Nothing to be done pt. 4

“When are you coming around?” Something I am not saying to anyone I would like to actually come, but my (un)trusty repairmen of course.

“Do you know if your neighbors are home?” Surely one of the most logical responses to that question ever. Sidenote, no I do not know if they are home.

So after a few messages on WeChat, setting a date and then not coming, setting a new date and still not coming, setting a final date and somehow showing up it was fixed.

What was funny though, is that my contact person of the housing agency sent a picture of the fixed and newly connected pipe. with a heap of mud around it. “It is done!” The accompanied text said. I was a bit confused and certainly not happy why there should be a heap of mud around the pipe for my washing machine. If there would ever be a heap of mud somewhere in my house, I would certainly not want it to be next to my washing machine.

“That heap of mud needs to go.” I said curtly. “There is not enough room to cover it up, it will be fine.” That is the favorite answer of course besides, “Nothing to be done” (see the title of this series).

I was certainly not going to let all our efforts lead up to me having mud piled around in my house. In the end, I understood it was cement and I made them understand it should at least be flattened out. As a bonus, they did add a tile on top of it. It made me feel very happy to have this extra service, even though I had to ask for it at least 5 times.

2 weeks have passed now without any middle-aged unhappy men, young and useless repairmen or wringing housing agency employees knocking on my door or reaching out to me. I have been using my washing machine without any problems. Life is good again.

Hush, hush, hush

Peace and quiet. Two things people definitely do not come to China for. The whole environment here is just plain noisy. From people to pets, from cars to cicadas there is always something happening and you can hear it.

I live in a ‘traditional’ 6-story building in Shanghai and there is always some pipes making a noise, or the airco outside, or my neighbors getting up at 7 to dance to very loud music.

In Shanghai, it is prohibited to honk for the greater part of the city center, but in Beijing that is definitely not the case. The symphony of all the noises sadly do not come together and it can make for quite an overwhelming experience when a bus, a truck, a car and a scooted are all honking at each other at the same time.

Furthermore, the Chinese are sort of famous for letting others ‘enjoy’ the sounds they make. Whether it is playing mobile games (without earphones), watching a drama (without earphones) or plainly calling (without earphones on the toilet), everyone can very clearly hear what they are doing.

It is the same with human comunication. People rather loudly call each other from the other side of the street, than cross it to talk normally. Kids running off are being accompanied by the increasingly louder screams of their parents that they need to come back. It does not work.

So in this environment, I always find it quite funny when people find me being too loud. I think I have been told a bit more above average to be quiet, or that I am loud. To which I can only say: I am a product of my environment. Apparently I sound more Chinese sometimes than the locals around me.

Nothing to be done pt. 3

So being a good tenant, I took the advice of my housing agency and just started up my washing machine. Not even 30 minutes passed when I heard some familiar tapping on the door and saw the same face in a state that combined anger with frustration and a touch of sadness.

“You are using your washing machine!” It sounded as if I had started a war with my unknown neighbors below.  I started explaining that I was just following advice I had gotten, but he started to mumble and walk around as if he could just take up my washing machine and move it around to solve the problem. In the end, he sort of told me that I was violating the rules and since there was no repairmen coming, he would get a guy of his own. He then stormed out of my house again.

So I reached out to my housing agency and asked them to have it repaired again. And the guy said, “Will try tomorrow.”

But the management was of course getting his own guy, so I again had visitors a few minutes later. I do not think I need to tell you what the management’s repairguy did. He walked to the washing machine, looked out of the window, took some pictures and told me I could not use my washing machine. Getting quite a bit frustrated myself I got both of them to hear the full message my housing agency sent me. Told them I am only a sheeple and following orders so if they tell me I could use the washing machine, I would.

It left an impression. Being direct still is a good way to get people to back off in China. But they would still be coming back again soon.

Nothing to be done pt. 2

“Well,” I said to him “I am only renting this place so I will talk to the housing agency and let them get back to you.”

The guy stared at me blankly and replied gruffly: “Who are you renting this from?” I told him my agency’s name and he gave no sign of recognition at all. “Give me your landlord’s number, I will contact him directly.”

At this point I started to get a bit fed up with him. Mind you, it was not even 7.30 and I still had no leaking problem in my house. I think we went through multiple forms of the conversation above in the next 10 minutes, until I finally convinced him to leave his phone number so I could reach him.

