What I Learned About Guangzhou

What I Learned About Guangzhou

Before arriving in Guangzhou, I didn’t really have an idea of what to expect. I knew it would be more western and there would be more foreign people living there, but here are a few things I noticed while I was there.

  1. Chinese people still stared at me.

I was surprised by the amount of Chinese people that stared at me while I was there! Because it’s very close to Hong Kong, I presumed that they would be used to seeing foreign people in the city. But that didn’t deter the older Chinese people from having a good look at me.

2. No tissues in restaurants.

In every restaurant in Chengdu, you will always find a box of tissues at your table. In Guangzhou however, we found tissues in only one noodle restaurant we ate at. Sichuan food is quite oily, so most people need to use tissues while eating. In Guangzhou, their food isn’t as oily, so maybe they feel that they don’t need them. I’ve gotten used to having tissues at hand while eating now, so we always needed to make sure we brought some with us!

3. A mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

With Guangzhou being in southern China and the fact that they speak Cantonese, both myself and my fiancé were surprised that we heard quite a bit of Mandarin being spoken! I’m guessing these people were Chinese tourists, but I thought that I would only hear Cantonese being spoken. I’d say we heard 50% Mandarin being spoken and 50% Cantonese.

4. Quite dirty

Like our visit to the city of Xiamen, which you can check out here;  Chengdu Vs Xiamen     we noticed that Guangzhou is also quite a dirty city.  I’ve said it before, but Chengdu is the cleanest city in China that I’ve been to so far. You will see a road sweeper on every road here, but in Guangzhou, it was a struggle to find any. Rubbish would pile up beside bins that were full to the brim, and it’s such a shame because it’s a nice city.

5. Cyclists on the footpaths.

One thing that really annoyed us in Guangzhou was the amount of people cycling on the footpaths. We kept wondering why this was, and we realised that it was because many roads in Guangzhou are one way. Obviously the cyclists can’t cycle down the wrong way, so they go on the footpaths instead. Many footpaths in the city are narrow, so that makes it even worse. So when you’re constantly hearing a bell ringing behind you to move, it does get quite annoying after a while.

6. Small portions

We’re not sure if this is really true, but on two occasions we went for noodles or wontons, asked for a big portions, but they brought out a bowl which to me is only a small portion. In Chengdu a big portion is BIG. We thought we ordered the small by accident, but no, they were big.. So we were still quite hungry after our big noodles and wontons.

So they are a few things that I noticed about the city. I know every city has it’s charms and it’s negative things, but overall I really liked the city!

Aisling

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A Guangzhou Custom

Having lived in China for over 4 years, I thought I knew about the daily life of Chinese people and their customs, but when I visited Guangzhou, we were met with a new one, and we didn’t know how to deal with it!

So in a previous post, I talked about Trying Dim Sum. We really enjoyed trying many types of food there, but we were surprised about one thing they brought.

After we ordered some tea, the waitress came back with a small tea pot and a bowl. A bowl? We were both wondering why she would bring a bowl (with nothing in it) with our tea. So we asked each other “Why did she bring us this?”. We didn’t know what to do with it us we just poured our tea and started waiting for our food to arrive. The waitress quickly came back and took the bowl away then.

Ok???? That was weird.

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The bowl in question

So we drank our tea, ate our food and we were on our way, still not knowing what the whole bowl situation meant.

A few days later we went back to the same restaurant, and again they bring a bowl with our tea. We obviously were meant to do something with it! So we look around and we see a table with a bowl… filled with tea!?!

Why do they have tea in theirs? We continued looking and we realised they were washing their cups and food bowls with the tea, then dumping it into the plastic bowl. The waitress would then come, pick it up and their now empty tea pot, and then bring them fresh tea, minus the bowl!

Ohhh…. so we’re supposed to wash our things with the tea? That’s weird. Why do we have to do that? Is it to warm the cups? Maybe they are dirty!? Oh god I hope not…

We decided to give it a go ourselves, pouring the tea into the cups, swishing it about and dumping it into the plastic bowl. Once we did that the waitress came and took it away, bringing back more tea for us.

We both thought it was a bit of a waste throwing out that good tea, but as they say ‘Do as the romans do’.

So we kept wondering why people here had this custom. We decided to ask a Chinese friend from Guangzhou and she replied that she doesn’t really know why they do it. It’s just a habit that they all have. Even though they know that their cups and plates and clean, they will always rinse them again. She said she even does it at home!

It’s interesting to find out these little quirks that are found all around China. We now know a little more about Chinese culture from southern China!

Aisling

Trying Dim Sum

With living in Sichuan province, we have undeniably been spoilt by food; hot pot, maocai, spicy dry pot, chuan chuan… we will certainly miss these when we leave!

We knew that in Guangzhou they rarely eat spicy food, preferring sweet things instead. They eat a lot of Dim Sum; bite sized pieces of food served in bamboo baskets or on plates. Not having tried Dim Sum before, we were eager to try when we were in Guangzhou!

