Mini China

Happy Hump Day 🐪

If you read my last post you’ll know that a few weeks ago we spent a weekend in Shenzhen; a city 1 1/2 hours from Guangzhou and the one we pass through to get across to Hong Kong. Our main reason for the trip was to see Fall Out Boy perform (incredible) but we decided to book a hotel and turn it into a mini staycation! Toby has only visited briefly for business and I’ve only passed through a few times in a car/on a train so I’ve been waiting for a chance to explore and see what the city has to offer!

Brief answer: a lot, from what we saw!

We stayed at a hotel located in the bay area for convenience getting to and from the concert so we didn’t venture into the inner city (apart from the station we pulled into which looked meh) but it all looks super modern and very “up and coming”. Once a small market town of 30,000 people, it was actually one of the fastest growing cities in the world in the 1990’s and 2000’s so most buildings look very shiny and new. It’s also still growing; Shenzhen built the most skyscrapers (11, if you’re wondering) than anywhere else in the world during 2016. That’s even more than those built in the whole of the USA and Australia combined. You get the idea. It’s definitely not an old city!

In order for us to fit in as much as possible during our short stay I took to the internet to do a little research and put together a bit of a plan. I can be spontaneous.. but I like to be organised more 🤪.

I’d read about a park called ‘Splendid China’ that’s full of miniature tourist attractions from all provinces around China and thought, why the heck not! Who doesn’t love a good miniature structure?? I had low expectations but it was surprisingly good fun, and if nothing else we took away a good idea of places we’d like to see (the larger versions, obviously) around the country.

After wandering around in the sun for a good few hours we were in search of somewhere to sit with a cold drink, so little miss organised (that’s me 🙋🏻‍♀️) directed us to an area called OCT Loft. The space consisted of a few warehouses converted into coffee shops, restaurants, cute boutique stores and funky little art galleries and was the perfect place to relax and watch the world go by for a while. The atmosphere of the whole area was so chilled and I’d imagine it’s a really fun place to go for a few drinks in an evening (we passed by a bar with a live jazz band which looked awesome). Looks like we might have to go back another weekend..

In the evening we headed to Sea World for dinner (no, not THAT Sea World) as I’d read there were tons of places to eat. We settled on a burger restaurant because sometimes you just need Western food, but they seemed to have restaurants serving every cuisine you could possibly think of. Randomly there is a huge boat in the centre of the complex and there’s also a water show every evening set to music, as well as blasts of fire which took us by surprise (I think I screamed..). It was a really nice place to wander around for a few hours just soaking up the atmosphere and browsing the little market stalls that were dotted around selling random knick knacks, arts & crafts and snacks.

To me, Shenzhen felt a lot like Singapore. The main highway running from one side of the city to the other is parallel to the shore line (you can see Hong Kong through the trees) which made me think of the ECP, which is the road in Singapore linking the airport to the city and runs alongside East Coast Park and the sea. Everything felt very comforting and familiar which I loved. If you’re ever in China I would definitely recommend visiting for a few days as it felt like a a watered down version of the country that’s easier to digest for foreigners, if that makes any sense.. 😂

After getting back from Shenzhen, a short working week followed by 5 days of pure relaxation, we arrived back in Guangzhou from our holiday in Cambodia just a few days ago. It was one of the nicest trips we’ve taken for such a long time and we learnt so much about the country which, I’m ashamed to say, I really knew nothing about before we visited. Look out for my next blog post about that if you’d like to see what we got up to, and until then enjoy the rest of your week!

Thanks for stopping by and showing my blog a little bit of love 💕

englishgirlinchina xo

Travelers & New Friends

Happy Sunday everyone ✌🏼

Are you having a great weekend?! I hope so!

Something I used to struggle with when we first moved to Guangzhou was that we would go about our daily lives without spotting another Westerner. I hated that we stuck out so much. A BIG contrast to living in Singapore where a large percentage of the population is made up of expats, so “our kind” were everywhere. It’s something I’ve got used to and now don’t tend to realise as much so it’s funny that I now notice the opposite, when Westerners are everywhere! The Canton Fair – China’s largest trade show – has been on for the last few weeks so people from all over the world have suddenly appeared in the supermarkets, shopping malls and metro stations. Now that it’s over there’ll be a mass exodus of visitors and we’ll go back to being the minority… which I’ve kind of grown to like 😉

I always used to write on my blog about strange things happening to us but it seems that now we’re over 1 year into this adventure those experiences have stopped, or we’ve just got used to everything and nothing seems strange anymore! A few weeks ago we went for a walk around Tianhe stadium one evening after dinner and were approached by a group of Chinese people, probably around 20-25 years old, dressed in their smart work uniforms with pen and lipstick all over their faces. I think they must have been on a post-work outing and were definitely drunk, but they were all asking to add us on WeChat (the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp) and wanted us to take selfies with them. They seemed to swarm around us for no more than 5 minutes before vanishing again, leaving us standing there like “what the hell just happened?!”. It was a little overwhelming but very funny… and now I’m pretty sure my parents are convinced that it happens to us daily! Unfortunately the selfies mentioned were taken with their phones so I don’t have photographic evidence of the encounter, but my dad filmed the whole thing..

