China First Hand

14 February 2009

Technorati test 2 – the comeback (hopefully)

Filed under: Uncategorized — china1sthand @ 1:34 pm

Come on Technorati – pick up my blog!

Oh alright I’ll try it by including a Trackback, even though it should all be done automatically.

Hope you get this.

Kind regards,

The writer


Technorati test!

Filed under: Culture,Language,Personal,Politics,Sights — china1sthand @ 1:20 pm

Come on Technorati – pick up my blog!

I think it’s personal…

4 March 2006


Filed under: Uncategorized — china1sthand @ 12:23 am

Week 1: Adapting
Week 2: Settling
Week 3: Obvious Differences
Week 4: Social Norms
Week 5: Me Again

This blog is about half way through. I will publish the rest when I next have time. This includes all the tourist stuff! I will still be responding to comments so feel free to contribute. I hope you are enjoying China First Hand. 🙂

3 March 2006

Food, Glorious Food!

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 12:13 am


I went to karaoke yesterday, and included in the price was a free buffet.  It was your usual Chinese food, but obviously I wanted to try everything!  On the walk home my whole body swelled up.  My fingers got so fat I couldn’t even see the lines on my hands!  I didn’t feel sick, just really uncomfortable.  That night I couldn’t sleep a wink.  After that I was fine, except I wasn’t hungry for days!  What was that all about??!



2 March 2006

Tune In

Filed under: Culture,Language — china1sthand @ 11:53 pm


Chinese people love karaoke.  Today my friend got off work early so we went to do Chinese karaoke.  I loved it!  Another thing we should have here!  (more…)

1 March 2006

Learning To Talk

Filed under: Language,Personal — china1sthand @ 2:12 pm


They say the best place to learn a language is to be surrounded by it. Well I’ve been here a month now. I’m not so sure…



28 February 2006

War and Beauty

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 2:03 pm


war-beauty.jpgToday I saw my first episode of a fantastic drama! The literal translation is War and Beauty, and it is based around the historic world of the Chinese court. Everyone is fighting for power – but it is the subtle and ingenious ways they do this that is so intriguing. Within the setting, these stories are absolutely believable.



27 February 2006

Location, Location, Location!

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 1:59 pm


One morning the TV was running in-depth political analysis previewing a meeting that would take place that day. It was quite a big deal – all the various decision-makers for China were having their annual gathering and live cameras were ready to record their arrival. Later that day I was walking to the underground station, when I wondered why there were so many police around? …And where was all the traffic??! I proceeded to witness a convoy of 20 or so coaches and minibuses full of suited Chinese. …Oh my goodness, these were the highest VIP’s in China on their way to that meeting!! (more…)

26 February 2006

Health and Chatter – the finer points of life

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 12:58 pm


I like to exercise regularly and today I went to a gym with my friend.  The Chinese put us to shame when it comes to health.  Chinese children are tested on physical fitness – and the level they are expected to reach is higher than I’ve managed in my life!



25 February 2006

English in China

Filed under: Language,Personal — china1sthand @ 12:28 pm


The weekend starts here.  When I have spare time I like to surround myself in the language I can actually understand!!



24 February 2006

Horn Happy

Filed under: Culture — china1sthand @ 11:40 pm

park001.jpgI’ve had the chance to travel around a bit now.  There are nine million bicycles in Beijing.  Well, Katie Melua sings so anyway.  It’s a fact; it’s a truth we can’t deny …apparently.  I don’t know. I haven’t counted them.  However, increasing numbers if people are now turning to other forms of transport, so overcrowding on the roads and the underground is incredible! (more…)

23 February 2006

Keep The Face

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 2:22 pm


My previous 2 articles were on gift-giving and guanxi.  These are interlinked, because in China, I think the reason people exchange gifts is to build guanxi.  A third concept underlying all of this is ‘Face’.  Perhaps this term is not commonly used in the West, but it is very important in China.  ‘Face’ is your self-respect, your pride, your reputation.  Everyone wants to save face and no one wants to lose it.


22 February 2006

I’ll Scratch Your Back

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 2:09 pm

Everything in China is based on relationships. The word describing this is ‘guanxi’ – and though ‘relationship(s)’ is probably the closest translation, it’s not quite right. If you say you have guanxi with a person or an organisation, then you have a contact that will potentially help you. And if you don’t have these sorts of relationships – you won’t see the real China!