I mentioned that things can move quick in China, and surely I had a repair guy ordered through the housing agency’s app by the next evening. However, when he came I of course had no problem at my side. After checking if the downstairs neighbors were at home, of course not, I called the management guy a few times. Finally he picked up and my repair guy talked to him in the same Shanghainese-tinted Mandarin about the matter.

“Your pipe from the washing machine is too small, it needs to be changed.” He asked if it would fit in my bathroom, which I assured him would be impossible unless I wanted not to take any showers or not go to the toilet anymore. He took a look at my kitchen to see if it would fit there and decided the plumbing was too weak and again there was not enough room. Finally, he looked outside my window in a pensive matter, took a couple of photos which he would send to the agency and left.

This situation as described in the above paragraph then happened at least 3 more times. I had multiple guys visiting me, not nearly as excited as it sounds of course, and all of them made pictures, told me the pipe needed to be changed, asked if it would fit in my bathroom or kitchen and then left without actually doing anything. I almost started to wish I would have become a repairwoman if I could do my work in this way.

And then the weekend came  around. I needed to do my laundry.

Nothing to be done pt. 1


I took a look at my phone. It was 6:50. Also, my alarm did not sound like a cannon. I tried to picture myself sleeping and dreaming that sound, but it was a little bit too real.


“Hello anybwody hwome? Wopen de doowr!”

Note: this is not too make the person sound drunk, rather it was quite a heavy Shanghainese accent and I was not being very diligent in my listening.

Why was this person so confident that people are happy to open their doors at 6:50 for strangers? Now it happens to be that the walls in my building are very thin. Not that I actually know my neighbors (they were lighting up a fire in the hallway a few days ago. It did not make me want to befriend them more), but I was still a bit concerned that this might go on for too long to be comfortable.

So i put on some clothes, slowly got out of bed and opened the door. A 50/60-year old man, of about my height (1.60 cm) looked me suspiciously in the eyes. “Something is leaking.” he said bluntly. Or, to be fair he might have said a bit more, but that was lost on me. I looked back quite dumbfounded, as there was not anything leaking in my house for the past month.

He barged through the door, walked to the balcony where my washing machine was and looked out of the window. “Here” he said, “You need to move this washing machine.” Now I am quite a strong and healthy person, but I am not too confident in my washing machine-moving skills. Nor was I quite sure why this guy, who certainly did not look very professional, would be the right person to tell me so. “I am the management of this building, your washing machine is causing a leak further downstairs.”

The good thing about China is that times are very flexible. You can eat at any hour of the day, go to the bank in the weekend (or more like spend the weekend there) and arrange a housing tour on the same day. Truly, I think this was the first time I found that this timing was working against me.

So naturally I did something quite logical. Of course I should not have.

We take your time

So time is money and it is often said that there is nothing more valuable than time. At the same time, we spend too much of our day on the phone, behind screens and with way too many triggers that ask our attention. Well, I have the perfect solution for you to relive a feeling of utter boredom and frustration.

It is called: waiting. Specifically at many official or large institutions. Think of governmental organisations, banks, hospitals, mobile providers etc. The wonderful thing in China is, you can do this on the weekends, in your own time. Although, I would also like to mention it is great that everything is open 7 days a week here. I am happy that I do not need to work during the weekends regularly, but luckily others are sacrificing themselves for me.

So you wake up on Saturday and think to yourself: “I am just simply going to open a bank account.” Well, the unwritten rule is that if you enter at any time after 9.15, you need to wait at least 1 hour. Why? What is the case with all these official-looking people walking around, but not actually doing anything? Only a single counter open for all these people? Why does it seem like they spend at least 2 hours helping every client? These are great questions to ponder over when you waited so long that your phone is dead.

What often makes me agitated as a Dutch person (we value money) is that for many services you need to pay upfront. When I went to the pet hospital for my cat’s veterinary examination, I needed to hand over quite some money for a relatively mundane service. And of course you ask them after you paid what comes next, to which the answer is: “Just sit there and wait, we will call you soon.” Well, with the amount of time that passes, you can be sure that the staff want you to have enough time to think over your day, life or why you actually wanted a pet.

It works wonders, really.

Winkel je weg

De zomer is net begonnen, dus natuurlijk is de zomermode alweer in de uitverkoop! Hoewel ik ondertussen genoeg horrorverhalen over kleren en de kledingindustrie heb gelezen en gezien, is een ‘sale’ bordje toch vrij onweerstaanbaar. Bovendien breekt me het zweet gelijk uit als ik zie wat voor truien en broeken in de winkels hangen met 35 graden buiten.