My parents have now officially left China! The first few days after having people to stay are always a bit sad but I’m expecting to feel especially mopey for a bit longer just because it takes a while to get back into the groove of long distance text messages and FaceTime calls. There are a few places that I wish we could have taken them while they were here, but like I said before the weather wasn’t particularly nice on the days we had off so being outside would have been a bit miserable (yes, I’m talking about the weather again… I’m British. It’s our favourite topic 😂). In between the showers/downpours we ventured out as much as possible, one of those afternoons being a trip to The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees (Liurong Temple), somewhere Toby and I have visited a few times now because the architecture is so beautiful and it’s such a peaceful place amongst the hustle and bustle of city life. The area is made up of several different halls and pagodas that were built among 6 banyan trees in 537 – hence the name, chosen by a litterateur who was visiting from the North during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). The history here dates back around 1,400 years! Something I really wanted my mum & dad to experience while they were here is the culture and I’m happy that they immersed themselves as much as possible, even giving us the names of a few places to visit that we haven’t been to before. Needless to say our “Things To Do in Guangzhou” list has grown and I can’t wait to do some more exploring of our own.

We knew May would be a quiet month between my parents leaving and our next guests arriving (our best friends from Singapore are coming to see us in June – wooop!) so we’d planned to pack as much into this next month as possible. This weekend we’ve been in Shenzhen, our neighbouring city, to see an American band on Friday night called Fall Out Boy – nostalgia overload! They were huge in the 2000’s and some of their music takes me right back to high school so we couldn’t resist buying tickets when we heard they’d be in China. It was such a fun night out and we had a blast singing along to their songs! It was also a great excuse to come and explore a new city which is only 1 ½ hours from us by train, so it’s been a weekend very well spent. Next week we are off on a fun little trip again, but this time to Cambodia which I am VERY excited about! We’re lucky enough to have visited most South-East Asian countries while we lived in Singapore but we never found the time for this one so I’m really looking forward to finally being able to visit Angkor Wat and experience a new culture.

Look out for englishgirlincambodia, coming soon to a blog post near you! 😂

Oh and I’m also thinking of cutting my hair. Short. Really short. I’ll probably hate it BUT the humidity is rising here and I don’t want to spend another summer with long hair sticking to my back and neck every time we go out. Gross but true.

I hope you have some lovely things planned for this month too, let me know in the comments what you’re planning to get up to! 😃

Lots of love,

englishgirlinchinaXO

Buddha’s & Family Time

In life when we’re excited about future events we count down the days and wish that time would speed up, but when you finally get to the thing you’ve been looking forward to time seems to fast forward and before you know it it’s all over! I’d been so looking forward to welcoming my parents into China that from the day they booked their flights to the day they flew here time seemed to drag on and on and on. But the second we greeted each other in Hong Kong to today has disappeared in the blink of an eye. How is that fair?!

Guangzhou hasn’t been on its best behaviour in terms of weather (thanks a lot..) as we’ve had quite a lot of rain and not enough sunshine, but I’m 99% sure they’ve both really enjoyed their time exploring and seeing somewhere new (and of course, most importantly, seeing me 😉).

I always love spending time in Hong Kong so when they told us that’s where they were flying into I was super excited to spend the weekend there with them. We found a great deal on accommodation (Kerry Hotel in Hung Hom Bay) and planned out some things that we’d like to see and do. Luckily for me one of those things turned out to be the Ngong Ping cable car to Lantau Island, which is something I’ve wanted to do since the first time I visited HK – it was shut for maintenance every time we visited. I always think it feels really strange to see something in real life that you’ve previously seen in so many other photos or TV shows, so I was quite blown away when we spotted the Tian Tan Buddha (I say spotted like it was difficult to find.. it’s bloody massive). We took a few photos from the bottom before Toby & I walked 268 steps up to the top for a better look. Unfortunately during our visit there was quite a lot of cloud cover and the view wasn’t as clear as it would be on a sunny day but it was still quite impressive up there – I never realised how many little islands with beaches were dotted around Hong Kong!

Tip: If you ever find yourself in Hong Kong I’m sure this will also be on your list of things to see as it’s one of Hong Kong’s most famous attractions. I strongly recommend that you book the cable car tickets online prior to your visit. We arrived at the station to a huge queue of people waiting to buy them and were able to walk straight past. Our boarding time was at 13:15 as the earlier times were already gone when we booked, so if you visit in the afternoon be prepared to wait for a while in order to board the cabins (especially if you book the crystal cabin with the glass floor as these only come along 1 in every 4 cabins). My suggestion would be to go up in one of the first slots as the station will be quieter, Lantau Island will be less crowded and you won’t have to wait as long to get back down again!

