt so relieved to finally have arrived in Nanning. My new chinese friend helped me negotiate a price for the taxi. When you arrive somewhere in china there are most likley people standing around and following you with „taxi, taxi, taxiiii“. (Note: actually these are no real taxis) but since everyone seems to do it, I accepted. So I paid 100 Yuan (around 12 Euros) to go to the city center which was like a 45-50 minutes car ride. So cheap!

By the way: Neither in Guangzhou nor in Nanning I was able to connect to the WiFi at the airport. They require to log in with a chinese phone number which obviously I don’t have yet. So I got a little bit nervous to not be able to contact my boyfriend who is supposed to arrive 2 hours later and we agreed to meet at the new apartment. So that’s when the next drama started. But I am gonna write a new post about that because this is getting too long here haha.

Anyways: The flights were both with KLM and China Southern really good. The flight to China only cost me 300 Euros. The customer service on the airport in Amsterdam helped me well with the cancelled flight and I can only say positive things about it. For those of you thinking why they did not provide me a hotel for the cancelled flight: If a flight gets cancelled because of things like weather condition the airline does not have to provide compensation because it is not the airlines fault that it happened.

Next up: the arrival from the airport to the city of Nanning

Marina, Beach and Spanish Tapas

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In Valencia there is a Beach Club called Marina Beach. My best friend’s name who came to visit me last weekend is also Marina… so of course we went to Marina Beach together 😛

During day it’s a bar and also restaurant with pool while at night it turns into a club with loud music and people there are all dressed up nicely. I decided to wear my new jumpsuit from Stradivarius. (https://www.stradivarius.com/)

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We didn’t spend much time at the beach club though because we are not really into partying at the moment (sounding like a grandma.. I know). Instead we went for a walk on Malvarrosa Beach and after that we went to have dinner – Spanish tapas! Typical tapas here in Valencia are: Patatas Bravas with Alioli, Calamares, Chipirones/Puntillas, Chorizos, Tortilla de Patata,…

We went to a Tapas Bar called “el pato mareao” which literally means “dizzy duck” as you can see the painting on the wall:

We ordered Patatas Bravas, Puntillas and Calamares to share and then ordered Quesadillas for Marina and me and a Pita Sandwich for Javi.

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