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So one of those things I‘ve been wondering about for 5 months now is the system of the date of expiry in China. Not that I would‘ve actually asked a Chinese person because 1)keep forgetting to ask when I‘m in a store, 2) not ready to invest at least 30 min talking about this topic till both sides understand what the other one means, yet and 3) can keep making crazy assumptions 😉

So the thing is that so far I‘ve bought only twice (!) milk here that hasn‘t already expired, only once it was actually supposed to last for three more days. All the other times it had already expired for a month or two. I‘m not sure how it works in other countries but at least in Germany it‘s illegal to sell expired stuff. I mean, sure, you can buy it, let it expire, and it‘s still gonna be drinkable but you wouldn‘t find those products in German supermarkets.

So I figured by now that this works differently in China, apparently. I suppose you‘re taking that risk upon yourself the moment you buy the milk because I‘ve also seen specific milk sellers who would offer you fresh milk – emphasis on fresh which usually means it expires that day or has only expired for a day or so. Weird concept since you‘d be getting a discount for products like that in Germany but in comparison to 2 months old milk a good deal, I suppose.

Expired Milk

So if I‘m so sureabout everything, why writing about it? Well, even I noticed that Chinese supermarkets would be restocking either everyday or every week, depending on their size. So it still leaves me in awe to see that they‘re basically restocking their products ONLY with expired stuff – I checked the whole selection! Now while I do get that sometimes you‘re gonna have left-overs and it‘s actually a quite ecological concept to sell it anyways I do not get why they wouldn‘t give Chinese customers the opportunity to get fresh milk in the first place. Especially the milk in this picture you can‘t find in the fresh milk department so I‘m wondering by now if they‘re deliberately waiting for those products to expire and put them there. I‘d really like to hear that reasoning but TiC…

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Aww, it‘s been a while, but never mind. Found some new TiC stuff I gotta write about^^

So we are all aware that Chinese people are some of the most pragmatic folks you‘ll ever meet. Trust a Chinese person to find the most pragmatic solution to any given problem, even if it‘s friggin ridiculous.

So I went to this firm event of a friend  of mine where they celebrated their achievements of the past year (with looong diashows, Chinese just love that and many companies are like family to them) and of the next year. Because of  Gangnam Style performances, theater sketches, belly dancing and many emotional speeches (always introduced by some epic movie soundtrack like PotC) they had to do a whole lot of clapping. That‘s tiring after 3 hours. So with which kind of solution would the come up? Right, clapping devices. Literally. Small plastic hands that make clapping sounds when you shake them. Yep, for real. And you know what‘s the weirdest part about it? Call me 老外 but personally I found it easier to just use my hands since you need a whole different muscle group to use those and it gets tiring as well. But TiC.

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Second thing I discovered when we went shopping. So you know those moments when you gotta appear professional when you gotta tuck you shirt in and it just keeps getting back out? Well, lucky us, the Chinese folks found a solution for that. However, I‘d rather keep dealing with the problem itself than this inner voice that keeps telling me last time I opted for this solution was 20 years ago…

Baby Style;)

Well, as China-crazy as I am I do realize that many people think very badly – especially in environmental terms – of China. Which is partly true (remember, I‘m in the 3rd to 5th most polluted city of China) but as so often there‘s more to it than just meets the eye.

So let me tell you a bit about an aspect of China where Germany isn‘t nearly as good: bike sharing. I know Germany has it as well but only in very few places while it represents here a larger trend. Admittedly it‘s also way more dangerous (should do a post about Chinese driving in the future) but I think a really nice way of getting people to not use cars. The way it works here is that you can purchase an IC card (with which you can also ride the bus) where you put money on and it automatically charges the money from there. The stations are quite frequent and you get around pretty easily. Only reason I‘m not using it is that I have a problem with riding bikes on icy surfaces in combination with crazy drivers but maybe I‘ll get around;) But in general genius idea.

Bike Sharing

The bus service here is….well, different. Generally it‘s way cheaper than in Germany (figures), you pay 1 kuai (like 0,10€) normally or 5 mao (0,5€) for one ride, no matter the amount of stations. Depending on the line the busses are quite old and the bus drivers are crazy (well, TiC, never met a normal driver in China in the first place). It‘s rather unfortunate that the stations are only displayed in Chinese without a map which makes it harder to figure out where you‘re going. But with a little bit of help from Chinese friends it‘s fine and for 1 kuai the risk of taking the wrong bus is a worthy one^^

Cabs are also really cheap. You pay for the first 10 minutes in Taiyuan 8 kuai (0,97€) and then for every minute or so. I pay for example for a 15 min ride to the train station 14 kuai (1,70€) which is nearly ridiculously cheap. Actually cab riding is one of the most common forms of transportation, even more in Beijing. Seriously lowers the attractiveness of getting your own car cause you don‘t even have to be sober OR deal with the traffic anymore^^

Trains are also genius. It costs me from Taiyuan to Beijing about 150 kuai (18,25€) but since it‘s a 4,5h ride this is pretty reasonable. Especially if you choose the night train option – then it takes you 10-12 hours but with a nice bed. Love them and always sleep really well in them. Can only recommend it.