To finish off our exciting Saturday I’d booked for us to go to a restaurant called Nanhai No. 1 for dinner, suggested by Toby who always goes on and on about how amazing the food is. I wanted to do something special to celebrate mum & dad’s birthdays that I missed earlier in the year (bad daughter) so this seemed like a perfect reason to go. The restaurant is located on the 30th floor of an average looking shopping mall, but the restaurant itself was as far from average as could be. We arrived about 40 minutes before our reservation to have a drink on the deck of their bar, Eye Bar, which offered the most incredible view of Victoria harbour. I’d imagine that other well-known sky bars on a Saturday night would be absolutely packed, but this hidden gem was relatively quiet in comparison (despite the usual buzz you’d expect on a weekend). Standing up there sipping on a cocktail with 3 of my favourite people on this planet is a memory that will forever make me smile. It was perfect.

Speaking of perfect – THE FOOD. Wow. As I mentioned above, Toby has been telling me about this restaurant for months (luckily for him he’s been a few times) so my expectations were high. This place smashed them. They serve traditional Cantonese dishes and I think they were probably the best I’ve ever eaten. Definitely add this place onto your “Must Eat Here While In Hong Kong” list, I promise you won’t regret it.

We woke on the Sunday morning to rain (the recurring theme of my parent’s trip) so spent a few hours wandering around the countless shopping malls before jumping into a car to take us back across the border to Guangzhou. I was quite sad for this part of their holiday to be over but couldn’t wait to be able to show them our city, I just really wish the weather had been a bit better. Over the last 2 weeks they’ve been out and about most days, on their own, exploring temples and places I’ve not even visited before. I’m so proud of them! Seriously. Without sounding patronising (they’ve been on this earth longer than me, after all) I was a bit worried that they would be too nervous to navigate the metro or take a taxi without us but they’ve been absolutely fine. I was at least expecting a few text messages like “send help, we’re lost” but not a peep out of either of them. When you read this, you guys have rocked China and we have absolutely loved having you here. I love that you now know where we live, work, like to eat and spend our weekends.. there’s something quite comforting in that for me.

Now, let’s enjoy the next few days together before we have to say that horrible ‘g’ word!! ❤️

I hope everyone is having a great week so far. Friday is in sight, you’re almost there!

Lots of love,

englishgirlinchina XO

My Mojo Is Back.. Kinda

Hello, beautiful people.

好久不见 ✌🏼(literal translation-long time no see).

I’ve come to realise that living here can make it quite difficult to find “comfort food”. I’ve definitely adapted and can now seek (some) comfort in a steaming hot bowl of soup & noodles, but sometimes you just crave a chicken & leek pie with mashed potatoes or a bowl of your mum’s homemade mac & cheese. Recently we found a new restaurant (a French café, if you were wondering) that serves quiche!!!! QUICHE!!!! It was delicious and eating it made me very happy. Sometimes it’s the little things in life.

Guangzhou has decided to grace us with a few more days of Spring so this past weekend’s weather was beautiful. We wanted to spend as much time outside as possible as the air quality was also pretty great so we rented some bikes and cycled about 6KM along the Pearl River. As China’s 3rd longest river (at 2,400KM) we definitely could have kept going for a while but the path we were following came to a pretty abrupt end. Perhaps next time we’ll see what happens if we go the other way. A little geography lesson for you.. the Pearl River is named as such thanks to the pearl-coloured shells that lie at the bottom of the river in the section that flows through the city centre in Guangzhou – though I must say you would never know by looking as you definitely can’t see the bottom through the murky water. A section of the river even crosses into the northern part of Vietnam!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, remember that I’ve been mentioning (only for the last YEAR) that we wanted to walk to the top of Baiyun Mountain?? I’m pleased to report that a few weeks ago we finally did it! I think it took us about 3 hours to get to the peak – we had a little break somewhere around the middle – and for the most part it was a pretty easy, leisurely stroll. In hindsight there are a few ways of getting to the very top. The way we walked back down was quite pleasant (parents with strollers were doing just fine) but the way we decided to go up was horrific. Imagine someone dousing your legs in lighter fluid and then setting them on fire. Ok, so I am exaggerating, but it really did hurt. I think it was around 1.5KM of continuous, steep steps. The path was quite narrow so everyone was walking in a line and nobody else seemed to be bothered by burning legs, I just had to keep going because I’m stubborn and didn’t want to be the person that caused everybody to stop. Once the stairs were finished I was relieved to have made it to the peak, but in true China style it was too damn hazy to really see anything. I could see the outline of our skyline and that was it. Bummer. I’m still glad we did it though and it’s another tick on our Guangzhou bucket list ✅.