Gaunxi is the basis of everything that happens in China. Relationships define if you get a job…successful business deals…anything! (more…)

21 February 2006

For You…I Insist

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 3:07 pm


When I first came here, I brought gifts from England for my hosts.  They didn’t seem grateful.  Today my surrogate mother visited me and signalled that a huge, beautiful, expensive-looking box of loveliness was for me!  There’s just different ways of doing things here. (more…)

20 February 2006

Generations Apart

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 11:24 pm

I remember on my first trip to China I sat in a park, and some old ladies joined me on the seat. They seemed interested in this pale-skinned, probably quite bemused-looking young woman staring at the morning tai chi. They found it absolutely hilarious that I couldn’t speak Chinese. These ladies signalled things such as numbers to me, but I couldn’t understand beyond 5! (more…)

19 February 2006

Education, Education, Education

Filed under: Culture,Language — china1sthand @ 10:53 pm


Tony Blair may believe in it, but it has its limitations.


I went to tutor a 12-year old girl today. When I was 12 I didn’t have much homework. I spent these years of my life socialising and watching lots of TV. I was just starting to learn a second language – French – although ‘learn’ is probably an extreme word to use. Maybe I had memorised some numbers, but not much more. I expected to have trouble conversing with a girl this age.

Visions of me pointing at objects and saying the word for them disappeared immediately. She knew all the basics of the English language, so could understand questions and answer them in complete sentences. She was a very smart girl. She was also a good example of a Chinese child. (more…)

18 February 2006

The Youth Of Today

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 9:34 pm

I am very lucky – somehow, I have managed to develop relationships where I can talk meaningfully with Chinese nationals. My friend jokes that she is my agent! She has helped me find English tutoring work and been the bilingual intermediary. I now specialise in privately tutoring university students. This means I spend my time talking with very intelligent people about incredibly complex and controversial topics! I honestly couldn’t have dreamt of a better insight into the realities of this country. (more…)

17 February 2006

Toilet Humour or You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till Its Gone

Filed under: Culture,Personal — china1sthand @ 3:08 pm


Everything’s going wrong!  I’ve broken something else that’s been provided for me so kindly!  Today, I blocked the toilet – and I’ve already broken the washing machine!  How can I be such a disaster?!


16 February 2006

Language Learning

Filed under: Language — china1sthand @ 7:10 pm

I’m a native English speaker. We’re a lazy bunch. Today I tutored my first English language student. I figure the average Chinese learns at least 6 languages. (more…)

15 February 2006


Filed under: Culture — china1sthand @ 11:14 pm

park002.jpgWhat’s great about China is that loads of things are done outside. There’s none of this in the privacy of your own home nonsense that is a particularly English attitude. The Chinese are at the other extreme: Food is often eaten out, going for walks is a popular pastime and for some, most social gatherings happen in public areas. (more…)

14 February 2006

You Are The One

Filed under: Culture — china1sthand @ 7:00 pm

Each couple in China can have only one child, or incur a huge fine. This was a sensible policy: With too large a population, a country cannot support all it’s people. As a second generation are being born under the restriction, far fewer people are now in poverty. But can you imagine a world without brothers or sisters? I mean without ANY people having any siblings at all??This world exists – and it lies between Russia and the South China Sea. (more…)

13 February 2006

Made In China

Filed under: Culture,Politics — china1sthand @ 11:11 pm

skyline2.jpgToday is the official first day back after Chinese New Year. …Most people returned to work earlier of course. China has been dubbed the “Workhouse Of The World” and its economic growth in the last year was an incredible 9.7%.

I am constantly astonished by the hours that the Chinese people work. My friend has today started a new project in her workplace that will mean she works from before I get up in the morning, until after I go to bed at night. (more…)

12 February 2006

Will You Join Me For Dinner?

Filed under: Culture — china1sthand @ 9:23 pm


Many of us enjoy going for a “Chinese”. Today I joined my hosts for a meal out. All the Chinese meals I’ve eaten in the UK are mediocre when compared with the food I ate today: Real “Chinese”! I have enjoyed top quality meals in London, but they are not as good as the wondrously delicious creations here. (more…)

11 February 2006

The Others

Filed under: Personal,Sights — china1sthand @ 8:12 pm

This evening my friend took me to a bar street in Beijing. It was very pretty. We chose a bar with a fairy-tale theme and sat in tall, elegant chairs framed by purple velvet curtains. I noticed the dim lighting, cocktail list, and loud music – with sit-down toilets as the only place of escape. (more…)