With a Dim Sum restaurant 20 seconds walk away from where we were staying, we ventured in and were given a table. No English was found on the menu! So we had a bit of trouble ordering anything! We asked the waitress what she recommended. Two dishes. Ok, so we ordered those.

And they were very nice! One was a small steamed dumpling with meat, and the other was a dessert with a coconut custard filling. We thought it was weird that they came out together, so we ate those and we realised we were still hungry. We weren’t really sure how ordering dim sum worked; did we order lots of things at once, or wait and and see if are hungry and order more. In Sichuan usually if there are two people eating, you order 2 dishes, if there are 3 people, then order 3 dishes. So with Dim Sum, we weren’t sure how we handled this!

We realised that 3 dumplings and 3 dessert pieces were definitely not going to fill us up! So we ordered another basket of dumplings. So all in all we only ate about 4/5 small dumplings each and a piece of coconut dessert. We were happy to try them but we definitely needed something else!

After our experience, we learned that we can order as many as we want! If you ordered 4 types of Dim Sum, and you are still hungry, you can easily order more. The next time we visited there we ordered many more types of Dim Sum! We also got a Chinese friend to help us translate the menu so we were spoilt for choice then!

We enjoyed all except one! The one with the green veg at the side wasn’t our cup of tea sadly. There was meat and egg inside and it was just too gooey for our liking! The one that I was mixed about was the white one that looks like a dessert. I bit into it and the bread part was sweet, but then in the inside there was savoury meat! So to me it was a weird combination! My fiancé like that one, but I wasn’t too sure! The meat was nice but I couldn’t handle both sweet and savoury together.

So it was a nice experience trying food that are from the region and that are the real thing. Now I’d like to see if there are any Dim Sum restaurants in Chengdu to have a try!

Aisling

The Bustling City of Guangzhou

With a week off from Uni, we wanted to get out of the city and head somewhere a little bit warmer! Chengdu in the winter is a horrible place to be, made worse by the fact that it’s 8 degrees outside but there’s not a radiator or heater in any shop, restaurant or school! I literally freeze while I’m teaching!

Anywhere north of Chengdu was too cold to visit, so we decided to visit Guangzhou, a big city near Hong Kong. We really didn’t know what to expect from it. We knew it was big, people spoke Cantonese, and it would definitely be warmer than here! Our friends from Chengdu recently moved to the city so we could also catch up with them there!

Well my I think Guangzhou exceeded my expectations quite a bit! I read online that apparently it had no culture, but I thought the city itself was full of culture! I especially loved the old buildings all around the city. Some were ugly but I just loved how different each were and how they had their own unique characteristics and architecture. I really enjoyed looking at all the different buildings in the city. And from what I saw, pretty much all of them are in use, usually as housing!

I know the weather in summer is absolutely scorching, so we visited when it was much cooler. During the day a light jacket is enough for us during December, but at night it was a little more chilly!

So I was left a good impression of Guangzhou; it’s much greener than Chengdu, the weather is better, and it’s a great place to live if you want to travel as there are lots of nearby places to go to  such as Shanghai, Hong Kong. Also it’s a major city for international flights. Chengdu is more in the west so it’s not as easy to hop on a train and go somewhere in 5 hours…… more like 25 hours!

But of course I did miss Sichuan food! The food is nice in Guangzhou, it just lacks spice and a bit of flavour. Some of the dishes were a little bland for me. I’ve gotten too used to spicy food now! We tried the famous Dim Sum that southern Chinese people eat, and I enjoyed trying all the different types that they offered, when we could understand the Chinese characters of course!

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I think If I could move there if I was planning on staying in China longer, but of course the cost of living is more expensive, plus the rent is much higher there than Chengdu! Oh, it’s also MUCH bigger! Chengdu is nice and compact, whereas Guangzhou is a sprawling city! So it’s bigger, meaning more people, so that equals a busy metro!

After 5pm the metro was crazy when we used it! I would say during rush hour, you only need to wait for a train for about 20-30 seconds, and then another comes. But of course there are big queues waiting for every one of them! So I didn’t really like how busy it could get. I can only imagine what it’s like during a major holiday!

But I’m glad I visited the city. It’s nice to see different parts of China. Each and every city is different and has it’s own unique history and culture!

Where we stayed: Lazy Gaga Hostel

Good: It’s literally 5 minutes walk to the nearest metro so it’s very centrally located. It made getting around Guangzhou that much easier. There are places to eat/ shopping centres/ bus stops and famous landmarks all within walking distances.

Bad: You’re really paying for the location. I thought it was too expensive for what it was, and the hostel needed to be refurbished. If I only had 1 night in Guangzhou, I’d stay again, but for anymore I would look for another hostel.

Aisling

A Gift From Work

As I’m living in China, I’ve unfortunately had to work on Christmas day. Because I’m working in a University, there’s no hope in hell that I’d be able to take it off. It’s just a normal day for the students and other teachers! However If I was working in a private English company, they would (usually) allow every foreign teacher a day off.