In other news, next week we’ve got some VIP’s arriving – my mum and dad!!! They’ll be flying into Hong Kong where we’ll meet and spend the weekend before heading back to Guangzhou and I cannot wait to see them. Long distance relationships suck but they suck even more when you’re in one with your parents! I’m so looking forward to showing them around and for them to see where we’ve been living for the last year, it’s all very exciting.

By the way, I will be honest with you guys. I’d completely lost my blogging mojo over the last few months. But of course you noticed because I haven’t posted anything since February. I was in the process of changing my website (to something a little more jazzy and “pretty”) but it went a little bit wrong and I was terrified of losing everything, so I put on the brakes. In turn it somehow killed my motivation to keep writing. I’m trying again and will be leaving it to the professionals, so hopefully nothing goes missing in cyber space and soon englishgirlinchina will be looking a bit fancier – I know it’s such a shallow thing but we have habits of comparing ourselves to strangers online and other blogs were making me feel a bit ashamed of mine 🤦🏻‍♀️! Enough with the complaining and excuses though, I’m working on it and I can’t wait for the end result.

I hope you’ve had a great few months since we last caught up and thank you as always for following along with our adventures.

Much love!

englishgirlinchina XO

I’m Still Here!

I am the worlds worst procrastinator.

Seriously. “Write a new blog post” has been on my to-do list for weeks. I’m lazy. Then every time I start typing something a little voice in my head says “why are you going to broadcast to the internet what you did last weekend – nobody cares”! And then I realise how many hours a week I must waste watching people live their everyday lives on YouTube and figured, f*ck it! I’ll join in again (but I’ll stick to blogging instead of vlogging, I can only imagine how awkward I’d be in front of a camera).

So.. here we are. It’s been far too long since I posted anything and I’m a little irritated at myself for that. The main purpose of this is for us to be able to look back in years to come and read about the random little details of our past years that we might have forgotten – but of course I hope to entertain you too, dear reader 😉.

Here’s a life update, while I get my sh*t together and revive englishgirlinchina.

WE WENT ON OUR HONEYMOON!

It was beyond incredible. The first time I visited Tokyo made me realise I had a slight crush on Japan but after experiencing the nature and remote areas that we visited during this trip I’m like a love sick teenager. The food. The people. The culture! I’ll save it for another post (believe it or not I’ve been writing bits of it for months.. we got back 6 weeks ago. Bad Hannah) but here are a few photos to make you go “ooh” and “aah” in the meantime. Stay tuned!

WE PURCHASED AN OVEN!

This one might not be as exciting for you as it is for us, but it’s a total game changer. When we moved into our apartment we were under the impression that we had a fancy looking, stainless steel oven. Wrong. It was a dish steriliser!!! I don’t know why it took us a whole year to cave in and buy one but it’s a little beauty that sits on the kitchen counter top and makes our lives that extra bit more comfortable here.

WE SAW RIVERDANCE!

When I was little I had a pair of shiny red tap shoes and truly believed I was an expert tap dancer. I would watch my parents old VHS tapes of Riverdance and proceed to “copy” the moves in our kitchen, scuffing up the tiled floor in the process. It’s something I have always wanted to see in real life and randomly found out (just the week before) that it was coming to the Guangzhou Opera House. It was amazing and I very nearly cried when they first came out, clipping and clopping onto the stage 😂. I had goosebumps! I found out afterwards that they’d been touring China for a few months and the date we saw them was their last show of the tour.. talk about timing! Who knew I’d finally get to experience it in China, of all places.

WE’RE SEEING JAMES BLUNT IN APRIL!

Finding the Riverdance tickets had me trawling the internet for other events or shows that we might be able to see here and James Blunt happened to pop up.. so why not 😆.

WE’RE EXPECTING VISITORS!

My mother-in-law will soon be winging her way over to China and arrives this Tuesday morning. We’re so excited to finally welcome our first visitor to our home here (kind of our own fault for making everyone travel to Thailand last year.. sorry guys) and can’t wait to start showing off what Guangzhou has to offer. My mum and dad will also be visiting in April and our best friends in June, so the first half of our 2018 is pretty booked up already and I can’t wait to welcome them all to China.

WE WELCOMED THE YEAR OF THE DOG!

We experienced our 2nd Chinese New Year. Last year I was fascinated by everything but we were still newbies and I was totally on edge every time we left our apartment so I don’t think I absorbed much of it. I loved the decorations everywhere and the slightly irritating Chinese music that is played in every shop and building, not to mention the atmosphere as people prepared for the biggest holiday in China. We even had a public holiday for the whole week – but we worked it and will be taking the next 7 days off to explore with Toby’s mum instead.

ENGLISHGIRLINCHINA IS 1!

