A Travellerspoint blog

The Life of a Chinese Hair stylist

The best damn haircut you'll ever get.

I've been here almost two months and not a day goes by that something else don't discover something new. Its a great way to fight off boredom. A lot of things appear really strange to me. Sometimes its the well dressed business man peeing by the bushes. Other times its the pick up trucks stacked three times their height with plastic bottles. But undoubtedly the thing that entertained me most was just outside my apartment.
There is an idea here in China that positive behavior will lead t positive outcome. Sure that's the case in most cultures right? But the Chinese take it to a new level. Especially their hairdressers. They believe that physical exercise, or dancing if that's what you'll call it, will create a better working environment. I was told that it encourages hard work and happiness in the work place. I guess it makes sens on paper. But we Westerners will do it on our own time or even after work. We certainly don't bring our colleagues into exercise schedule if we don't have to. And definitely not all of them!

Just like the egg rolls from home, the Chinese do it differently. I stepped outside my apartment at about 9 am to wait for the bus. I had a few minutes, so I walked to the nearest convenient store for a snack. I was awestruck by the scene when I turned the bend. There was two single file rows of hairdressers, men and women, facing their store dancing to music. They were dancing in sync! An instructor (I'm assuming they take turns instructing because ive seen other people leading since then) lead the way on the entrance step of the salon. The music blasted and these hairstylists were going at it! Arms to the left, arms to right, shuffle forward, now back! "do it again."

In all of my adult life Ive never been so caught off guard by something. My hunger for breakfast was quickly replaced with curiosity and entertainment. I genuinely had a really good laugh to myself there. But no one seemed to laugh with me. Passer-byers seem to just glance over and continue about their day. They've probably seen this many times before. Not me. I had to take this in.

About ten minutes later they finished their routine. They congratulated one another all with a high five and what might be equivalent of our chest bump. I mean it was the complete opposite of everything we do. Its like having gym class first period. You put your deodorant on, you do your hair, get dressed up and then go get sweaty. A friend of mine told me that they don't exercise enough to sweat but i couldn't imagine any of the girls make-up and hair withstanding that heat and movement.

This wouldn't be the last surprise the hair stylist brought me. Usually when I return at night they are closing up their shop. The manager, a tall man with a high hairline and a mustache who usually dresses in a suit or vest of some sort, has a few words with his staff. Again they line up in two single files. The manger walks up and down between the rows speaking to them as if they are catering staff about to serve the president of the country. I believe this is when he goes over the things that were successful that day, or whether operations within the work place need to change. They all seem to be obediently paying attention to his thoughts. But if that's not enough for you to really get a kick out of it the Chinese hair stylist lifestyle, then maybe how they clean up will. The store blasts Soviet sounding music as they clean. In a combination of drums and trumpets, a seemingly never ending climax of communist music will play as they wash the windows and clean the floors. These jobs are taken seriously . Though I have a hard time not staring in amazement, the workers do this day in and day out. I just wonder if this idea is reflected in any other working environments. do employees at KFC, or Yoshinoya do this at the start of their shift? What about office workers? Actually, I think it might be best for people who sit behind a computer all day to do this. Studies have shown that after a small vacation, worker productivity increases. What about a small break from the laptop? After all, promoting some sort of physical exercise and movement in the morning is a good thing. We are all reluctant to work out as it is. What if we had to? This single motivator might help us life a happier and healthier lifestyle. But I don't see this catching on anytime in the next global era..

Posted by BHammer301 22:21 Tagged culture in china music dancing mall chinese sex makeup gender liangmaqiao jiuxianqiao indigo roles Comments (0)

Culture Shock in China

Everyday is a New Experience

sunny 20 °C

There are so many things in China that might seem completely backwards to the Western perspective. Upon my arrival I felt certain that culture shock would not affect me. After all, Ive already visited 15 other countries. Im a traveling vet! Right? Well this delusional confidence soon faded into the fog of Beijing. What I was about to experience would be a series of frustrating, eye-opening, and critical learning experiences.

The things I take for granted most proved to be the times when I nearly lost my mind. Being able to go to a shopping mall and get some food is one of the most primitive exchanges of the human species. I give you something (in this case money), you give me something in return (I wanted food). So I walked around this brand new mall that opened near me called "Indigio." There is a McDonalds in there and many major designers. It all seemed so familiar. I felt right at home. However, after finally deciding I wanted some spicy Szechuan food from the carousel of Food Republic, I simply pointed to my dish (which they neatly had on display) and went to pay. The only issue was when I went to hand her the money she point back at me to leave. I said to myself, "Huh? Why is this woman pointing to the exit? Just give me my damn food and take my money. This doesn't have to be complicated lady." She was telling me to leave! Did I offend her? Is this some lingering communism/ democracy shit? She must have some residual animosity towards westerners. I didn't do anything wrong. Is she messing with me? Am I on one of those crazy Chinese hidden Camera shows? Whats next a giant panda is going to appear from under the counter? That would be a great way to start off my trip. What the heck did this mean? And why was she ordering me to leave? She was turning down my cash. I was ready to take my food in run. But I just arrived! I would surely lose the over/under on how many days my friends bet it would take until I got kicked out.

