Ah those Chinese…

Now that we have been in China for a little while, we can maybe speak a little bit about the Chinese, because they are actually quite different from the people we met in Russia and China. Whereas the Russians were still very European and the Mongolians “Mongolian” (we don’t really know how to describe them but we agree that they are not European, but also not Asian), the Chinese are something different, something peculiar in their own kind.

While for us the main attractions in China are without doubt the impressive buildings and the Asian way of life, for the Chinese WE are the main attraction. When we are walking in the street they will just stare at us, mouth wide open and making eyes as big that you might think they’ll fall out. In the beginning this made us feel a little bit uncomfortable, but now, especially Jean-Christophe, is actually making fun of them by staring back at them like they do. The reactions to this are different: some stare back even more, some wave, some start giggling and some almost fall of their bike stretching their neck backwards to keep on looking at those “strange Europeans”. :-) Note however that they never, ever look away or feel embarrassed: the Chinese aren’t that easy to impress and their level of what is “indiscreet” or “embarrassing” is definitely not the same as ours.

Another thing they find very interesting, is to see what we are reading. As an example, when we stand in a railroad station or bus station (or any other public place) and happen to take out our guidebook to look up something, there will be some Chinese standing around us in no-time, looking over our shoulder, trying to read what we are reading and then discuss it between them. Or when we buy a train or bus ticket, we most of the time don’t manage to get out of the station without having (at least!) one Chinese asking us to see the ticket and scream out to some others where we are going. They’re very curious! But we use this curious habit of them to confirm (by wild gestures) that we have a sleeper ticket and not a hard-seat on a 24-hour train for example. :-)

When we were in Beijing and speaking to each other, sometimes people would walk with us and listen intently to our discussion. A Chinese man told us, that these are mostly people from the countryside who never see any foreigners in their live and so they just want to listen to the different sounds and intonations. In the beginning it is a little bit nerve-wrecking knowing that somebody is “listening” to your private conversations (they don’t understand a word of it of course) but after a while you don’t even notice it anymore getting used to the fact that some Chinese tourists with red caps are following you for a few minutes. :-)

Speaking about language, in the bigger cities some Chinese will also speak English. It’s however a special Chinese-English, mostly referred to here as “Chinglish”. You can understand it, but you have to concentrate very much when somebody speaks it and don’t take any information on boards or captions in musea too literally. As an example, warning signs saying “Careful slipping!” (Careful! Slippery!) or “Take care of saft!” (Take care of something, we don’t know what, but please feel free to suggest if you have any creative ideas! :-) are normal. Other examples are when you are walking somewhere, somebody will greet you with a big *smile on his face saying “Ok!” while you hesitantly reply “Hello!” hoping that this was maybe what he intended to say. ;-)

It is an experience in itself though and once you get used to their impatient (they take ages to take a picture of an interesting landmark, but don’t you dare standing in their way for longer than 3 seconds when they want to take a picture, because then they will be pushing and pulling you to go away), non-relaxed (in China everything has to go fast: when you get into a restaurant, the waiter will actually stand next to you, impatient to take the order within 10 seconds while you are still trying to figure out what all those characters mean and hope you don’t order “grilled dog” or something like that) or disgusting (they really are disgusting spitting everywhere not without making sounds as if they are going to die before depositing their “package” – included in trains and restaurants) ways, they turn out to be very helpful, friendly and funny people! :-)

Once you understand them of course! ;-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. Posted October 3, 2007 at 17:36 | Permalink

    toujours de merveilleuses photos. Les couleurs sont particulièrement vives. Est-ce vraiment naturel? bises.

  2. Vera
    Posted October 3, 2007 at 17:46 | Permalink

    Tsss… non mais, pour qui tu nous prends??? On est des vraies photographes professionnels!!!


    Enfin, la verite c’est qu’on met les photos les plus jolies sur le site, tu peux demander “les ratees” a Ivana, elle doit en avoir recu 2 DVDs remplis!


  3. Posted October 4, 2007 at 10:56 | Permalink

    I guess “Take care of saft!” does not mean “Take care of juice!” (“Saft” meaning “juice” in german.. actually you already know that I guess..)

    In my opinion this is just redundancy and they might want to speak about “safety”

    Take care of being/standing/sitting safe(ly) ?

    They seem to be very fun :-)

  4. Posted October 4, 2007 at 11:38 | Permalink

    je ne mettais pas en doute vos qualités de super photographes!!!mais les pigments sont tellement vifs que je voulais savoir si c’est sans “retouches”.En tout cas merci de nous permettre de voyager avec vous. Bises

  5. Posted October 4, 2007 at 11:46 | Permalink

    (Sorry for writing in french, I heard that it was not easy for french people when I don’t speak french and they would like to read what I’m writing to you… So let’s go!)
    C’est épatant le pouvoir de communication qu’on peut avoir sans parler la même langue!
    Franchement, je n’aurais jamais imagnié qu’ils seraient si ‘intrusifs’ à vous écouter, lire par-dessus votre épaule, etc, je pensais vraiment qu’ils étaient très réservés! C’est super chouette d’avoir un regard différent vu de l’intérieur de ces personnes qui vivent si loin de nous et qui sont si différents! Sinon, pour faire un peu moins sérieux que l’interprétation ‘safety’ (qui me semble pas mal du tout) et donc selon Wikipedia, il faut faire attention à Saft qui est ‘une entreprise française spécialisé dans la conception et la fabrication d’accumulateurs électriques destiné à un usage industriel’. ;-)

  6. Daniel
    Posted October 4, 2007 at 12:30 | Permalink

    Méfions nous de SAFT !! :-)

  7. Posted October 4, 2007 at 21:18 | Permalink

    It’s not easy to understand chinglish but sometimes fringlish (Jean-Christophe please apologize) is not even better to understand.