It’s now been over 1 whole year since I wrote my first post on englishgirlinchina, and what a year that’s been. Thank you for reading about our lives. I hope I’ve made you laugh a few times and that you’ve learnt something about China that you didn’t know before!

There we have it! I’d say you’re now pretty much up to date with the start of my 2018. And I promise there is another blog post coming. And another after that.. and then another. You get the point 😉.

I hope the first few weeks of the New Year have been good to you and you’ve enjoyed it so far.. can you believe we’re nearly in March?!

Until next time, lots of love.

englishgirlinchina

XO

1 Year Down

WE DID IT!! 1 year in China – ✅

Last Friday 5th marked our 365th day in Guangzhou. I almost can’t believe it.

I’m so thankful to our friends and families for supporting us from afar and for helping us reach this milestone. I most certainly couldn’t have done it without you. And to my husband, your support and hand to hold has allowed me to conquer so much more than I ever thought possible. You gave me a shoulder to cry on, made me laugh when I took things too seriously and continuously told me that I could do this. I did it! WE did it! I love you.

Just like last year Toby has been away this past week on a business trip, though to say it was a little more bearable than January 2017 is a huge understatement.  Of course it wasn’t his fault, but a few days after we officially moved to Guangzhou last year he had to travel and it was honestly one of the hardest weeks of my life so far (drama queen.. but no, seriously). Every night, once I got home from work, I would Skype my parents and cry. So. Much.  I was so unhappy. Why did we move here? I can’t understand what anyone is saying! I’m permanently confused. I’m so lonely! Thank you to both of you (because I know you’ll both read this) for your pep talks and guidance through those tough few weeks.. I love the two of you so much and am eternally grateful for you cheering me on and encouraging me to keep going even though I’m sure you’d rather have cut off your arms just to get me on the first flight back to the UK so you could give me a huge cuddle. Which would have been difficult to do if you’d cut your arms off 😉.

Anyway, that’s enough drama – that suddenly became very heavy! I’ve always tried to be so positive on my blog posts (which has been great for my mentality) but that right there ⬆️⬆️ is how this really felt at the start. I’m pleased to report I am now 1,000,000% happier – HURRAH!

Happy 2018 to you, by the way! 🎉 I hope you had a great one. We had a lovely time in Singapore and celebrated in style with sparklers and Prosecco at midnight!

Needless to say we had all had a bit too much to drink by this point.. 🥂

Now that the Western holidays are over, Chinese New Year decorations are beginning to pop up all over the place. I loved experiencing this festival last year and am even more excited to experience it this time around now that I understand a little more about the celebrations and the culture. Happy Year of the Dog!

It occurred to me a few days ago that I haven’t given an update on our Chinese lessons for a while! We’re still going, though they’ve been a bit all over the place with Toby going away for work and our teacher taking holidays. We’ve been having lessons now for 8/9 months but unfortunately we’re still not fluent yet 😜. We know a lot more words than we did and our sentence structures are getting better – if you asked me to say “Toby & I are going to the cinema next Saturday to watch a movie” I can do it, but please don’t ask me to type it out because that would take a while.. I think the key is to try to use as much of our basic skills as possible, which is something I definitely still struggle with, but I’m an excellent eavesdropper. I might only be able to pick out a small percentage of conversations but for now, that’s enough for me!

So, cheers to 2018. To continuing to explore this planet, to continue learning Chinese and to living happy, healthy lives. We’re off on our long awaited Japanese honeymoon tomorrow and I’m so excited. I’ll definitely do a post about it once we’re back if you fancy being nosy, and if you’d like to see what we get up to you can follow me @englishgirlinchina over on Instagram because I will definitely be posting a ton of photos, mostly of snow because I’m a big kid.

Have a lovely weekend!

englishgirlinchina

XO

(P.s. The day before our 1 year “Chinaversary” also marked 1 year since my first wedding dress fitting 👰🏻 and because I love my dress so much here’s one of the first photos I took of myself wearing it.. please excuse the poor quality, it’s a picture of a picture on my laptop)

Goodbye 2017

Greetings from Singapore!

We were last here 6 months ago and I thought it would finally start to feel a bit strange to come back (after nearly 1 whole year since we moved away from the little red dot 📍) but nope, I still feel so relaxed and content as soon as we land as if no time has passed at all. Wandering around the places we used to frequent most evenings just feels like we were here last weekend. It’s an odd feeling, but also a lovely, warm, fuzzy one. Bring on the gin and our NYE celebrations tonight – thank you Kylie & Dan for having us!

As 2017 is coming to an end I’ve woken up this morning (THE LAST DAY OF THE YEAR!?!?) feeling totally nostalgic about the 12 months we’ve just experienced. This has definitely been my best year on earth so far, sprinkled with a few crappy bits of course because hey that’s life and it would be a massive lie to say it’s been nothing but perfect.

