Alright boys and girls,
As you know I've moved to China as part of a work placement for a couple of years. I was meaning to start a kind of live journal about the whole experience but rela life got in the way, as with so many things I'm trying to do at the moment. This will just be to drop photos in and chat whenever I do something interesting or note worthy (for example, I've booked a trip to North Korea for 5 days in August - something that you can only really do with a Chinese residency permit and visa so yeah).
It probably won't be updated regularly, but it's a thread for me to tell stories when and if they happen. I've got WC to work now (oh dear) so we'll see where it takes me. A bit about some stuff, the good and the bad so far:
Listen fellas, I'm a big guy, I'm 6'2 and I fill that height and then some, and you've never seen anything like the feasts you get over here. Seriously, the amount they eat is infuckingcredible. How are they all so small? It ain't the same as Chinese food in the western world that's for sure (I haven't seen a Sweet and Sour Chicken Ball anywhere), but the MSG is still there, and it goes straight to your hips ladies.
The speciality dish of Beijing is Peking Duck (obviously, seeing as Beijing used to be called Beijing and about 10 other things), but it's different to the crispy aromatic pancake stuff you get in England. It's moist and fatty with a crispy skin, served with popping candy, spring onions, rich hoi sin sauce all rolled in a thin pancake and munched.
Other favourites include Szechuan Hotpot (basically a giant bubbling spiced broth where you boil fresh strips of lamb and beef and veggies and is the nicest thing ever), Jiaozi (basically pork filled dimsum dipped in chilli vinegar and garlic. yeah) and Asian BBQ (basically DIY BBQ with your own flame pit in the table)
They do certainly eat some weird things though, and no not dog, that's Korea. I've had deep fried chicken feet, pigs brains, jellyfish, sheep intenstine (actually incredible, don't ask), sea cucumber, bacon wrapped baby duckling (I mean like a full baby duck head and everything, in the shape of a duck), scorpion, centipede, mouse...... I'll try anything once, but most of these were totally fucking gross.
Chinese people love westerners. I shit you not, we are treated so damn well here. I've had men put their umbrella over my head when it rained at their own expense, I've had taxi drivers offer me lifts for free, most bars you go to give you free drinks if you know how to handle it right and be polite, they just want us to respect their country and it's people. A lot of it comes down to the fact that our media likes to regularly shit on China and it's achievements because, quite frankly, they don't speak English and are a little eccentric (from a western standpoint), but they're light years ahead of us in many aspects.
No-one here pays for anything with cards or cash it's all mobile transactions, the public transport is pristine and always running on time despite the heaviest workloads of all, everything is reasonably taxed in proportion to demand (no needless 9 pound packs of fags when they cost 40p to make).. and there is no crime. I cannot stress this enough, not even drugs, literally no crime. I dunno if that's fear of the government or what not, but i've never felt safer in an environment in my life. Everyone is just.. happy? There's 1.4 billion of these dudes (around double the population of the USA and the entire of Europe combined), they will 100% take over the world if they ever learn English and can be bothered. I don't mean military wise, but tech and innovation is a huge drive over here and the phrase 'Designed in China not Made in China' is echoed everywhere.
Honest to god, when it's good weather, it is a gorgeous country and almost unrivalled when it comes to stuff to see. Take the Great Wall for example.
This is exactly how it looks when you visit as well
Oh yeah, just the casual 13,170.7 mile wall ey chaps? I mean jesus christ 13,000 miles long at its pomp, (bear in mind the circumference of the earth is 24,000 miles) and built around 300BC. To top it off, to get there I had to take 2 cable cars and walk like 400 steps up the side of a mountain. God knows how many slaves must have died building that thing back then, but it's seriously the most impressive thing mankind has ever done in terms of time context - I'm 100% sure about that. Never seen anything like it.
Sounds as if I'm working for the tourist board, but seriously, it's great. On the other hand...
It really is no joke, and impossible to comprehend until you actually visit. The picture above was taken by a local photographer 1 week apart in October. That is the level of contrast you can get in such a short time period. What it actually is is something called PM2.5 pollution, which means particles under 2.5 microns in width, and as such can only really be seen using an electron microscope.... until they're gathered together in these vast quantities to produce basically toxic fog. And a lot of it.
For reference, London has an average PM2.5 reading of around 25-40, New York is about 60, Chicago's around 35-40. Over the Xmas period, Beijing had it's 8th consecutive day over 600, and has now dropped to a balmy 220.
This is the reason why the 3M smog mask has been so synonymous with Chinese culture over recent years, and the Chinese people are totally fed up with it. So far the Chinese government's solution so far has been to:
A) create their own scale of measurement seperate to the World Health Organization global scale which is basically the Celcius to Fahrenheit of pollution to mask the problem.
B) Limit the most popular measurement app in the country to topping out at 500 and showing '>500' instead of the actual value
C) Just don't talk about it and hope the people ignore it.
Here's an idea, why take that 573k a week you want to pay Diego Costa to move here from Chelsea or the 50million quid you spent to get Oscar, and try to do something about it? It literally looks like this outside of high rise office window:
(Actually, I must say that as of writing this message, news has broken that China plans to scrap the construction of 85 planned coal power plants and invest 2.5 trillion yuan into the renewable energy sector, so that's nice)
The politics of China is essentially a socialist republic run by a single entity, The Communist Party of China, and they run the entire show. As a westerner, it's a very big change to accept coming from the democratic nature of the UK, and it's taken some getting used to. Things like the extremely strict Visa and Immigration process, applying for social security and residency permits, protection over what you say or communicate over the phone or via text when using a Chinese phone, it's all just.... strange to me.
The worst bit by far is the regulations on the internet. Here are the blocked sites in China:
- Google (including Maps which fucking kills me)
- The Economist
- Every porn site you can imagine
- The NY Times
and that's just the ones I can think of. This is killing my soul slowly but surely, if they took away Tapatalk and Whatsapp I may have actually died. They've recently reinstated Snapchat which is nice though.
From what I've heard, the reasoning behind it is not so much propoganda but rather control of news sources. For example, I'm nervous about posting this stuff for fear of a ban for even a tiny miniscule site like WC. I tell you what, you don't quite realise how much you miss facebook and your google login until it's gone and you can't get into anything, no gmail? tough. VPN's will work fine for a laptop, but on the move, it's really not an option.
IP protection is vital in my industry (in fact one of the main drivers behind me coming to China in the first place), and while China has made a lot of strides in anti corruption and protection of intellectual property, there's still a long way to go. Everything we do at my company is encrypted, but even then there's an air of 'I don't know who's reading this'.
However, you do have to argue that the people are extremely happy and are largely supportive. It is, after all, the most capitalist country I've ever seen in my life, consumer goods are king and it's all about status symbol over here. It begs the question, censorship is bad, but is happiness not the be all and end all?
anyway, that's a little bit about my time here so far. I'll post more when I do cool stuff, for example I'm off to Hong Kong in Feb and have just got me a season ticket to Beijing Guoan so hopefully we bag Payet.
Feel free to ask me anything below. Before you ask, no Tinder doesn't work without a VPN, but when you get it to work it's fucking magical.