Sunday, December 06, 2015

Going to the Movies in China

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about going to the movies in Germany.  I lamented at the fact that there are breaks for long movies and that people don't audibly react whatever they're watching.  I also mentioned the fact that movies are either dubbed or not, and you're forced to watch them in 3D.  Now that I've been in China for over a year and seen a few movies, it's given me more perspective on seeing movies in the theater here, but it's also made me realize that how people watch movies is actually cultural.

Inside my local theater. If you look on the left, you'll see a rose-colored pillar.  It's so weird because they can't have anyone sit behind it.  Not very well planned out.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A Minority Becoming Part of the Majority

It's been awhile since I last wrote anything, and there have been times where I thought, "I should write about that."  But one particular topic that has come up time and again is my relationship to identity.  Being someone that went to a liberal arts college and has always been interested in the notion of identity, whether through media or external forces, living in China has really given me perspective.  So let's start at the beginning.

Let's play a game...where am I?  Answer: Just kidding, not in the pic.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Cultural Differences at Rock Shows

In the past two weeks, Christian and I saw one of my all-time favorite bands, OK Go, in Hong Kong and Shanghai.  Seeing them twice in a week made me think about why I sometimes go see bands multiple times on one tour -- even if the setlist is the same, each show is unique because of the crowd.  With this in mind, I thought about the fact that I've been to shows in multiple countries -- the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, and now this year, South Korea, Hong Kong, and mainland China (I count HK as being separate from the mainland).  So having seen OK Go in four completely different places (the US, Germany, HK, and China), here's a comparison of seeing shows in those places.

OK Go in Shanghai

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Life Behind the Great Firewall

Before coming to China, I knew about the Great Firewall, which is the Chinese government's attempt at regulating the internet.  In case you've never heard of it, it's basically a form of censorship where certain websites are inaccessible within China, including most of popular western social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Blogger, etc.), anything from Google (including Gmail), western news outlets (like the New York Times, BBC, Washington Post, etc.).

I've come to realize that basically all of the media I consume is blocked in China.  The only way I can access it is using a VPN, and even then, it still lags.  The Great Firewall brings everything down to a crawl, and if I want to upload one picture to Instagram, it could take me a good 10 minutes to do so with the VPN.  Sometimes going on the NY Times is impossible.  Quite often, the slow internet is so frustrating that I just don't go online and will just watch whatever's on TV instead (I've become a fan of Masterchef).

Basically, whenever you want to access a site that's blocked without a VPN, you get this:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Working in a Chinese office -- cultural + development differences

I've just recently reached the seven-month mark working here in Shanghai.  The company that I'm at was actually founded here by an Indian and an American, but the majority of my coworkers are Chinese (although we also have an office in Kuala Lumpur and one in Mumbai).  We're only a team of about 20 people in the Shanghai office, so comparing work styles between a Chinese, German, and American company isn't really possible since the other jobs I've had were at bigger companies.  However, there are a few things I've discovered working in China, and if you know me, I love lists.  So here are five things I've noticed about working in the Middle Kingdom.

Pictures of the office are boring. So here's a picture from Hangzhou's West Lake instead.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Inevitable Post about Learning Chinese

I've now been living in Shanghai for six months, and it's inevitable that I write about learning the language.  Even before coming to China, I knew that not being able to really speak Mandarin but looking Chinese would be a hurdle, and I was right -- every day is a challenge when I communicate with people who look at me as if I have ten heads.  People really just don't seem to understand that it's possible to be Chinese but not speak the language.  I posted this video in a post I wrote before actually arriving in Shanghai, and it can't be stressed enough how true it is (except substitute Japanese for Chinese), even if the video presents the situation in an amusing light:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Differences Between Expats & Immigrants

Ever since I arrived here in Shanghai, I noticed there's a huge expat community here.  The magazines TimeOut Shanghai and City Weekend are every expat's guide to the city; they review restaurants, put up the latest happenings, list events, and so on, all in English.  One common thread that pops up regularly is how the expat community is in a constant state of flux, mostly because people continually come and go.  This got me thinking about the differences in the terms "expat" and "immigrant."

I renamed this blog "Expat Hoch Zwei," which is the English term "expat" mixed with "hoch zwei," which in German means "squared."  Expat squared because I was an American living in Germany who moved to China.  But am I really an expat squared?

The Oxford Dictionary defines each as follows:

expatriate (noun) - a person who lives outside their native country.
immigrant (noun) - a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.

I don't have images that would go well with this topic.  So here's an image from Zhangjiajie I took.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chinese vs German Bureaucracy: A Comparison

The New York Times recently wrote an article about the Chinese middle class and the maze of red tape citizens here experience.  For example, the article talks about married women having to get a mandatory birth permit which actually expires after two years, and applying for student loans require as many as 26 official seals on various documents.  Although I've only been here for five months, I totally get that article.  And the funny thing is that I thought German bureaucracy was terrible.  It really isn't.  Here are some of my observations comparing the two, though of course this is only just scratching the surface.
Some of the paperwork required as a foreigner here in China.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pictures are Worth 1,000 Words

I know I haven't written recently much, but there are so many topics I still want to cover that I haven't gotten around to: the pains of changing my visa, the difference between being an "expat" and an "immigrant," the joys of being an American-born Chinese person and struggling with the language, starting work in a Chinese office...but I admittedly haven't gotten around to it.  I'll get to those in the future, I promise.

What I've actually been doing a lot of recently is taking photos in the subway.  I have a 45-minute commute one way, so I have a long enough ride that I can people-watch.  And people-watching in the Shanghai subway is...interesting.  For one, everyone is on their smartphone watching videos and they ignore people they're with or forget to actually get off at the correct stop.  I even learned the term for these people in Mandarin -- 低头族 (ditou zu), smartphone addicts, or I think the literal rough translation would be "those who keep their heads bowed."  (I learned this from listening to some podcast)

There's been some really funny/odd/disgusting things I've seen in the subway, and I've sent them to some people swearing I need to start a blog or hashtag, #shitiseeontheshanghaisubway.  So here are things that I've seen and observed.

There's the odd exception:

I took this photo today in the Lujiazui subway station at rush hour.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Shanghai, Lujiazui is the financial district.  Normally at rush hour, this station is overflowing with people shoving and elbowing their way onto the escalator, and it's total chaos.  Today, it was like an apocalyptic movie with it being the first day of the Chinese New Year holidays.  There was hardly anyone in the station.  I basically just went around taking pictures of the empty city, but this is the empty station, which is very rare indeed.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

5 Apps Making My Life Easier in China

One major difference between the first time I moved abroad and this time around is having a smartphone.  Admittedly, I was a bit slow to jump on the smartphone bandwagon and only got one at the beginning of 2014.  My main reason to finally cave was because working at a tech company, my colleagues would laugh mercilessly at my old school Sony Ericsson, but I also wanted a new compact digital camera.  I figured I'd just get a phone with a great camera, which is why I decided to get *gasp* the Nokia Lumia 1020, a Windows Phone.

Since getting here to Shanghai, I've really come to appreciate having a Windows Phone because the native apps aren't blocked here.  Frankly, I don't get how Android works in China since the majority of Google services are blocked; even Gmail has been blocked via protocol (supposedly it's working again, but I haven't gotten any emails from my Gmail account on my phone for days).  Some may argue that there aren't any good WP apps available out there and everything is being developed for iOS and Android.  This may be true, but by doing some research and following sites like Windows Central, I've found some great apps that have helped me greatly here in China.  Here are five apps that have made adjusting to life here much easier.  (Note that I'm not including photo apps here because although they're great to have, these apps are really about adjusting to life here in China.)