So, as I sit here eating my bran flakes and banana, here is a list of 26 moments from my 26th year (we’ll get the most obvious one out of the way first).

Enjoy!

1️⃣ I jumped (hesitantly) into my biggest adventure yet – CHINA.

2️⃣ I experienced my first Chinese New Year and loved seeing the way that it’s celebrated (we also got a whole week off work, so that was pretty great).

3️⃣ I decided to start a blog to document our adventures and I’m so glad we’ll always have those posts to look back on.

4️⃣ I went home to visit my family and had a meltdown. It was bad. I was so overwhelmed with everything going on and refused to go back to Guangzhou. But here I am!

5️⃣ I left my first full time job after 7 years(!!) and started working for a great company.

6️⃣ I visited more parks this year than I think I’d ever been to in my life. China loves a good park!

7️⃣ I spent far too much time on Pinterest planning our destination wedding. There were some moments where I wanted to pull my hair out but it was so much fun.

8️⃣ We spent the most incredible week in Thailand with our families and closest friends. It was truly a once in a life time trip and I could never thank everyone enough for making the journey to spend it with us – we’re so lucky. ❤️

9️⃣ I became someones WIFE and had the most perfect wedding day I could have imagined (#7 was worth it).

1️⃣0️⃣ The post wedding blues are a real thing. Google it!

1️⃣1️⃣ I took my first trip within China to a beautiful town called Zhangjiajie. The scenery was truly breathtaking and like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

1️⃣2️⃣ I was lucky enough to visit South Korea, Japan & Macau for the first time!

1️⃣3️⃣ I’ve discovered I have a love for Hong Kong – it feels so much like the UK, it’s quite comforting.

1️⃣4️⃣ I found out that I have a polyp in my gallbladder and Google told me I could potentially die.

1️⃣5️⃣ I experienced (expat) healthcare in China and it was excellent! Google was wrong.

1️⃣6️⃣ I made new friends and realized that it doesn’t have to mean the end of the world if you loose old ones.

1️⃣7️⃣ I didn’t let squatting toilets defeat me – I CONQUERED THEM!!!

1️⃣8️⃣ I started learning Chinese Mandarin and can now have basic conversations with taxi drivers and the cashier in Starbucks.

1️⃣9️⃣ I learnt to celebrate every victory in life, no matter how small (ordering a coffee in another language is incredibly satisfying and deserves a self-high-five).

2️⃣0️⃣ I became way more adventurous with food – but I still haven’t tried chicken feet.

2️⃣1️⃣ I visited Oxford for the first time and loved the history and architecture.

2️⃣2️⃣ I watched my big brother get married and I gained a sister.

2️⃣3️⃣ I experienced another big holiday in China – Mid Autumn Festival – and tried my first Mooncake (lotus paste and salted egg yolk, quite delicious).

2️⃣4️⃣ I tried Dragon Boat racing and could barely walk the next day. SO. SORE.

2️⃣5️⃣ We spent our first Christmas alone. I was sick and we had to work but it was still a lovely day.

2️⃣6️⃣ I truly pushed myself to my limits and found that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was.

Leave me one of your favourite memories of 2017 in the comments below, I’d love to know! ☺️

Whether this is the first post of mine that you’re reading or you’ve been along for the ride since the beginning, thank you so much for following our adventures! I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for us.. and writing about it, of course!

I hope you have the most wonderful NYEcelebrations and the very best New Year! 🎉 Lots of love,

englishgirlinchina XO 

Mountains, Cockroaches & Christmas

I never considered myself an “outdoorsy” kind of girl. My childhood home is right next to a forest and though I’m sure I loved going in there to ride my bike as a kid and climb the occasional tree, as I grew up I would complain every time I had to walk the dog and don’t ever remember being the one to suggest going walking as something fun to do. I’m not sure what changed, but since I’ve been living in cities I LOVE going for walks and getting out into nature – perhaps it’s my brain trying to get me out of the hustle and bustle for a while. 🍃

On our way back to the airport after our first trip to Guangzhou (which feels like a lifetime ago now – March 2016) we spotted some cable cars going up the side of a big hill. After checking Google Maps, we realised the “hill” was an area called Baiyun Mountain and it went straight to the top of our to-do list. But once we finally moved here it got nudged down a bit, then a bit more as Summer came and it was too hot to do much outside. As the weather has been much cooler recently, along with some encouragement from one of our colleagues that wanted to join us, we decided to go a few weekends ago and it was definitely worth the wait.