So, I walked to the exit and left my food waiting for someone else. I felt defeated and my hunger only made things worse. What I needed more than anything was a drink at this point. After reflecting on what the heck just happened, I waited in the hall outside the food entrance. That's when it struck me. People were buying food cards before they even entered! Ahhh Ive seen this before! Ive done this before. Why on earth didn't I understand it? Well its because I don't speak Chinese. There was no English sign that said, "Pay First." I watched as people approached the counter bought a food card and then, like an assembly line, swiped their cards and ate their food. This was soooo simple. I should have thought of it, but I let my emotions get the best of me. I would have had no idea what to do if I didn't calm down and look at things a little more carefully.

I put money on my card, bought my food, and enjoyed it more than I would have had I paid cash. After I finished, I went to throw out my tray. An older woman in an orange apron attacked me with a dishtowel and ordered that I put it down. "WTF! What now? Do I have to swipe my tray too?" Turns out, you don't really need to clean up after yourself here. When you go out to eat at a fast food place or any place that has garbage's and a tray rack, you don't need to clean it yourself. I noticed that other people left their trays on the table and I thought to myself, "how rude of them. I'm gonna be a good foreigner and throw my food away." Well apparently I was doing another ladies job and she didn't take too kindly to that. Or she was trying to teach me how things worked because everyone in the place witnessed my epic collapse when ordering earlier.

Thankfully I met a nice guy named Oliver (they choose the oddest English names) and he spoke perfect English. Oliver was a manager at a western style restaurant downstairs and was just on his lunch break. He told me that when I am ready to leave, if I return my card, they'll give me the deposit back. "There is a deposit for a card?" I thought. Then it made sense. Instead of printing 8 million of these plastic cards a month, just charge people for it so they return it. Now that's an efficient business model. Its a win-win situation. And to top it off, you don't need to worry about the food handlers having dirty money hands, something my mother always warned me about. So I got 10 CNY back (my food only cost 25 CNY). I guess that made me feel a little better.

Oliver was a nice guy. Most people here are very nice here. They are more than willing to help you, but lack the English skills to do so. or is it that I lack the Chinese skills. You just have to be patient. Many Chinese are curious what I'm doing here and sometimes stare at me. I stare right back at them and think to myself the same.

This method of purchasing food in food courts would prove to be very common in Beijing. It was not the last time I would use it. You'll use this card system with the subway passes too. New York, which has metro cards lying all over the place, could learn a thing or two from their Chinese counterpart across the globe.

Posted by BHammer301 19:38 Archived in China Tagged food culture shopping language cards buying exchange credit transactions shcok Comments (0)

Traffic in Beijing, getting a taxi, and riding the Subway

Crossing the road, riding in taxis, and getting out of the subway terminal

27 °C

Walking on the street in Beijing is like the show "I shouldn't be alive. " Day 6... I nearly got crushed but a mega bus with 78 people on it going 60 mph on Jianguo rd!"

A colleague of mine put it this way, make yourself a bobble head. Seriously never stop looking both ways. Cars, bikes mopeds and electric scooters and anything else you can fit on a road will try to run you over. People do not have the right of way here. Its our job to watch out for the vehicles. Its crazy when you think there are over 5 million cars on the streets of Beijing. Outside the city and in the touristy spots its not so bad. But main intersections at rush hour can be like playing frogger on steroids

This morning, I watched herds of people cross the street to avoid crossing at the intersection. They were walking against traffic and next to the divider on a busy street. Im surprised there aren't more traffic deaths here. This place is lawless when it comes to traffic rules. Anything goes. If the person in front of you is making a turn, just go head on into traffic and go around them. In some areas you'll see a barrier, almost like a white fence, separating the lanes to prevent drivers from doing this.

Its an intense sight to see. Its even more exhilarating when someone pulls out of a street full speed and you have to stomp your foot on the imaginary break in the taxi. But to Chinese drivers its really not that big of a deal. The horn is used like a musical instrument here. Apparently no one finds it annoying.

When its time to catch a taxi you have to be aggressive. I dont mean push a someone out of the way. Never do that. I always try to remember I am in their country and I will always be wrong on these issues. Aggressive more like a car jacking. Taxis have lights on their cabs much like they do in New York to signal if they are available. But you see dozens of cabs just driving around with no light on and no one in their car! I still don't know what to yell, so I wave my hand frantically until they pull over. In the few weeks Ive been, Ive taken nearly 30 cabs. Sometimes you just have to jump in one when they slow down. They haven't tried to drive away from me yet. They usually slow down cause they know I caught them. Im not suggesting to do this, im just saying its an option and it works. Apparently after writing this I discovered that the taxis will switch shifts with other drivers so they stop picking up people. Usually they are on their way back to a meeting point to switch. Here taxis purchase their vehicle for the full 24 hours and in order to optimize the amount of money they make, they share it with someone else.

