A least, some days visiting China

Hello everyone,

After 3 months kind of locked in my home town, I finally made plans to visit a little, first in Hong Kong then in Beijing.

I spent the last week-end in Hong Kong. My very first impression was bad: surprisingly many foreigners (remember we are about twentish in Taishan…) and a faceless. soul-less town in the Central Area where m hotel was. On the second day, I went to Tsim Sha Tsui. And I understood the attraction Hong Kong has on everyone. It is alive. It is a true city. To be sure, people will say it has change too much during the last 15 years and the retrocession to China but it is still very alive. It has the energy that is lacking in France and even in Taishan…

I am currently spending the end of the week in Beijing. So far, I can only say that it looks like almost every big city I have seen: I lodge in a French Hotel (bread for breakfast. Bread. BREAD !), and I am wrtting this in a Starbuck Cafe looking the same as the one I used to study in Paris…
Maybe an update post in the beginning of next week if I am not too lazy this time

See U


Two months studying Chinese in China

From Evernote:

Two months studying Chinese in China

Hello everyone,

I have been in China since two and a half months now (yes, sorry about the serious lack of updates) and I wanted to share some thoughts on my learning Chinese.

So far, I suck. I can’t express anything except "my colleagues are not here", "I don’t now" and "I don’t speak Chinese". It helped me so far but it is not of much use to get things done in everyday life.

On the plus side, I feel several years younger: there is so much to read and I don’t understand anything. I take it as a personal challenge and I am starting to get the meaning of words, sentence, street signs… but without being able to say them… It is useful for my work because I handle many documents and I am now really busy translating things from French to English with a hint of Chinese or trying to understand what the Chinese law requires from a Foreign Company…

Among my french colleagues, there is one speaking Chinese because he spent quite a few years here on construction sites and a girl from Shanghai who spent 12 years in France. Both are trying to teach me some Chinese but with different methods. For the French guy, speaking is the most important thing and he is quite fluent but with a strong french accent. On the other side, she put tones and general pronunciation first and makes me repeat every time I dare say a word… Given the success rate, I will stick for the first method for now.

As for the studies, I went back to the routine I used for Japanese:

  • Grammar based on Teach Yourself Mandarin Chinese
  • Anki for the vocabulary
  • Lang-8 to try to write my own texts and practice on my own. Actually it is the harder part

I will also try Rhinospike soon but I can’t give any feedback right now.

Write you soon…

One month in China, so???

Hello Everyone.


I have been in China for a whole month now! So sorry I couldn’t keep up with the blog posts so far, part of it because it’s hosted on WordPress (blocked in China) but mostly because I didn’t took the time to write.

So how was this month in China?  

First of all, getting all needed paperworks brought way less concerns than before my departure in France. I had no problems to get all necessary proofs, certificates and all went according to the official planning (whereas I needed almost 3 months for the Z visa paperworks)

Truly, Taishan is a small city. I first thought it had a little bit less than 1 million inhabitants but then I discovered the difference between Taishan City and Taishan Town. Taishan Town is the district’s  name and goes more than 80km from Taishan City and that’s quite a difference.

Many people are gathered near the sea, especially most of the other expats. In Taishan city, there are 20 foreigners at the most (so farI have only met: the 4 of my company, a German, a french woman and a american (?) couple). This leads to some strange situations (being pointed at by kids being one of them).

More to come, I just wanted to keep up with you.

One week before China: Expectations



I have been busy the last few days getting prepared to move out of my current apartment (15 square-meters in Paris. No comment). So don’t talk to me about housework. But now, it’s very zen and has quite a nice echo (of which my neighbors are really fond of).

The positive thing is that I had plenty of time to think about China, what my expectations and apprehensions are and so on. I wanted to write them down, foolish or naive as they are, and have a look at them after some time in China and living the real thing.

Going there and the very first days

  • The plane is booked, my boss will pick me up at the airport, I have an apartment (#408, death and fortune, a “Get rich or die trying” presage?), so no worries there. As usual, until I set foot on the plane, stress will build up (I don’t really care about many things that can happen to me but fear of missing a train/bus/plane/appointment is a near heart-attack issue for me)
  • The Z visa (work visa): still haven’t received it. All needed paperwork is either in the hand of the visa assistant or between China and France. If everything is going according to plan (hmm!), I should have it by next thursday.
  • Another visa issue: once in China, I’ll have to change the visa to a multi-entry one and I expect it to cause the same amount of paperwork as for the first one. And this time, I will have to go to Guangzhou (about 3 hours by bus) for the medical exams, form filling, …
  • Then, getting used to the new apartment (about 120 square meters. I intend to sleep in the bathroom at first to get used to all this space, more than my last three apartment combined) and the neighborhood, how to come and go, what is there around. For this last part, I can’t use Google Maps (and Bing is even worst): it can’t parse the address I have, the resolution is awful, even compared with the most remote part of France, and there is no Street View. I will have to learn everything a l’ancienne.

Everyday life

  • Don’t know what to expect there. Totally unknown


  • I read many things about guanxi and face and I must admit I’m eager to experience it. Strangely, all the “face” thing doesn’t seem this far from the way I was bred so I’m not this scared about it. Maybe I should.
  • In some way, I fear the expat community there (about 30 French, other nationalities unknown), fear to stay in a kind of french nucleus surrounded by Chinese. I don’t want to become, by convenience, what I hate in France. I don’t mean throwing away French people but this is not Paris and only meeting and socializing with expats in a clear no to me.