I’ve mentioned it before but families here seem to love spending time together outdoors so it was pretty busy, but it always adds to the atmosphere of places like that. Groups of friends were chatting and taking pictures, grandparents were chasing after their grandchildren and everyone was smiling and having fun. We didn’t quite make it to the top this time but I’m sure we’ll go back again soon while the weather is cooler. ❄️

Speaking of “cooler” I’ve actually been COLD over the last few days! This isn’t a complaint, I’ve genuinely been enjoying wearing jumpers and boots and wrapping up with a coat and scarf again. I don’t know why but colder weather feels more Christmassy to me, I guess because every December in the UK is cold so the two click together in my brain. This year, as we’re not with our families, we’ll be going to the Sofitel for a Christmas themed dinner buffet after work. Yep – after. The 25th isn’t a public holiday here in China which really stressed me out at first but every year is different and I’m trying to embrace the differences. In my mind we’ll still be eating so much food that we can’t move for hours and I’m definitely going to bring Scrabble to the hotel with us (because we love it and it’s the only game we seem to be able to play without getting too competitive) so it will be a pretty standard Christmas Day. Thanks to Facetime we’ll still be able to speak to our parents too, so I think I’ll manage. 🎄

It definitely helps that they go all out with the decorations in shopping malls here – this is the mall underneath our apartment.

On a totally unrelated note, because bugs and Christmas don’t usually go hand in hand, our office seems to be experiencing an infestation of cockroaches. It’s horrific. They’re everywhere!!! We’ve squashed multiple roaches and even put out some poison but it doesn’t seem to be helping. If you have any good suggestions to get rid of them LET ME KNOW. I really, really hate them.. We even found one inside the printer a few days ago, then when printing a document it appeared to get dragged through with the paper which ended up being printed with a big old cockroach splat across it. Disgusting. But also quite hilarious!

I hope you have a happy, fun, safe and magical Christmas whether you’re working, spending it with friends and family or doing something completely different this year, like me! Eat too much, play some games (but not Monopoly, because that ruins friendships) and just enjoy. ❤ xo

Mid Autumn Festival

Good morning! ☀️

It’s Sunday, again. Before we know where we are it will be January.. absolute madness. This morning I was up at 07:30 thanks to the Guangzhou Marathon. The start line was over at the stadium, which we can see from our apartment, and they were playing such loud music, honking horns, a man was yelling into a microphone etc etc so Hannah didn’t get to have a lay in.. but that’s OK! It was quite fun sitting on the kitchen worktop, half asleep, watching waves of people starting their run 🏃🏼🏃🏻‍♀️.

Christmas is finally in full swing over in China 🎄. I was getting a little impatient as the decorations weren’t going up in malls until the last week of November but hey, that’s when Christmas decorations SHOULD go up right?? I’m just used to seeing things around by the beginning of October because the UK is crazy.

Speaking of festivities, I have been working on this blog post forever and I’m finally getting around to posting it. Life hasn’t been particularly crazy, I just always seem to be doing something else (like watching rubbish on Youtube.. it sucks you in). News Years resolution = manage my “free” time better!

So here we go.. I’m a good few weeks too late (ahem, this was back at the start of October) but keep on reading if you want to find out how the Chinese celebrate their holidays.

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Mid-Autumn Festival. Have you heard of it before? I definitely hadn’t until we moved here, but it’s the second largest annual celebration in China after Chinese New Year, so it’s quite a big deal. Also known as Moon Festival this holiday falls on the 15th day of the 8th month each year according to the lunar calendar. It takes its name from the fact that at this time of year the moon is at its roundest and brightest and that celebrations are held in the middle of the Autumn season.

Like all holidays celebrated worldwide, Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for families to get together and partake in traditional and meaningful activities, such as sharing food with relatives, hanging lanterns and, traditionally, worshipping the moon.

The history of this festival dates back over 3,000 years to the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256BC) where a sacrifice was given as thanks to the moon and to celebrate the harvest. During this time it was more commonly celebrated by the royal class until later dynasties when social prosperity inspired the custom of appreciating the moon among common people. By the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127AD) Mid-Autumn Festival had become a widely celebrated folk festival.

Among the foods eaten during this time of year, Moon Cake is the most special. In my opinion, it’s more of a pastry than a cake but I’ve read that people say it resembles Western fruit cakes in taste and consistency (which I wouldn’t know, as I never eat it – yuck). These delicacies come in various flavours according to the region and are usually round, symbolizing the moon and reunion of a family. In recent times people gift Moon Cakes to friends & relatives to wish them a long and happy life.

Some popular flavours include lotus paste (sweet but not TOO sweet and a little bit nutty), lotus paste with salted egg yolk (you guessed it, this one tastes a little salty) and mixed nuts/seeds with roast pork (I personally haven’t tried this one but I’ve been told it’s the most traditional flavour). In an attempt to appeal to all generations mooncakes are also now found with fruit fillings such as pureed pineapple or peach, chocolate, green tea and even ice cream – of course that last one must be served frozen for obvious reasons!