Make sure you have a map when you tell the cab where you want to go. None of them speak English and they all take different routes. Some of them usually don't know where they are going because they aren't from Beijing. They just came here to make a little money running a taxi with their brother or something along those lines. They charge a minimum of 10 rmb plus a 2 rmb surcharge. Then it goes up about 2 rmb every couple km. Very convenient and very cheap usually about 3-4 bux. ALWAYS HAVE A MAP! :-)

Its especially hard to hail a cab during rush hour. Best bet is to take a cab to the nearest train station and go from there. The subway system is very efficient. Recent renovations and extensions due to the 2008 Olympics have made it a much nicer and far more advanced system than the New York lines Im used to. Most of the stations have glass barriers and doors that align with the cart entrance. Line 1, the red line, doesn't and that's the busiest line that runs right through Tienanmen Square. They are very clean and very safe. Each entrance you'll have to run your bag through a scanner. I did see someone sleeping at the scanner the other day. To give her the benefit of the doubt it was late and a very boring job. Be prepared to pack in. If you see a seat, sit in it as soon as possible. There are hardly ever any open seats on the main lines, so be ready to stand for a while.

Also, youl'l save a little money if you purchase a metro pass. They are about 20rmb and each ride, no matter what distance, will cost you 2 rmb. Keep this card handy because you'll need to swipe it again in order to exit. You should have seen me trying to figure out how to exit. I bought a one way, which your supposed to dispose of in order to exit. I was swiping it like everyone else and I caused a huge pile up. Thankfully a security card ran over to me and showed me where to insert the card. Much to my relief, I wasn't the only westerner I saw have this problem in the coming weeks.

There isn't much need for a car in Beijing. Unless you plan on hauling around your furniture or traveling outside of town, the transportation here is extremely convenient. Most Chinese don't own their own vehicle, but that is rapidly changing. The Chinese are growing, getting richer and want more goods. They want bigger cars and more of them. Beijing has had a record number of applications for a vehicle registration this in recent months They are only administering 20,000 new vehicle registrations this month, but have one milion applicants. That means, supposedly, you should only see 20,000 more vehicles on the road next month. You can read more about it in this link.
zhu ni hao yun! (good luck)

Posted by BHammer301 00:48 Archived in China Tagged taxi metro city china transportation beijing subway getting around dangerous danger card terminal prices system fares rmb Comments (0)

The Best Blog about China

Day one in Beijing. Getting my police registration form. What to expect when you arrive.

overcast 30 °C

When I first arrived in Beijing it was well past sundown. I feared doing anything outside because I did not have my police registration form. This is something all foreigners need to have once the arrive in china. We are supposed to register with the local police station. Ive read articles of how important this was to do or you could be picked up by an officer and brought to jail. There have been recent crackdowns on illegals in Beijing. However, I did not feel alarmed or even rushed to get one. My rental agent said she would take me in the morning and she did, but insisted that Beijing is safe and nothing would have happened to me had I gone for a walk. She said " America is dangerous, everyone have guns." Coming from a person in a communist country that made me laugh. I guess our view of them isn't what it should be. Everyone seems really friendly here. Ill do a more thorough investigation into their laws in the near future. But seriously this place is so crowded with people I can't imagine anyone stopping me. Still, this is the first thing you should do. Apparently it has to be done by a certain time because they either close or stop doing it at 1130 am. (one week later and still no one has approached me about it.)

So, before all the crazy whistles, horns music and chanting began I decided to go for a walk anyway. Didnt seem like much at 7 am but with time, the restaurants, cafes, stores, and shopping malls all began to open. This is Beijing and this place is huge. I currently reside in lido in Chaoyang district. I was told this was a more western area, but I havent seen more than 4 white people outside the terminal. There are more Chinese doing more things in more places than Ive ever seen before. Everyone, is working, everyone is on a bus, everyone is crossing the street, everyone has a motor bike, everyone is everywhere.

