Cultural Questions

Today’s post will be a collection of questions that friends from home have asked me about China,and conversely the most common questions that Chinese people tend to ask us.

So here goes:

Questions asked by foreigners about China.

1.Don’t all Chinese people look the same?- maybe at first but not after you know a lot of them.

2.Don’t they eat rats/dogs/cats/snakes -No.Maybe in some far-flung remote villages or in the 1950s when people were starving.But not in our experience.

3.Don’t you miss home? -sometimes,but not nearly as much as we were expecting.We sometimes hanker for bluer skies,hummus,falafel.But we have found all of these foods here and since we speak to our family a lot on Skype we are fine staying here a bit longer.

4.Can you speak/read Chinese? No. We are trying but it is really really hard. We can now order food,we know how to say where we are from and what we do,and ask the price of things,ask for larger,smaller,less expensive etc. We can’t really have much of a conversation.

5..When are you going home? We don’t know… the plan is we have no plan.

6.Is Chinese difficult? Yes,Very. As a linguist I was shocked at how difficult it is,and before we came I thought in a couple of months I would be able to chat,as I have done in almost every country we have visited. However I have come to realize this is not to be.

7.Do you know how to use chopsticks? Yes

8.Do you like Chinese food? Mostly,although i don’t like Chinese breakfast (porridge,fried dough sticks,milk tea) and I will NOT eat chicken feet or stinky tofu. However there are many dishes that I really love. And of course Chinese food is like saying “European Food” as there are different foods in every region,and China as we know is VERY BIG.

9.Don’t the police follow you around/control your movements? NO.WE can go anywhere we like.

10.Aren’t you frightened? No.The Chinese are extremely helpful and friendly and frequently go with you to show you where to go.China is a very safe country,hey nobody here walks into a cinema and just shoots people.

poisonbarPoison Bar,near Xiamen University

Questions Chinese people ask us:

1.Why did you come to China?

We love travel and we came here in 2008 and realized that 3 weeks wasn’t enough and we wanted to see and learn more. Chinese people were so friendly to us then that we wanted to return.

2.Do you like China?

Yes of course,China is fascinating and every day we learn or see something new. The country is so vast and varied and we can visit many interesting places here.

Plus the school is very kind to us,gives us a salary,an apartment and our flight money so living here is a very good deal compared to most other countries.

3.What do you think about Chinese people? See above.

4.Can you use chopsticks? Yes.

5.Do you miss your family/hometown.Sometimes.See above.

6.How do you manage with the language?

We have learnt some important coping mechanisms eg. Dictionary on mobile phone,sending text messages with address in Chinese to show to people on the street,a printed page with our home address on it to show taxi drivers, etc. You have to master google maps,find out names of bus stops in Chinese and then you can manage pretty well.

(God bless the Internet)

7.What is your country like?  This is a hard one to answer.Sometimes we just show pictures,sometimes we say it is very small.The people are different,the food is different.But frankly some things cannot be given a short answer.

8,Do you know X (insert name of Chinese basketball star/singer/movie star)? No ,sorry.

9.How can I improve my Oral English? Go and talk to some foreigners,there are lots in XIamen,join couchsurfing and meet people there,find a friend and do language exchange,go to English corner at University,watch more movies without subtitles.

That’s it for now.You are invited to add your own questions.

Weather here is really hot and sultry now with the occasional downpour and thunderstorm. i love it ,D is suffering. We have started a Yoga Class twice a week (in Chinese!) run by a lady who has a ballet school for kids downstairs in the building next to ours.She has studied in Paris and so I talk to her in French which is a little bizarre.

Pictures from the Shavuot thing:

kippaguyChinese dude with kippa







On another note we are now testing our students for the end of the semester.Then we will hand in our paperwork and hop off to South Korea for 3 weeks,and then back to Israel via Hong Kong.Roll on end of the semester.We were invited to a Shavuot Dinner at the house of an israeli businessman who lives in XIamen Island.Suffice it to say that the dinner was very weird,with a very strange assortment of people,but we did enjoy meeting Tanya and Adi,a young couple who are coming to stay with us next weekend to experience the Jimei Dragon Boat race at the Jimei Dragon Pool.They are also on couchsurfing and seem very lovely.The rest of the people there were not “our kind of people”.The food however was awesome.

That’s it for now.


4 thoughts on “Cultural Questions

  1. That’s really nice to know your thoughts about the Chinese are pretty similar to ours. We had a really lovely and friendly experience in China too. Everyone was so helpful out there it was unimaginable even people who did not understand English would go out of their way to help us out even calling up people they knew who understood English to talk to us and then explain how to go or take us there themselves many times!!! Made a few friends too even though we could hardly converse in each others language. Glad to know your “plans”!!! Enjoy your stay there and your travels wherever you go from there too.

  2. Thanks for the comment Aadil! It’s always nice to know when someone is reading the blog.Thanks we are continuing to enjoy our Asian adventure.

  3. I read it too, and understand quite all ! two good things for me… I’m very impressed by your experience. (I have a blog, not very interesting, but I like to know what people think when they read it.) xxx

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