So far, I have been describing how wonderful my teaching and travelling experience has been in China. However, there are some things which annoy me here, things I can’t understand and/ or accept and things I can’t get used to. Having lived here for more than 7 months made me realise how different this country is from the place I come from. Here are the top 20 things I hate about China.
1. Greasy food and rice every day.
I have been always trying to eat healthy: lots of vegetables, fruits with fat-free products but in China greasy food is everywhere and it’s so difficult for me to find steamed vegetables, meat and fish which I love. Undoubtedly, the oiliness of the food is the biggest problem for me here. Chicken, fish and all vegetables are always deeply fried so the oil drips on my rice. How can it be healthy then and how can I avoid it? I have noticed that the oil, considered by Chinese as nutritious, is not healthy for me at all. At the beginning, I feltsleepy and my body has slowed down. I had no energy and I gained some extra pounds immediately. Therefore, I bought a steam cooking machine and stopped eating in a school canteen or restaurant and started preparing my own meals instead. The next thing I don’t like here is eating rice every day. What’s for breakfast? Rice. What’s for lunch? Rice. What’s for dinner? Let me guess. Chinese don’t often eat potatoes, semolina, buckwheat groats, millet groats or barley groats. Every single meal is based on rice which is pretty high in calories and not as healthy as I thought. To make my meals more varied I cook some pasta and potatoes but unfortunately, I still can’t find semolina and millet groats which is a pain!
2. Pointing out all
When I meet someone in the street, I get so many compliments on how pretty I am, how beautiful my (Barbie) hair and eyes are and how wonderfully I smile. However, when we get to know each other and become friends (as I have with teachers and local people around the school), they start telling me I’m fat and I should lose some weight so I can be more beautiful (forgot to mention that for Chinese everyone who is slim is considered as beautiful handsome and everyone who might weight a little bit more than they, but still look sexy and healthy, is considered as fat, ugly) and I should wear more dresses than jeans to look like a woman. When I smile they say I have some wrinkles around my eyes and it’s….. a disease (hahaha) so I should take care of it as soon as possible by making an appointment in the hospital. When I have some spots on my face they say it’s an allergy and look at me with pity. When I don’t comb my hair or put some random clothes as I’m in rush they ask me “Is it a new London style?”, then I say “No, it’s my have-no-time style.” My body shape is abnormal for Chinese so they think my big breasts, wide hips and bigger than their thighs are the effect of suffering from the obesity, which for me as well as my friends is a joke. December and January were the worst months here for me. There were many dinners and lunches due to various Chinese celebrations and events such as weddings, school day, Chinese New Year and so on, during which all teachers were looking at what I eat or what I don’t eat making some comments in the meanwhile. “Eat some more meat. You are so strong!”- one said. “Don’t eat the meat, it’s a pure fat”- another told me. “Try these dishes. They are very tasty. I ordered it especially for you. I know you like eating”- said one of the leaders. The other day, someone saw me running on a football pitch. Next day, teachers asked me “Why do you run? Do you run every day? Do you want to lose some weight? You are very slim, you shouldn’t worry about it”. Achhhhhh! I was getting mad. One day I’m fat because I eat pork, the other day I’m thin because I do some exercises. This is something the most annoying in China. Once people get to know you in person, they will always tell you what they think about you even if it’s something horrible. I laugh at this now but back in December I was really upset, being brought down every single day and I would even say bullied, wasn’t the nicest thing for me. I’m emotionally very “critic-proof” but someone who isn’t, that might be a huge problem and he/ she would end up suffering from some eating disorders and/ or depression. That’s another lesson for me to learn: as soon as I feel comfortable with my body, I’m healthy and accept the way I look, I don’t care what other people say!
3. Sudden schedule changes.
This is the major problem of, as I guess, each teacher in China. I am a very well- organised person and I plan my journeys ahead. Once it’s cheaper, twice it’s easier. However, it’s sometimes impossible as the teachers always inform me about the exact dates of my holiday at the last minute. I get really angry when I hear “You’re off today for the next 5 days”. Sometimes it’s too late for me to even buy a ticket, not to mention packing, getting some more information about the place I’m going to or make a plan of what I’m going to see or decide what places I am going to visit. Moreover, the teachers inform me about my unexpected days off 5 minutes before my class should start. How frustrating! My time is often being wasted. I could have slept more, had a proper breakfast or just listened to music instead of rushing for my class, but seems like nobody respects my time. My schedule is often being changed sometimes in the middle of the term, sometimes in the first weeks of the term for unknown reasons. Nobody can give me an explanation of it. When I ask, they say “It’s a new timetable” which doesn’t answer my question “Why?” Also, they will tell me at 11.30 that my class for 11.40 is cancelled and I should “get some rest” like I was being tired all the time or looked overworked.
I can understand that seeing a foreigner in the street, especially in such a small town is kind of weird and extraordinary but being pointed out with a finger every single day is frustrating especially taking into consideration the fact I have been living here for more than 7 months so everyone should know me or at least get used to seeing me. Chinese people stop their cars in the middle of a road just to say “Hello!” to me and often follow me to the place where I live to ask me what my name is. It’s madness! They are absolutely crazy about my blond hair, pale skin and blue eyes. Some people say it’s a sign of curiosity as Chinese don’t often see foreigners in small towns and cities. Ok, I get it, but why are they acting like freaks when then see me: screaming “Hello”, touching my face, laughing and staring at me constantly with their mouths open? They just can’t peel their eyes away and it’s driving me crazy!! I used to let random people take some pictures of me or gave them my QQ and or phone number but after 100 friends requests on QQ and endless text messages I got late at night I stopped being so outgoing. Now, when I hear “Look, look! It’s a foreigner!” I mostly ignore people and carry on walking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still friendly and nice but at the same time I prefer ignoring those people who act embarrassingly.