Getting a phone: Activating your cell phone from home here can be tricking, but it can be done. I brought an iphone 3 g to China and the school im working with gave me prepaid Sim card. I can make local calls now with no problem. Some of the latest versions of ios need to be jail broken and unlocked. The guy at the store knew exactly what to do. Getting your phone unlocked isn't difficult you just have to know how to say it in Chinese. It helps to have someone who speaks the language. Otherwise I never would have got this done. I literally don't know how to ask for anything. Ive met very few people who speak English here so far. If you don't have a phone, there are plenty of models available at china mobile. The prices seemed comparable to ours. You can get a simple phone for 50 bux. If you pay a little more here it isn't the end of the world so long as its good quality. The big difference here is that you pay before you use. No plans, no late charges etc... I guess this is why our country is in so much debt. but that caught me off guard cause my damn phone wasn't working and i didn't realize i had to get it refilled. You can go to any news stand and buy a prepaid card for 30 50 or 100rmb. then I had to do this again and I said to myself what the heck is going on I havnt even used this phone. I went to the newspaper stand and wrongly accused the guy of giving me a bad card a couple days later. I didn't win this argument. However, i found out from a woman at work that it was my data plan that was sucking the juice out of my cards. Make sure you turn of your 3G and roaming or you will have this problem when you come.

Opening a bank card. I cant stress enough how important it is to either speak Chinese or be with a local to help you do this. I stare at people and I have no idea what to say back. "yes" and "no" make no sense to them. Instead its "Shi" (shirr) and "Bu" like (boo). My rental agent was nice enough to take me around and get all this done together. I'm really gonna have to make some friends here. Anyway, you have to take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. Its kind of like the DMV! Once you see your number blinking (because they wont call it in English) go up and fill out a form with your passport. Did I mention you need your passport for a lot of things on the first couple days? Deposit a few bucks in there and then you can use the ATM for pretty much any transaction after that. Oddly enough, the bank is also where you pay your water bill and put money on your card for your electricity (same concept as the cell phone).

Ohhh...Let me just add that there are a lot of tall Chinese men in China. Before I left a lot of my friends and family said "your gonna be the tallest person there!" Turns out Im not. There are many many tiny people in China but there are also a lot of large men. You may not see them on every corner, and they certainly don't bulk up like us Americans, but when you walk by one you can't help but notice how much taller they are than the others.

It will make you life a lot easier if you are in contact with you work, school or company before you come. Having someone by your side is essential if you don't live in a touristy location.

Posted by BHammer301 18:27 Archived in China Tagged in police china bank to things do tips cards card teaching survival cell immigration moving registration laws rules phones Comments (1)

Looking for an ESL job yourself vs. using an agency

Is the money you pay them worth it?

A while back I started to really look for teaching jobs abroad. ESL or not, find jobs aboard can be a pain in the ars. There are ways to apply directly to schools, and then there are paid agencies that do all the work for you.. I was referred to educators overseas through a friend who worked in Hong Kong for two years. The website has a membership fee for premium access to certain jobs. However, they also have a free posting board. I applied to a dozen jobs on their positing board and I received many responses back. I ended up being hired by the school directly and I didn't have to pay any money up front. Other sites include Daves ESL cafe and TOTALESL

That's it right? I'm hired! Well not so fast Billy. I had to do a ton of paper work for this position. That included: three trips to the Chinese consulate (I'm still not done there), one trip to the New York State Department in the city, another two trips for notaries at local banks, two more trips to the county seat for authorization and many long lines at the post office. Ive had many forms turned back to me weeks later from the school saying that something was incorrect on them and they need to be fixed in order to be processed. I swear its because China doesn't want me there. But it has been such a headache. I would have preferred to have a lot of this stuff done for me to give myself some piece of mind.

With the agency, you might have to send them some papers to recruiters, and you'll probably have to go to the consulate a few times too. However, they'll make sure all of your work is correct as soon as they get it. Most people I spoke with were very particular in their requests. You can find agencies or companies all over the internet. I believe CIEE is a popular one.

But sometimes all this work can lead to a better understanding of how things function in other countries. One thing I know is that China's mail system could use an update. Sixteen days later and my letter still hasn't arrived. Now I have to express the darn thing for a whopping 60 bux. Did I mention this is the second time I sent it? Good thing is that 60 bux in China is a weekend out. They also have hundreds of thousands of people all doing the same thing as you so don't feel like you have priority over anyone else. Since I've been able to solve all these problems on my own I know have the wisdom to handle other stressful situations I may encounter. I'm not saying this is worth the headache. Heck Id pay the money if I had it for someone to scratch my back everyday, but being able to work through these stressful, time consuming, tasks can only make you better prepared for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Also, a big perk of applying for these jobs directly is that you don't need to pay for a 140 hour TESOL course. Thats basically a scam. Especially if you already are a teacher! Sometimes these classes may cost $600!. If your lucky, your school with give this training free of charge. But usually a bachelors degree and being a native English speaker is enough to get a job. you may end up getting paid more than others.

Who knows what the cost difference of things may have been in the end. Do Whatever you please, but make sure you have a good amount of time on your had and a lot of stamps. Good luck in your searches

Posted by BHammer301 12:49 Archived in USA Tagged in china a company job english agency cafe an teaching or yourself certification tesol using finding esl daves ciee recruiters aborad Comments (0)

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