  • I will work in a newly built workshop (even though the Vincente typhoon un-built part of it) for a company starting from about scratch in China so many work to be done there.
  • It’s a new work, new responsibilities for me and clearly a promotion. I hope to be up to it.
  • I have worked on projects with Chinese and for a Chinese customer in a former job but never faced them a day to day basis and from what I read, the Chinese way of management is really different from what I know. On the other side, being quite new to management, I can only learn from this experience and haven’t many habits that would need rethinking.

For those who move to another country, do these seem legit? And for those who are or spent some time in China, what would you say?

Movie review – Let the bullets fly (Rang zidan fei)


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As I really like movies and also use them as learning material when learning a language, I will try to post short reviews of the films I have watched. I will focus mostly on recent movies but vintage one can also be expected.

One of the most talked about movies of 2010, staring Chow Yun-Fat, Let the bullets fly is one of the money-heavy movies China is making these days to increase its soft power.

Synopsis (from IMDB):

Set in China during the warring 1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time imposter. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues.

I first chose to watch this movie because it was shot into and around Taishan and thought it would be a good way to have a look at it. It seems that all that’s worth the look, according to the movie, are the watchtowers (which are real, opposed to the gate fortifications seen at the beginning that were built in concrete for the movie) and the European street with its brightly painted facades. The other parts of the city (and its one million inhabitants) or the surrounding countryside were not relevant to the 1920’s background, I suppose.

The movie in itself is quite pleasant to watch. It is mostly a western “with Chinese characteristics”, a kind of mix between the classic “A fistful of dollars” for the background story and the korean made “The Good, The Bad and the Weird” for the dash of humor and non-sense. This is clearly not a great movie but it is effective and I spent a good time.

On the weak sides, I would say there is no clear bad guys, which is a must in Western Movies. Master Huang is not really the bad guy, he just happens to be on the wrong side of the story’s point of view. Possibly because it is played by Chow Yun-Fat… And, as often, the movie isn’t set nowadays. Clearly, showing corrupted officials being replaced by thieves willing to make profits on the local population in today’s China is not a good idea. Better set the scene in 1920 nationalist China.

Final review: Worth watching, if you don’t expect too much.

End note: If you want some behind the scenes footage of Taishan, CNTV made a serie of reportages on the watch towers some times ago

The longest month, so far


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Hello everyone,

I’m back in wonderful Paris and its marvelous rainy weather. Looks nore like november than July. I missed both heat and sun back in Normandy but had only a few days before encountering the very same weather here.

And, I’m bored.

All seems to be in slo-mo. The flight is booked for the 5th of August, the necessary paperwork is well underway in China, the company is booking the apartment this week, I performed all due medical check-ups and assessments last week. So know, I’m just waiting for all this to unravel so I can finally go to the embassy and fill in for the work visa.

But as of now, I’m just waiting and trying to find things to make my mind work. As I’m still in-between jobs, I don’t have acces to the projects I’m supposed to work on and wouldn’t be paid for it either way…

In a way, I should grab the opportunity and plan some trip aboard, but, and I know it’s kind of stupid, I’m afraid I’ll miss the first day to apply for the visa so I can’t engage myself om such a trip…

I found enough motivation to restart learning chinese but still haven’t had the first epiphany that can make me go on for ever on it so it’s auite hard to get my mind on that to. But I will go on!

July 2012 will sure be a long month

Training is over


After one month in the fog at the seaside, I’m back in Paris.

The training period went really well. Both my future manager and my tutor were satisfied with my work and confident in my abilities to fulfill my real mission in China.

So, what now? I’ll spend all July in Paris getting prepared for the departure. If a¥everything goes according to plan, I’m supposed to leave at the very begin of August but I’m a bit unconfident about that. I should receive my work certificate tomorrow, then apply for an invitation letter due to be issued July 20th and then apply for the visa… Given the placement company wants all documents 8 days before the departure, I’m affraid it will be to short and I’ll have to postpone everything.

Meanwhile, I’ll be undergoing various medical check-ups. Last week, I had all necessary vaccine injections and in the next weeks, I have to get the medical certificates for the visa and for the placement company, each one with a different physician, the embassy and the placement company having different requirements, meaning different appointments and a higher bill in the end…

One thing I’m quite ashamed of is that I’m didn’t study a single bit during the last month. Not a minute of Cantonese… I’ll have to make up for this…

Filling in for the Work Visa

Part of the paperwork I’m currently coping with is the one for the visa.

Going to China to work there means I must have a Z Visa. I’m quite surprised by the sheer number of documents I have to present, including the “Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Unit” and the paperwork that still need to be done in China to get the Residency Permit and then the multi-entry visa.

I won’t be living in one of the big cities like Beigjing, Shanghai, … where expats are quite common and where embassies and consulates are located. The nearest one will be about 2 hours by bus away.

I am not completely naive. I know that in many countries, the amount of paperworks is overwhelming and that it is troublesome to change a single piece of information in some others. In France, both issues are raised: many paperwork is needed (and the clerks are reluctant to give you the list) and the process is very poorly managed, forcing people to sleep in front of the doors every night to get a chance (and not more than a chance) to enter the next day.

I just happen just to have had to show my ID card to get into other countries so far.

There’s also another issue that is currently bothering me: the current “crackdown on foreign trash” campaign. To put it bluntly, due to misbehaviour from some foreigners, the Chinese officials are leading some “clean-up” operations on irregular foreigners (no visa, or not the right one) As far as I’ve been able to read, they seem to focus in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengin. But will it bring trouble to me to get the visa? And once there?

By the way, a farewell question for the truely english-speaking readers: is “Alien” a widely use word for foreigner? I only read it in Asia related articles but how is it elsewhere?