China vegetable market

“Zdravstvuyte! Do you speak Russian?”

When I’m at the local vegetable market the other day, a Chinese guy in his 40s says: “Zdravstvuyte!” Me: “Sorry, I don’t understand.” “Zdravstvuyte! Do you speak Russian?” “I don’t. I’m not Russian.” “Zdravstvuyte! Kak dela?” “Maybe if you tried…

cows

“Won’t anyone steal the cows?”

It’s January, 2016. I go to a blind massage place and talk with the massage therapist working there. We come to talk about cows in Austria and in China. Me: “The cows here are really slim.” Him: “They are, are…

“Life in China is exhausting”

It’s November, 2014. My husband and I go to a bathhouse. I really like Northeastern China’s bathing culture and we try to make time once in a while to relax a little (which isn’t always easy with a 4-month-old). When…

“I’m very unlucky to have ended up in Siping”

It’s February, 2015. I go to a hairdresser in Siping. The hairdresser starts talking with me. He asks where I cut my hair the last time. I tell him about my experience: “I went to a hairdresser near the university. When he was…

countryside in jilin

“What do you do to worship your ancestors?”

Today is not only Easter Sunday, but also Tomb Sweeping Festival (清明节 Qīngmíng jié, also called Qingming Festival) – a Chinese holiday where people visit their ancestor’s graves. We don’t celebrate Tomb Sweeping Festival today, but we visited the grave of my…

Changchun

“Westerners have better physical strength than Chinese”

It’s October 2014. My husband and I visit his cousin in Changchun. My husband tells his cousin about my sitting the month (a tradition called  坐月子 zuo yuezi in Chinese that should help a woman recover from childbirth). He explains: “Westerners don’t…

soviet

“Where’s your Soviet companion?”

It’s January, 2015. I go to a bathhouse. When the employee opens my locker, she asks: “Where’s your companion today?” “Who do you mean? My husband?” “No. The tall woman who came to the bathhouse yesterday. The Soviet.” “Umm, I…

Chinese breakfast

“You should eat animal fat”

It’s November, 2014. My husband and I stay a week in Dalian with baby. Every morning, we eat at a small dumpling place close-by. They have a choice of dumplings, congee, tea eggs and pickled vegetables. I always order vegetarian…

diapers are bad

“Diapers are bad for your baby’s pee-pee”

It’s October 2014. My husband, I and baby are in Changchun at my cousin-in-law’s place. His wife watches us change diapers. Before we put on a clean diaper, she says: “Wait a while. Let his pee-pee get some air.” She then goes on: “Do…

taking baby outside

“It’s way too cold for your baby to be outside”

It’s October, 2014. We’re in my husband’s hometown, Siping. Siping is in Northeast China and it’s already quite cold at this time of the year. Lows are in the single digits (around 2°C or 35°F). During the day, we still get…

“He had to suffer discrimination in North Korea”

My father-in-law tells me about one of his former co-workers. He says: “He’s from the northern part of North Korea. At first he didn’t understand anything we said. He would always stare at us without saying anything. At that time,…

“Why are you going to the 12th floor?”

I enter the elevator and press the button for the 12th floor. On the 8th floor, a four-year old girl and her grandmother enter the elevator. They press the button for the 23rd floor. The little girl looks at me…

“I went to kindergarten for 7 years”

One day in the fall of 2013, I listen to two co-workers talking. One is a guy from Northeast China who’s 24, the other one is a woman in her mid-30s who has a 3-year-old child. She tells us how…

“Americans like to fight”

One day in the summer of 2013, I go to the hairdresser. The guy who washes my hair asks: “Are you from the US?” I: “No, I’m from Europe.” He: “I see. Americans like to fight. They like to go…

“Does Austria also have birth planning?”

This is the last part of a conversation I had with a cab driver who took me to the airport in Shenzhen. The conversation was rather long, so I’ve split it into 6 parts. Click here if you’ve missed part…

“The most important thing is happiness”

This is part 5 of a conversation I had with a cab driver who took me to the airport in Shenzhen. The conversation was rather long, so I’ve split it into 6 parts. Click here if you’ve missed part 1…

“Do you like China?”

This is part 4 of a conversation I had with a taxi driver who took me to the airport in Shenzhen. The conversation was rather long, so I’ve split it into 6 parts. Click here if you’ve missed part 1…

Weddings and gifts

This is part 3 of a conversation I had with a taxi driver who took me to the airport in Shenzhen. The conversation was rather long, so I’ve split it into 6 parts. Click here if you’ve missed part 1…

“Do you know Deng Xiaoping?”

This is part 2 of a conversation I had with a taxi driver in Shenzhen. The conversation was rather long, so I’ve split it into 6 parts. Click here if you’ve missed part 1 (“Is learning English hard for you?”)…

“Is learning English hard for you?”

This is part 1 of a conversation I had with a taxi driver. The conversation was rather long, so I’ve split it into 6 parts. Stay tuned for the other parts: “Do you know Deng Xiaoping?”, Weddings and gifts, “Do…

“Your breasts are almost non-existent”

This is part 2 of 2 of a conversation with L, a woman in her mid-twenties working at a massage parlor. Click here for part 1 (“Can pregnant women have massages?”). This post is about women’s issues and might not be…

“Can pregnant women have massages?”

This is part 1 of 2 of a conversation with L, a woman in her mid-twenties working at a massage parlour. I have talked to her before, click here if you’ve missed the last conversation with her. Stay tuned for…

“I think you’re biracial”

One day in August 2013 I’m at the gym. It’s a hot and sweltry evening. After only 15 minutes of working out, my head is red like a tomato. A guy in his 40s stops in front of me. He…

“I always take my bike”

Right across the street from our building is a guy in his 50s who repairs all different kinds of things. One day in the summer of 2013, I take my bike to him to repair a puncture. While he’s mending…

“Who takes care of the kids?”

I have lunch with my new coworker, a woman in her mid-to-late 30s who has a 2-year-old son. She asks me: “Who takes care of young kids in Austria? In China, it’s often the grandparents who look after the kids,…

“Did you come here with your family?”

This is part 2 of a conversation I had with a woman called L who is working at a massage parlour. Click here if you’ve missed part 1 (“How come you married so young?”). Stay tuned for part 3 (“Do…

“How come you married so young?”

This is part 1 of 3 of a conversation I had with L, a 25-year-old woman working at a massage parlour. Stay tuned for part 2 (“Did you come here with your family?”) and part 3 (“Do people in Austria…

Is your wife from Russia?

In January 2013, my then fiancé (now husband) and I take a cab. The cab driver starts a conversation with my fiancé, not knowing that I understand everything they say. Cab driver (pointing at the pineapple in my fiancé’s hand):…