When discussing Mid Autumn festival traditions with our colleagues they told me that it was always somewhat of a battle with their siblings to ensure they took the piece of mooncake with the biggest portion of salted egg yolk in the middle. The cakes are usually quartered (you definitely couldn’t eat more than that in one sitting, they’re very dense) so they would each fight to get the best bit. This reminded me of the English tradition involving a Christmas pudding and a sixpence, with everyone hoping to get the piece containing the old coin!

Unlike Christmas, it’s not common to exchange wrapped gifts with one another at this time of year. Instead, families and friends may give gifts of food. Here are a few examples I found online:

• Fresh Hairy Crab – As Autumn is the best season for this seafood, regarded as a delicacy, it’s a popular choice when it comes to gifts.

• Tea – Often served to guests and a staple of every day life in China, a cup of tea can be enjoyed alongside a mooncake to ease the taste of fillings that may be too sweet,

• Fruit Basket – A healthy gift offering is always welcome, especially as mooncakes can be quite calorific. It’s common to give only seasonable fruits such as grapes, grapefruits and pomegranates. Pears are especially meaningful as it’s believed eating them during the festival means family won’t be apart.

• Organic rice & oil – These are also staple ingredients of every day life for the Chinese and would always be well received. Since people are seeking healthier lifestyles it’s ideal to give organic ingredients.

Which flavour of mooncake do you think sounds the nicest?! If you want to know more about this festival feel free to drop me a message, I can definitely find out the answers for you – one of the perks of working with local Chinese people, I’m learning SO much about their culture.

I hope your Christmas preparation & traditions are well under way by now. Is there anything special you like to do to get you in the Christmas mood?? Our tree is finally up and my gingerbread scented candle is burning as I type this.. it’s the most wonderful time of the year ❤️.

XO

Double Eleven

Happy Sunday, world! 🌏

How is everyone today?

I’m ready for a new week to begin. The temperature has been creeping back up to the high 20’s (I’m not impressed) but is due to crash again thanks to the arrival of another typhoon so I’ll be welcoming the cool weather with open arms – how many more times will this happen before Winter arrives??

Yesterday was a HUGE day in China thanks to the date. Also known as Singles’ Day, 11/11 (Double Eleven) began in 1993 when a group of Chinese students from Nanjing University decided to celebrate the fact that they were single. The date was specifically picked as the number ‘1’ resembles a person being alone – a fact they were proud of.

Over the following years this festival became the largest offline and online shopping day in the world. Yep, even bigger than Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day sales.

The three biggest online retailers in China: Tmall, Taobao & Alibaba, set up crazy discounts for almost any product you could think of. Shoes? Yes. Clothes? Obviously. Furniture, electronics, kids toys and everything in-between?? Deals like you wouldn’t believe! If you wanted to get the best offers we were told again and again you must stay awake until midnight to place your orders because that’s when the sale begins, but that’s apparently easier said than done as everyone has the same idea and it’s likely the websites will crash.

To give you an idea of how crazy this shopping event is, statistics released today show that on just ONE website (Tmall), 1 billion yuan (over 150 million USD) was spent in the first 28 seconds. 28 seconds!!!! On another website (Alibaba) there were 1.48 billion online payment transactions made with 256,000 processed per second at the peak of the sale. I honestly struggle to wrap my head around those numbers. It’s insane! Needless to say we were weak and couldn’t manage to stay up to place any orders/I refused because the whole concept is just crazy to me. I thought that we’d be able to join in once we woke up but the majority of stock on sale was gone. At 08:00.

We’d even heard from someone that their company paid their employees 3 days before Double Eleven so they could join in and do some shopping – it’s a big deal here! Next year I think we’ll plan well in advance to make sure we can make some savings of our own, because who doesn’t love a good bargain?

With all of that excitement now behind the nation I have a feeling Christmas preparations will be well under way. At least that’s what I’m hoping because I’m wanting to feel festive but it’s difficult when there’s a lack of Christmas spirit in the air (besides one of the offices in my husband’s building.. their decorations have been up since LAST Christmas, I was very confused when I walked past it in July) 🎄🎁.

The past week has been pretty average for me. We’ve been spending our weekends exploring a few new parks – both of which had huge lakes and little electric boats available for rent, so of course we had to hire one. It was a lot of fun until the speed began to die down and I was terrified that we’d be stranded. It wasn’t that the lake was so big that people wouldn’t be able to spot us, they could and did see us (we often get some stares but being in a little boat seemed to attract more attention than usual 😂) I just didn’t want to look like an absolute moron screaming for help. Luckily we made it back to dry land, but we did spot one other boat break down.

Enjoy your next online shopping spree, safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to stay up until midnight and you’re not fighting with millions of others to get the best deal.

XO

(P.s. My internet seems to be acting up so I can’t add any photos to my blog tonight ☹️ but if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to lately head over to my Instagram @englishgirlinchina 💕)