Once I left quarantine, I was intrigued to experience the “real” China. You are constantly told that China is the furthest extreme from the west; in some cases that is extremely true, and in others it is not.
I am working for a company in Fuzhou and they have been excellent. I was picked up by one of the native Fuzhounese workers, Andy, who helps the foreign teachers in my company with anything that is needed in Chinese.
Andy took me straight to first get my sim card and then to my medical exam. Depending on which city you are going to in China, the rules are slightly different on this front. In Fuzhou you have to get a medical in Fuzhou.
It was an …. interesting experience. Having never done a full medical before, I was a bit worried though it really wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I built it up to be. The worst part was, for me (I’m extremely afraid of needles), the blood test. Though everyone was extremely nice so it was over as quickly as it could be.
On the same day I went into my branch of my school and met the other teachers. Everyone was extremely welcoming and there is a tradition there that for the first two weeks that the old teachers pay for food due to new teachers needing to set up a bank account.
On the topic of bank accounts, Andy took me to a bank that accepts foreigners and helped me with the difficult and arduous task of setting up a bank account. I’ve been told that foreigners’ handwriting is awful compared to the standard in Chinese (having now taught classes, I can happily announce that there are 5-year olds whose hand writing is pretty much perfect) that, teamed with the fact the workers are working in a language that is not native to them, it takes a long time. I was asked to redo my signature dozens of times and it was only accepted as a best of a bad bunch.
Though I can’t wax lyrical enough about the banking system after that, it, teamed with WeChat, is a godsend. I receive a text message when money enters and exits my account as well as near instant movement between my WeChat balance and the bank account. I also removed money from an ATM from my UK account and put it in the Chinese one in the ATM, and within 2 minutes it was in my account.
The school I am working at plans outings every so often for the staff. Luckily one such outing started a few days after my quarantine ended. We ended going up Shi Zhu mountain. It has incredible sights and whilst it is an awful amount of exercise, I would suggest anyone staying in Fuzhou to go and see some of the incredible sights such as the ones pictured below.
I also went down Fuzhou’s famous ‘Three Lanes Seven Alleys’. This was an amazing experience, as every Saturday and Sunday the whole street is closed and food stalls pop up serving delicacies from ice cream to Octopus. There is an enormous amount of shops and things to do in the alleys, ranging from a cinema to jewellery shops, and with a mixture of food ranging from local fish balls to KFC and McDonalds.
So far there is only one “downside” that I have found. When I say downside, I mean something that’s a bit weird and does put you on edge sometimes – though it’s a double-edged sword and sometimes is quite nice. What I am talking about is the staring. Due to being a “Laowai” (foreigner) people will stop and stare at you in the street. Not the side of the eye stare but as in full on gawk at you. This is kind of understandable as whilst there are more foreigners here than the villages nearby, Fuzhou does not have anywhere near as many as the larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. This works both ways as in some cases it’s quite nice to be recognised; people are very kind and much more forgiving of us than they would be if a local didn’t know where something is; and they really appreciate any attempt at speaking Mandarin tremendously. On the other hand, it does grow a bit tiresome when people are taking photos of you when they thought you weren’t looking. So just be aware that in Fuzhou you will be the exotic one that the locals are interested in, so you do have to learn to live with it a bit. The first two weeks where a bit of a baptism of fire due to me walking round the city on my own most days.
COVID-19 in China
Covid is an interesting thing here. There is much more freedom than in the UK (once you’re out of quarantine), which means that you can go to restaurants in large groups or go to KTV with your friends to celebrate birthdays etc. This is because of three reasons.
- The population follow the rules set by the government much more closely than at home. When the government tells you to wear masks on public transport, everybody does it. There is not the same sense of rule breaking that there is in the UK and USA.
- The government is much more proactive than other countries. It will put policies into place much quicker than other countries which helped to slow the curve.
- Because china is such a big country it is split into municipal governments. This allows them to be much more proactive than say the UK, where the government has to decide which regions should be in which tier.
That said we still are not over Covid. In school we have had to reintroduce masks in our classes, and we are being told by the school not to travel for spring festival. Spring festival it seems is going to be the decider on whether we are allowed to teach in class or whether we have to go online.
Spring festival is the biggest holiday in china and is the biggest migration of people at one time in the world as they go home to their family home. The government is advising people to not travel, but even if a small percentage of people do that will be a large amount of people going all over the country and it could cause a spike in cases.
Effectively China is handling this virus in my opinion much better countries like the UK and USA partly as they have experience because of SARS but it is not eradicated.
Overall the first two weeks in China are full of incredible views and experiences as everything is new and incredible.