Even though it‘s still under development the train network is really good in China. A new line was opened from Beijing to Guangzhou (far south) and is supposed to be incredibly fast. I was also happy to hear that from Taiyuan there‘s even a direct line to Shanghai since I‘m gonna be using that.

So you see at least in public transportation there‘s a lot we can learn from China. Just because we‘re fewer people doesn‘t mean we should have more cars because they still all fit the streets. Especially the price policy needs to be reconsidered. If it‘s more expensive to go by train somewhere than going by car something is not right.

But we‘ll hopefully get there;)

You know before I came to China I‘d have expected Apple and iPhones to be something reserved for the few wealthy ones. Like maybe 5-10% of the smartphone users would actually own an iPhone. You know, cause it‘s rather expensive, especially in a country where a large part of the people kinda have to survive with 300-400 €/month.

However, I was wrong. Like big time. I‘d say especially in Beijing the iPhone user rate is around 70-80%. This remained a mystery to me for the longest time. I mean, of course Chinese people care less about privacy rights or Apple controlling them, with that kind of behavior the company just fits the political system,.

But still, why investing such a large amount of money???

Well, here‘s my theory:

So it‘s kinda hard in a 20 million people city to have the classical status symbols: car, big house, w/e all make either no sense (ever driven a car in China? Especially Beijing? During rush hour? Yep, let the cab drivers deal with that, you‘re not gonna survive it.) or are multiple times as expensive as a phone. And China is after all all about status and ways you could display it. And Apple is THE status symbol, even more than in Germany (in Germany it‘s rather cool to say you‘re an Android user because you care so much about your freedom). Furthermore you can get stolen ones here pretty cheaply but I don‘t know how much that actually contributes to the total amount of iPhones I‘ve seen so far.

So we have this huge amount of iPhones and everybody is using it. Consequently the next problem Chinese people encountered was that now all of the sudden it wasn‘t that special anymore. But switching to a less valuable and popular brand wouldn‘t solve the problem (for people would be thinking you only have the other brand because you couldn‘t afford a real iPhone).

So what do you do? You pimp your iPhone China-style.

Believe me, the kind of cases and accessories you can find in China top anything and everything you‘ll most probably be able to find anywhere in the west. For onebecause they‘d sell those cases anywhere: normal accessory store (see picture), street, electronic store and any Chinese market you can find. Second because they don‘t have that natural restriction of wanting their phones to kinda look elegant or whatever Apple is trying to represent. It‘s already enough to be the brand. Apple with Hello Kitty is not destroying the image, it‘s adding to your own personality, readily displaying it for the world.

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Well, that results in a whole lot of new, (im)possible choices (and I will try to post more crazy case pics in the future): Blinky-blinky cases, plush toy cases (literally!), stickers for iPhone with all kinds of crazy motives, stupid pictures, embarrassing pictures, fairies, … I think you get the point (and I get the point that I need to post pics because a written description doesn‘t even come close to the visual proof).

I think this shows again how very different the Chinese mentality is from the Western one. But I love it. I resisted joining this weird movement for months now but during New Year‘s shopping they got me: I really bought stickers to put on my phone. Though I would say it‘s still the European elegant version of the Chinese possibilities I have to admit I have been pimped;)

Bildschirmfoto 2013-01-06 um 12.27.55

Maybe we all need to go a little bit more crazy sometimes 😉

Being a runner has certainly improved my life in more ways than I could possibly count. I‘m a calmer, happier and more self-fulfilled person when I‘m running. Life without running is to me like life without internet: it sucks.

Opposed to what most people think it doesn‘t really take me any effort to go running – therefore I have a hard time explaining to people that I‘m not especially disciplined but just a runner (actually with any other sport I‘m pretty bad – I‘d do it for 2 or 3 weeks and then start slacking off -.-‘). It‘s like those naturally skinny people that claim even though they try they can‘t gain a pound (I‘m the first one to be jealous of that condition :P). It does not really have anything to do with determination or the kind of discipline normal people have to raise in order to do it – it‘s just there. And for me this applies to running.

There‘re only few moments or periods in my life where that kinda sucks – during hiking high in the mountains (who wants to run uphill for half an hour???), at the beach (ever run in sand? yep, NOT funny) or – like right now – during periods of extremely cold weather, also called winter.

Now in Germany I had to deal with that as well which made me go running effectively once or twice a week. Even though the temperature also contributed to that it was mostly the ice and snow I was trying to avoid. In some winters that made me go to fitness studios in search of a treadmill, in others I just endured it and settled with going fewer times.

In Taiyuan, however, this proves to become a huge problem. The average daytime (!) temperature here was in the past three weeks around -14° (for the American readers – that‘s like 7°F) and any runner will tell you that this is seriously NOT the kind of temperature where you wanna go running anymore. It‘s not even healthy, I‘m pretty sure about that. Also the alternative treadmill is hard to get since you‘d have to be a member of a fitness studio to gain access to that and my Chinese is way too bad to manage that task (don‘t really have any desire to join one here, either – could kill me).