10 February 2006


Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 10:58 pm

I’ve had a chance to explore my local area this week. Beijing currently has 6 ring roadsPerformance Preparations in the Park (though the first one is fiction) and we are between the third and fourth. Walking west from my home you can see the hills on the outskirts of the city. Five minutes walk east is the river that goes to the Summer Palace. South is the shopping centre, with major bus stops behind. North (more…)

9 February 2006


Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 11:05 pm

This wasn’t my first trip to China. When I was 19, I went on a gap year project in Malaysia, and from there I decided I had to visit China. To some extent, this is another story. It happened in only a week before starting uni, was my first experience of independent travel, and involved a lot of drama! (more…)

8 February 2006

A Trip To Town

Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 3:15 pm

When living in student accommodation there was a underground station nearby. More lines are being built to serve wider areas of Beijing, but at this time the nearest tube to my new home is quite a journey. (more…)

7 February 2006

Language Differences

Filed under: Language — china1sthand @ 11:14 pm

Where I am living I need to learn at least a little language. Most languages that English–speakers learn are pretty similar to English. Chinese isn’t. (more…)

6 February 2006

Scene Change

Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 10:02 pm

My friend and her Dad collect me right from my front door, and spend their lunch hour taking me to my new home.

haidian001.jpgHaidian district is in North-West Beijing and is literally cluster upon cluster of new tower blocks. These are various complexes of identical buildings, each with their own security and usually some kind of park within the compound. My friend’s parents own two apartments in one tower block, and one is practically unused. I walk in and notice the shining wood floor, the huge size of the room and a big bay window. Everything we need has been provided, (more…)

5 February 2006


Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 11:09 pm

You can’t remember what you forget

One of my biggest fears is forgetting. My Mum used to say that if it is important, you will remember. That’s a nice comforter and I still try to convince myself of it: I still hope (more…)

4 February 2006

Chinese New Year

Filed under: Culture — china1sthand @ 11:26 pm

Chinese are some of the hardest workers in the world, so the Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year) is the rare occasion they’re all at play. (Good photos here.) (more…)

3 February 2006

So Why China?

Filed under: Culture,Language,Personal,Politics,Sights — china1sthand @ 8:17 pm

It’s a fantastic country! This is a place steeped in unique relevance for both chinese-dragon5.jpgworld history and world future, and it is a culture I believe to be most unlike ours than anywhere on earth. The Chinese people I admire more than any I have met. I hope we can learn from them.

I obviously first encountered China from the usual childhood facts: colourful dragons for Chinese New Year; eating with two sticks in one hand; the great wall that can be seen from space. (more…)

2 February 2006


Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 9:31 pm

I don’t have any money. I don’t have much time. I don’t really know this country. This week I’ve had to make decisions. (more…)

1 February 2006

Communication Isolation

Filed under: Language,Personal — china1sthand @ 10:24 am

Native English speakers get quite complacent. I am one. I don’t think we appreciate the feeling of having no shared language to communicate. All my first impressions of China I experienced without speaking. (more…)

31 January 2006

Oi! Ha ha ha?

Filed under: Language — china1sthand @ 8:20 pm

Chinese is tuneful and I enjoy hearing its sound surround me. But I can’t always cope! It’s quite funny – your brain automatically hears English words – but I only notice when I overhear something incredibly shocking! Wow the inappropriate things spoken by seemingly innocent ladies, (more…)

30 January 2006

Setting The Scene

Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 10:44 pm

I think it is about time I explained some background. I am fascinated by China, and have arrived on the longest tourist visa available: 90 days. I have planned very little – I like to react to the moment – so that makes travelling a lot more complicated! This does not mean I am so naive to travel blind in somewhere like China. My housemate from university lives in Beijing: I planned to visit her.

With all that happened before I got here, it’s a good thing I am adaptable! (more…)

29 January 2006

Trying To Adapt

Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 9:11 pm

Talk about a small world! I thought it was weird enough that I sat next to a Brit on the Frankfurt/China plane, but I think I’ve also got some Chinese New Year luck! I have 60 TV stations and several in ian_wright.jpgEnglish – but its still bizarre Chinese television. Well I was flicking through today and saw a familiar face – A fellow cockney and ex-Arsenal player Ian Wright in my Chinese bedroom! (Photo courtesy of the BBC phoo gallery.) In the start of my culture shock I really needed that recognisable face. And then – as if someone up there was somehow trying to help – Ian goes on location…to my Home Town!!! I absorb the sight of a parade of shops that I have visited since my school days (more…)

28 January 2006

New Year, New Start

Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 9:18 pm

I’m not quite settled in yet.…That’s the confident way of saying that I’m generally feeling a little lost.To look on the bright side, it could be much worse.My first day (more…)

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