Maar kleding is allang niet meer iets dat men fysiek doet. Een tijdje geleden liep ik met een vriendin een winkelcentrum in. Bij het juwelierszaakje werd eerst druk onderhandeld over alle prijzen, die helaas toch erg vast bleken te staan. Terwijl allerlei sieraden gerangschikt werden naar geschiktheid, nam mijn vriendin ook stiekem wat foto’s van de producten. Meekijkend over haar schouder zag ik dat gelijk een vergelijking werd gemaakt met andere oorbellen die online verkrijgbaar waren en er ongeveer hetzelfde uitzagen. Niet genoeg echter, dus er werd alsnog in persoon een slag geslagen.

Nu heb ik zelf een vrij grote afkeer van online kleren kopen. Nadat ik een jaar of 5 geleden in een onbestemd moment iets van 5 kledingstukken bij H&M online bestelde en ze na aankomst allemaal niet bleken te passen, had ik gelijk mijn buik vol van online kleren kopen. Bovendien heb ik de goede gewoonte lang te twijfelen over kledingstukken, liefst meerdere malen per dag (of indien mogelijk per week) binnen te gaan en dan nogmaals 20 minuten diep na te denken alvorens het toch niet te kopen.

Hoewel in China alles online verkrijgbaar is, maakt dit de verleiding niet groter. Uiteraard zijn er ook plekken waar de grote merken hun kleding verkopen, maar het komt nog steeds inefficiënt op mij over om eerst iets te bestellen, dan het te passen en vervolgens mogelijk weer terug te sturen. Daar komt uiteraard bij dat voor de echte bodemprijzen, er een extra, onvermijdelijk verrassingselement bij komt kijken. Want hoe je truitje, rokje of jurkje er echt uitziet, weet je pas als het uit de verpakking komt.

Dus het hangt er uiteindelijk maar net vanaf waar jij winkelplezier aan beleeft. Koop je liever de kleding die je ziet en goed past in de winkel, of bestel je liever een verrassingspakket wat na een thuismodeshow waarschijnlijk grotendeels teruggaat? Of als je op zoek bent naar een bepaalde stijl, dan kun je hier wat inspiratie opdoen!

Wat een weer is het weer

Belangrijke aankondiging: Ongeveer sinds mei 2017, is het vandaag weer eens voor het eerst onder de 20 graden in Peking. De winterjassen mogen weer tevoorschijn komen, de deken kan weer op het bed en poes kan weer een dikke vacht gaan groeien.

Alle gekheid op een stokje, het scheelt wel weer een graad of 10 met de temperatuur van gisteren. Deze stijgingen en dalingen horen bij het leven in Peking (naast de andere ups en downs die je al beleeft). Een van de redenen waarom het meer zin heeft om het weersbericht wat actiever te volgen.

Een andere reden is natuurlijk de luchtkwaliteit. Over het algemeen laat ik me er graag op voorstaan dat het weer me niet zoveel uitmaakt. Warm, koud, droog, nat het is allemaal relatief nietwaar? Maar sinds ik in China ben, volg ik het toch vrij actief. Of er zit in ieder geval wel wat meer urgentie achter de vraag: Wat voor weer is het vandaag?

Nu lijkt de gemiddelde Nederlander toch wel vrij gefocust op het weer. Misschien komt het door het (vermeende) gebrek aan zon dat in (delen van) ons land geldt. Het stereotype dat Nederlanders gelijk naar buiten gaan bij de eerste zonnestralen, is in ieder geval zeker voor een groot deel waarheid.

Uiteraard is het weer in Nederland natuurlijk ontzettend mild. Met een beetje geluk komt daar verandering in als de klimaatverandering een beetje meewerkt, maar vooralsnog zijn het vooral milde winters en zomers, nat het hele jaar door. Daar ben je in Peking mooi vet mee, met behoorlijk koude winters, snikhete zomers, een regenseizoen (dat zich dit jaar goed laat gelden), reguliere windvlagen uit Mongolië en haast non-existente herfsten en lentes.

En dat is dan enkel wat het weer doet, de omgeving past zich daar ook nog op een andere manier op aan. Dik ingepakt in de winter, dik ingepakt in de zomer. Ijskoud in elk overdekt etablissement in de zomer, snikheet in de winter zodat je bijna je zomerkleding weer aan wilt trekken. Kortom, naast het leven, zorgt het weer ook voor genoeg spanning en vermaak.