Now what happens when a running addict is deprived of his sport is that at some point – sometimes it takes a week but usually you can go on for a couple of weeks – you‘re gonna get really squirrely. And I mean that literally. You can‘t really calm down anymore and have this itching feeling THAT YOU NEED TO GO RUNNING RIGHT NOW. Believe me, there‘s hardly a more annoying feeling (maybe same category as resisting a bad chocolate craving for days) in the whole world. It will deprive you of your sleep. It‘ll take over your thoughts. In short – it‘ll make you go running.

Now as I am in Taiyuan right now, today was the day I had to give in. After a little more than two weeks (and trying at home strength training as an alternative – but like I said I‘m not the most disciplined person in the world) I couldn‘t put it off anymore – and went running today (-13°) not sure if I‘d be making it back – ever. It was every bit as bad as you‘d imagine it – my lung was not exactly happy about ice-air, my fingers were freezing off, my legs were numb the entire time – but when I came back I was the most content person in the whole world. As bad as it was to me it was pure bliss.

That also made me think I should describe a bit of running culture and my running experience in China. The first one is comparatively easy – there is none. I‘m not entirely sure if this also applies to summer time in China but even if it is I think it‘s safe to say that running as a sport has not yet arrived in China. In my entire time of staying here (remember, also Beijing for nearly 2 months and up to 5 times/week running) I might have seen about 30 runners. In China! With 1,2 billion people! I think you get what I‘m talking about. Personally I think it‘s a shame (well, not today but let‘s say above -10°) but it makes it an even more unique experience since now you‘re not only a weird looking 老外 (laowai or foreigner) anymore – no, you‘re also the crazy person running around in parks!

So let‘s move on to the best (and the weirdest) running experiences I had here:

  1. One thing in I remember in particular was my race with a biker that one time in Beijing. I was totally on a runner‘s high and running as fast as I could (last mile). Then there was this biker trying to round me but of course I couldn‘t let him win and speeded up even more. It was most probably the weirdest sight ever for Chinese people if they see a foreigner chasing a bike. I remember the staring and I can tell you 99% hadn‘t seen anything like that before;)
  2. My second best experience was right after visiting the forbidden city. Me and my friend were already running late to meet up with the others who had already seen it and after a whole lot of begging I got him to run with me back. Takes you usually about 10 min to get there if you‘re fast but with all the stopping and arguing about going on it took us like 20 min. But imagine the stares you get when you‘re NOT ONLY a foreigner and a runner BUT ALSO in normal clothes! Certainly memorable;)
  3. This experience actually sucked pretty bad. Being a dog owner myself I‘d never tell people they should put their dogs on the leash all the time. However, I do expect from the dogs in exchange to not be chasing me. Unfortunately that‘s exactly what happened a couple of times to me when I went running (though I also gotta tell you that 90% of the dogs I encountered would do no such thing) with one being particularly bad: I was running and saw this cute puppy when it started chasing me. Trying to get away as fast as I could I started speeding up and actually was able to escape. But when I turned around just to make sure I really lost him I tripped and hurt my foot so bad that I wasn‘t able to run (or walk for that matter) for the entire next week – which really sucked since I was badly into running that time. Needless to say I didn‘t run that part of my route ever again.
  4. Some of the usual stuff I kinda just wanna name: When I was running here a lot of the time people would starting waving their hands and shouting random stuff in English. In the beginning I just shyly waved back, now I go all out and do some crazy-ass running especially for them. Also sometimes they would start running when they see me coming (especially kids tend to do  that) so that I feel obligated to round them with double-speed. 😛
  5. Also funny are those phases when (especially while listening to your sports remix) you just feel like dancing and naturally start to do so while running. Combining weird hobbies in public (dancing and running) certainly get you most of the attention of whoever you encounter.

Of course there‘s a lot more to say about running (like tasting the coal in the air in Taiyuan) but I think this were some of the most important remarks I can make. And sorry for not posting sth about New Year, I might do that tomorrow.

See ya;)

Hah, finally, the first entry about my life in China! Actually wanted to start with all the weirdness that’s been going on so far but since THIS happened to me today I guess I gotta tell you guys bout Chinese problem solving first.

We all know Chinese people do have a different way of solving problem which often involves simply neglecting them but sometimes results in very interesting solutions.

Our bathroom drain hasn’t been working properly lately so that every single time you would shower (of course the maximum time for hot water would be 12 minutes) the drain wouldn’t drain the water fast enough so that not only the entire bathroom but also the connecting corridor up to the rooms would be flooded. Lucky me it stopped about 20cm before entering my room.

Nevertheless this remained a problem we had to solve so my flatmate called people to fix it. Now in old-fashioned, conservative Europa guess what we would do? Right, clean the drain. Chinese solution?

BUILD A FRIGGIN DAM IN FRONT OF THE BATHROOM TO BLOCK THE WATER!!! Can you believe that??? I mean it’s creative as hell but why would you even bother in the first place? Maybe cause you’re Chinese, I honestly have no idea whatsoever.

 

Drain fixing

TiC