See also: 5 Reasons to Study Abroad in Beijing
As I am defrosting from the coldest experience of my life in a city of Harbin in North Eastern China with temperatures in their twenties below zero, I’ve come to realize. Damn! It has been four months already. Four months in China that just flew by. Is it the earth spinning faster or am I just getting older? Crazy. It has been great 4 months nevertheless.
Here are 4 things that I’ve learned during my 4 months in Beijing.
Beijing’s air is not just all pollution
Air in Beijing is a big topic, just like weather is in the UK but times infinity. It is the pollution that’s at the center of the discussions, but I’m not going to go into it as I’ve mentioned it previously and everyone around the world knows how bad it is. It really is bad. On good days however, it’s bright and sunny complimented with beautiful blue skies. Geographically, Beijing located in a great place with minimal rain and if there wasn’t any pollution at all it would be bloody amazing. I’ve experienced rain on two occasions during the four month period that I have lived in Beijing. Twice. It was a really heavy rain, yet in 120 days it hardly qualifies for complaining. It is a very dry land and climate, no wonder they ship millions of tons of water from other water rich regions of China to Beijing via massive man-made canal systems. Because we drink water too and there’s none here! Of course, I buy drinking water, but for any other purpose it comes from a tap! Now this dryness has some benefits, one of which has been pointed out to me with a question: “Have you noticed how quickly clothes dry after washing?” Three hours max! You can come home after work/school, do your washing and have it ready-to-wear by the time you’re going out in the evening. Better than dry cleaning! It does have effect on your skin though, the air not the clothes. Moisturiser is a non-negotiable necessity. Whole body wise.
There are no traffic rules in Beijing, whatsoever!
Health and Safety is non existent here and it applies to all aspects of life in China. The rules, there are many, but they are hardly implemented. So if you leave your house, you’re always only one or two steps away from an accident. I’ve been lucky so far. Driving here is a mental challenge IT IS CRAZY!! Want to drive on the opposite side of the road? Fine, just do it closer to the pavement. Intersections it’s the biggest danger zone, you have cars, buses, bikes, motorbikes, rickshaws many of which position themselves right in the center of a massive motorway-like intersection with you n it, and you just pray that you survive this journey. Every day. I’ve learnt to ignore it now with my eyes on my iPhone rather than the road! Pedestrians, do not have the right of way and after London is something to be aware of, since no one will stop even if its green light, you’re using a pedestrian crossing and they’re turning. One in the car is the one who rules the road. Insane! You can have the last laugh during rush hour, when they are stuck in traffic and you walk what it feels like a speed of light.
Chinese food is not at all what you expect
Forget what you know about Chinese food. If your only experience with it was in Europe, most likely it was westernized versions of Chinese food. I’ve never been an expert of Chinese food picking and choosing from a buffet based on appearance. I pretty much do the same here, with an occasional adventure and it works just fine. Rice is the basis of everything and although I hate rice, I’ve come to tolerate it. One thing that I don’t like about Chinese cousine, that the meat part of whatever dish is hardly 10% or so. If it says beef, celery and some other veggies it will come with lots of rice (don’t need to mention it, it comes with everything) lots of that celery, some other veggies and a few thin stripes of beef. A lot of meat based dishes will also be cut up into pieces whilst on the bone, so even less meat. Very disappointing. Everything is also fried and drenched in oil, which is albeit tasty, adds my weight which is already rising sharply. There’s too much to say about Chinese food to put in one paragraphs, so I will write one up dedicated to food in the coming weeks. It’s not all bad, by the way, but it’s certainly a challenge.
Mandarin is not an easy nut to crack
Bloody hell! It is difficult. All that exciting determination has gone dormant for a while if not forever. I gave it a try, I will admit maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Many of my friends here in Beijing are actually Chinese Language students and if their stories anything to go by, it’s not a language you can crack in a few months or a couple of years even. It requires a lot of effort and time. Some say you nedd 5hrs a day, every day, for a couple of years to achieve an acceptable level of language. That would not even qualify you to use Chinese on a professional level. Now, I pick up words here and there. Slowly and steadily I learn some basic words and phrases that I find useful on everyday basis. It allows me to getby. Still, whenever I use those Chinese words that I am prompted with a question, to which I am unable to respond, since it owuld require understanding it first. It is a great language and everytime I manage to remember tones correctly, it feels like such an achievement! I’m sure that in the next two years living in Beijing, I will manage to learn mandarin Chinese to get by easier, but nowhere near to have a meaningful conversation. There’s always hope though and any tricks on learning are always welcome.
Beijing never fails to amaze me and there’s more to come.