How to get old really quickly

No, not your Facebook timeline. Nothing happens on there anyway, especially when you are in China.

So, a while ago I had a talk with a friend of mine on relationships, age, marrying children and such a future that many people envision for themselves. We already both agreed it would not happen in our foreseeable future, you can read a previous Dutch post for more on that, but there are of course different views on the course of life. Specifically, in China where many people seem to be 5-10 years younger than they are. So this results in seeing women walking around your age with babies or children of age 4 or even older. And parents who would seem quite old with a little kid, but quite young again when they turn out to be the kid’s grandparents. It was not for nothing that I had the idea you could only become a grandmother or father once you were over 70 years old.

But not only do people tend to get kids a bit earlier here, there is more pressure earlier to get kids too. My friend and I based it off a timeline, in which people’s views change quite quickly and radically within a few years. It basically goes like this:

1.  18-21 years old

You are still young and innocent, studied long and hard to get into your university and need to focus whole-heartedly on your studies. Do not waste your time on such frivolous activities like dating or partying. You are still young. You will find love once you are ripe for it.

2.  22-24 years old

Okay, you are done with university, found a good or otherwise stable job. It is now time to actively think about the next steps. You cannot stay alone for the rest of your life of course. And your parents and family is also not getting younger as years pass by. Find that partner you want to stay with the rest of your life and make your life complete.

3.  25-27 years old

You have worked for a while now and probably saved up quite some money. What are you going to spend it on without spouse and a house? You are missing out and very quickly, your family will be too. Youth is fleeting and your parents’ worries will only increase. Is that what you want them to feel?

4. 28-30 years old

It is too late. You are old and need to settle down as soon as humanly possible. You might have a good job, a fun life and be an interesting person in general, but it just does not cut it. Do you not want your parents to know their grandchildren? Who is going to want you at this age? Who will take care of you once you are old? In short, you are a failure.

Opvoeden doe je samen

Okee in Nederland hebben we een zorgmaatschappij. Dat betekent dat we voor elkaar zorgen en dat de overheid ook een duit in het zakje doet. Nederlanders in het buitenland met visumproblemen helpen, zorgen dat iedereen naar school kan of een toegankelijk gezondheidssysteem.

In China doet de overheid ook duiten in het zakje. Sterker nog, het zakje, de duiten en de hand die ze erin doet zijn ongetwijfeld allen eraan gelieerd. Economie, kunst of religie heeft allemaal een politieke component hier. Maar ook in het dagelijks leven kom je de overheid geregeld tegen. Spandoeken met motiverende teksten, borden met waarschuwingen of de minilegers aan bewakers, politie en soldaten die overal rondlopen.

En iedereen doet mee, beroemd of niet. Ik heb op dit moment geen televisie, maar toen ik nog wel eens tv keek, kwamen regelmatig opvoedkundige reclames voorbij. Een dame die kanker overleeft en er weer bovenop komt dankzij de blije, invoelende vrijwilligers. Kinderen die alleen maar grijze tekeningen maken van hun omgeving door alle vervuiling om hen heen. Maar alles wordt op magische wijze opgelost. Door gehoorzame burgers, vreedzaam beleid met dank aan de overheid.

Recentelijk zijn ze ook begonnen met het afspelen van korte clips in de bioscoop voor de film. Er worden sowieso zeilen bijgezet om iedereen in het gareel te krijgen als er belangrijke zaken aankomen. Partijcongressen, machtswisselingen of interne spanningen bijvoorbeeld. Kosten noch moeite worden gespaard om iedereen mee te krijgen. Internationale Chinese beroemdheden mogen de partijboodschap verkondigen, meneer Xi is ineens in de kleinste dorpjes te vinden en je VPN is ineens supertraag.

Op een licht anarchistische buitenlander zoals mezelf, werkt dit behoorlijk op de lachspieren. In Nederland werken de partijspotjes al voor geen ene moer. Politici die ineens bereikbaar lijken, samen naar een betere wereld toewerken. Natuurlijk moeten we dat doen en een beetje samenwerking met de overheid kan geen kwaad. Maar opvoeden, daar hebben mijn ouders al genoeg tijd aan besteed. Daar heb ik de overheid nou net niet voor nodig.