So to make it at least a little more Christmassy, I decided that for this week we would watch the film ‘Elf’ in class together. I needed to talk to students one on one, so the others watched the film while I talked to each student. So it was an easy class for them!
I’ve now watched the second half of ‘Elf’ 10 times…… so I don’t want to see that film for another 5/6 years!!! That’s one problem of watching a film; you have to watch it 10 more times for every class!

During Monday I received a message from the school asking me to go and pick up my Christmas gift. Gift?? I’m actually getting a gift from the school!!! God that’s nice of them! They still haven’t given us a hoover that we’ve needed since we started in September, so I was surprised I actually received 500yuan/ €65 in a hongbao (red envelope)!

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STILL no hoover though!

But anyway, it was a nice surprise to receive! In my old company I’d most likely get a small flower with a greeting attached to it…. so my hongbao is way better!

So next week we all have a week off from uni and then we only have 3 more weeks left until the semester is over! I’ve been complaining that it’s going too slow, but now I’m nearing the finish line at last!

Now I need to think about what I’ll spend my 500yuan on! Definitely not a hoover anyway! I’ll keep badgering the school about that.

Aisling

Exams….. some just don’t care.

So for the past 2 weeks my students have been preparing to do a 4-5 minute role-play for me as part of their exams. The first week was to think up their idea and start writing their script. They then came in groups and they practiced in front of me and I made adjustments with their scripts in the second week. For the third week they could practice for the first 45 minutes and then do their exam.

So they had PLENTY of time to rehearse and remember their lines.

I was pretty surprised that for my classes on Monday, 3-4 groups couldn’t remember what to say!

And one was a total disaster altogether! Because their english is very low, I told them that their role-play could be 3-4 minutes long. I also put a student whose English is higher than the others in with this group so he could help them make their script and what not. So they come in and none of them know their lines. They didn’t know what they were doing, and it definitely wasn’t practiced.

It frustrates me because I gave them plenty of time and I made it easier for them because I know they would struggle. Some of these students are failing because they don’t try in class. I told them this too. So I thought that they would put a bit more effort into it and try at least. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them.

I don’t want to fail them but if they continue not caring and not putting effort into anything then I’ll be forced to. What annoys me even more is that I actually made it easier for them and they still didn’t care!

On a better side, I had one all girl group and they were really good! They were doing like a dating show and the girls with the lights had to decide if he (the girl on the far right) matched up to their expectations. The girl on the far left was the host. They had a ppt ready, props, and it was different to all the rest of the others I’ve seen so far! This group is in the class that is my favourite, so I’m happy that they tried a lot! They’ll definitely be getting a good score.

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My favourite group so far!

 

On a weirder note, I received a text message from one of my students and she asked could I give her 90% on the exam. I wasn’t sure what she was on about and replied that the exam isn’t until next week. I said “I know, but will you give me 90%?”

Ok??????? She’s a good student and her English is good but she actually has the audacity to ask for a high mark. I would never have asked my teachers any such question! It would be more like how can I improve so I could get a better mark. So I replied back “It depends on how well you do in the exam”.

Her response…”Too cruel!!!”

So apparently I’m too cruel. Huh.

Maybe she’s the cruel one because she didn’t bribe me with anything!

Aisling

Teaching Uni Students: 3 Months On

Teaching Uni Students: 3 Months On

I can’t believe I’ve just finished week 12 of teaching. In one sense it’s flying by, but then at the same time it sometimes feel like I’ve been teaching for years here. I’m already halfway through my first semester here, so I have more semester to go and then bye bye to China!

With every week that goes by I’m slowly getting more comfortable with my students. I can see that they can have a joke and a laugh with me now and it’s just a better atmosphere now in the classes. Well most of them anyway; I’ve one class and they are still like robots…. so I don’t particularly enjoy teaching them. They don’t do anything wrong… it’s just they don’t do anything at all!

They just stare…. and stare…. and stare some more…….. while the other classes laugh at some funny picture or video that I show them, they just stare.

So I’ll be pretty happy to get rid of that class next semester.

I’ll miss most of my students next semester. Every teacher will be getting new students as the Uni wants them to become more immersed with different cultures and what not. I understand in a way, but then at the same time the teachers have to start from scratch with gaining the students trust and making them comfortable with us.

I’ve sort of figured out what each student is like, which ones need more attention and which one’s English is non-existent. I’ll have to figure all that out again!

Depending on the topic and lesson I make, the students will react positively or negatively.  If they don’t like it, they just aren’t interested. So it’s difficult finding the balance of both work and play. They could happily play games all day, but I’d still like to teach them something at least!

But I feel I’m improving with my teaching style with every class. I know what they like and don’t like, and myself and my fiancé try and help each other to create and brainstorm lesson plans. Two heads are better than one!

With being set on leaving China, I’m looking forward to finishing the contract and moving on……and I’m really looking forward to it!

Aisling