    I think I would have laughed out loud seeing Jean-Chrsitophe starring back at the chinese people.

    My feeling is you both would not go with great appetite back to Russia but you would like to see Mongolia again. Would you like to visit China once more?

  8. Jean-Christophe
    Posted October 5, 2007 at 14:24 | Permalink

    @Marie-Annick : En mode manuel, il est possible de parametrer le rendu de couleur, dont augmenter leur vibrance. Par temps maussade, nous avons tendance a augmenter leur intensite. En mode automatique (portrait, paysage, etc.) l’appareil effectue cette operation de maniere transparente. Aucune retouche posterieure sauf a la rigueur pour le contraste (mais on fait ca directement sur l’appareil photo).

  9. Jean-Christophe
    Posted October 5, 2007 at 14:33 | Permalink

    @Jurgen: I often spoke about my Frenglish so no worry ;-) We maybe could compile a list of my Frenglish and a list of the Chinglish we encoutered.
    Actually our feeling about the visited country is more like: we want to go back to Russia and Mongolia asap, esp. the lake Baikal, Kamtchatka and new parts of Mongolia.
    As for China, we have to postpone our final answer, we are still there. Yhough, there are some places we could not visit and that I’m eager to view. But I have to say I was disappointed with China. Too modern, the History is sometimes erased to let space for China growing needs. Too polluted, on “normal” days your sight does not go much further than 500m to 1km at best, really poor. So I (or we) will come back but it won’t probably be on our priority list.
    Also, a main problem in China is Chinese tourism which cannot be qualified as respectuous of the visited places and locals. Our guide book even refers to Chinese tourism kiss-of-death.

  10. Vera
    Posted October 5, 2007 at 14:34 | Permalink

    @Juergen: In the village where we are now, it is even worse with the staring, especially towards me. Really incredible! Probably because of the blond hair… But I have decided that since today, if people start staring at me, I will flick my camera at them (gnagna, we will see how long they will still look). ;-)

  11. Vera
    Posted October 5, 2007 at 14:35 | Permalink

    @Juergen: No China for me anymore.

  12. Vera
    Posted October 5, 2007 at 14:37 | Permalink

    @Daniel et ManudeFlo: Maybe they meant: Take care of the staff??? Maybe they were some monsters in reality and we were just lucky not to see them??? ;-)

  13. Posted October 5, 2007 at 17:04 | Permalink

    Jean-Christophe, tout à fait d’accord avec toi (post 9). Vera (post 10), si ce sont les cheveux blonds qui intriguent les gens, porte un foulard!!! Je crois aussi que les yeux bleus les intriguent. Je l’avais constaté en Indonésie où des jeunes vendeuses dans un magasin venaient me voir à tour de rôle pour finir en un petit atroupement et des rires. Demandant à l’une d’entre elles ce qui se passait, elle me répondit que c’était la couleur bleue de mes yeux qui les surprenait. Et deux ou trois sont venues voir de très près en me plantant leur regard profond aux yeux noirs! Souvenir d’escale…Have a good journey

  14. Jürgen
    Posted October 6, 2007 at 2:46 | Permalink

    @Vera: Staring at you isn’t really astonishing;-)

    What happened between 14:34 and 14:35 that you make that decision against China?

    @Jean-Christophe: I made some experience with chinese and french people the last time on the phone. At least we understand each other. In cmmunication it depends always on both sides.

  15. Vera
    Posted October 6, 2007 at 15:04 | Permalink

    @Jean-Daniel: Bonne idee pour le foulard (pour le moment c’est plutot le bonnet, car il fait froid ici). :-)

    @Juergen: Thanks for the compliment! *blush* :-)
    I don’t know about China, I have not been too enthousiastic about it since we left Beijing (which I thought was great). I actually thought we wouldn’t be staying her this long, but now because of the visa extension problems and so on, I am starting to get a bit tired of it…

  16. Posted October 12, 2007 at 10:06 | Permalink

    Fun to read about your experiences!
    How about saft=theft? It’s maybe consistent with chinglish grammar to use “take care of” instead of “beware of”…
    Read some very interesting books about Chinese characters and the instrument Qin lately. At least the one about the characters is translated to English (China: Empire of Living Symbols by Cecilia Lindqvist) – I can really recommend it!

One Trackback

  1. By Picture in the Picture: Arrogance « on Magical World on February 1, 2009 at 14:49

    […] a related article on Chinglish, see our first impressions on China. This entry was written by Vera and posted on February 1, 2009 at 14:49 and filed under China, […]