5. Mobile phones.
What happens if you run out of credit on your phone? In Europe, you simply can’t call people until you top it up. In China, not only you can’t call people but also people can’t call you. Your phone gets blocked until you put some credit on it. What’s more, if your phone is blocked and people call you it says your phone is powered off so even your friends who try to call you wouldn’t know your phone is out of credit. They probably think your phone went off as the battery was too low. Wrrrrr it’s so frustrating! It happened to me way too many times. The worst thing is that sometimes you expect a very important call or get stuck somewhere where there is no shop to top it up and you need to make a call and you can’t. You realize how annoying it is when you are in need of making a call but you are not able to do it or even more so if you are not aware of lacking credit without the intention of making a call when no one else can call you. The other thing is that when you buy a SIM card (in order to get the SIM card you need to show your passport to the seller so that the government knows where you are, who you call and who texts you), this SIM card can only be topped up in the province where it was bought. For example, if I live in Hunan province and have Hunan number and suddenly I move to Beijing I need to buy a new SIM card to get Beijing number. If not, I won’t be able to top my phone being in Beijing and having a Hunan number. Moreover, people will pay much more to call and or text me and what’s the most annoying the signal is very poor.
Saying that toilets in China are awful doesn’t surprise anyone but I had to mention it as it’s very annoying especially when you live here more than a month. I can’t get used to squat toilets. I tried to, but I can’t. What I do is simply to run in, do my business, and run out. There is no time for reading a newspaper, it’s so uncomfortable and stressing. Lack of toilet paper, let alone tap, no soap and not functioning properly flush is kind of normal here even in restaurants, schools and in rich people’s houses. Toilets stink badly and you can find dirty tissues and sanitary towels on the floor (for example in ladies in my school). There is no water to wash your hands after you finish using the toilet and the door is often broken so everyone can watch you, if they wish to do so. Luckily I have a Western toilet in my flat and I am more than happy to use it. According to Chinese, squat toilets are easy to install, cheap and they suit both genders alike. They also point out that it’s more hygienic as many different people can use the same squat toilets without touching the closet so the possibility of catching a disease is less likely. Whatever…
7. Higher prices for foreigners.
All Chinese, with no exceptions, believe that foreigners have lots of money. You can be short of cash with lots of debts but they still think you are a rich man. Therefore, they try to rip you off every time they can, using the rule “you are a foreigner, you pay more”. Therefore, I had to learn how to bargain with local people in the street. I hate it though but sometimes I have no choice. It doesn’t happen very often in Huayuan but it does in Xiushan and Chongqing. When you are new here you might not even notice it as you don’t know the prices and any price seems to be low in comparison to what you would pay in your country. However, I know exactly how much everything costs (from the list of items I normally buy) and I also know the expression of Chinese faces when they try to fool me. Nevertheless, I remember me back in September 2011 when I spent way too much money on, for example, street food as I was unaware of the real prices. Sometimes the quoted price might be 10 times higher than what locals pay. There is one more thing foreigners should be aware of- taxis. You need to always make sure that the taxi driver runs the meter or get the price beforehand. Otherwise he will quote the price much higher than the real one at the end. In order to avoid being ripped off I do my shopping in the supermarket, I ask for the price before I buy something to make sure they don’t make it higher once I finish eating the food.
You walk down the street and you can hear people spit on the ground. You have a lunch or a dinner in a restaurant and you can watch people spit on the floor. It’s disgusting! I still wonder why they spit so heavily. Is it a cultural thing or is it related to atmosphere or medical conditions? I don’t really know but I need to do some reading on it. They also tend to pick their nose and ears fairly often. I hate it!
9. Overcrowded public transport.
As we know, the population of China is very high and it can be noticed everywhere, especially when you travel. You need to queue for ages to get to the train station to catch your train on time, most of local buses are overcrowded and it is common to get into a heavy traffic jam. It all gets worse around the time of the Chinese New Year and other bank holidays. At these times, the number of passenger journeys sometimes exceeds the population of China so you can imagine me travelling. I felt like a lemon being squeezed for a juice. People kept pushing me and accidently kicking. That was madness! The most affected modes of transportation are railway and road networks as most Chinese middle-class citizens cannot readily afford air transport. I got used to sitting with two other people on one seat on the train, being squeezed on a bus or waiting hours to get from one place to another by my boss’s car but I don’t like it at all.
I have noticed that Chinese lie a lot. They lie about their job, family and are likely to change the facts which happened in the past or will happen in the future in their life. I also discovered there are mostly two reasons for it. The first one is social and the second is financial. They lie because they are jealous of many things such as status, wealth and power so in order to look powerful and be respected they must tell lies. Moreover, they want to look and be different from the rest of people, stand out of the crowd, so “changing” facts seems to be the best idea. Secondly, they lie when it comes to business and a lot of money is involved. They are also likely to say “I don’t know” (even if they know) or say “maybe” (which often means “no”). Any examples? Of course, there are many of them. Once, I couldn’t have my class because the headteacher took me for a trip. After the weekend, I was back at school and teachers were asking me if I felt ok after my food poisoning (what!!??). Moreover, I was advised not to tell the rest of the staff at school how much I get paid or tell them the amount much less than it actually is, I was asked to lie about my teaching experience at the police station and so on. In general, I can see that lying is kind of normal here and it annoys me as I try to be honest and truthful as much as possible. Looking at them lying, without even thinking that it’s something wrong, simply frustrates me as I know I am being lied to most of the time.