On Sunday, in my slightly hungover state, I decided to finish watching a BBC Three series called ‘Secrets of China’. I’d seen Episode One a few weeks earlier and really enjoyed it, and so decided that watching Episodes Two and Three with a Chocolate Twirl and a big bag of Quavers seemed like a great way to spend my Sunday afternoon.
And it was.
Over the course of the three episodes, journalist Billie JD Porter, looked at what life is like growing up in China and exposed a few secrets that most of us westerners aren’t aware of. Such as just how big Gaming is there; from the super strict nine month bootcamps where children addicted to Gaming are sent, to the young Gamers who have gone pro and live their lives in China the way a young professional footballer does in England; brand sponsorship, big fat salary’s, female fans and national tours!
Then of course there are the young Chinese women having cosmetic surgery at 22 years old, attempting to look ‘more western’, in order to find a husband and avoid becoming a ‘Leftover’. What is a Leftover? It is is basically a nickname for a Chinese woman who is 28 or older and still single.
These were the kinds of things that went completely unnoticed by me when I was in China. But of course, how would I notice them? I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t spend a lot of time there, and bar a brief passing through Shanghai, I was pretty much limited to one city – Beijing. I had no idea that there were ‘Marriage Markets’ were people go on a Sunday to desperately find a suitable husband or wife, or that women over 28 with a good career were deemed Leftovers, or that the ‘Western Look’ had created a huge Boom in China’s cosmetic industry. It was fascinating to learn about via Billie’s unique and interesting interviews and research.
Of course it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Billie and us viewers, she learnt that actually some of the boot camps, despite being incredibly strict, had a very positive effect on the students who attended. And as for marriage being such a huge pressure on young adults, Billie did meet some wonderful couples who were blissfully happy and had taken their time getting married, as well as some incredible ‘Leftovers’ who were fiercely strong and independent, and were basically giving China’s society the middle finger (woohoo Girl Power)
I personally may not have exposed or even noticed such big Chinese Secrets, not like incredible Journo and super-hot fashionista Billie JD Porter (seriously there are some really cool outfits in this series, check them out here, and yes, I’m developing a girl crush) BUT, I most certainly did get a few shocks and surprises of my own when I arrived in Beijing. And so thought I would share my own (not so dramatic and probably not that secret) Secrets of China:
The Food is NOT what you expect
This is a good thing and a bad thing. It was a good thing for me because I usually order the crispy Duck pancakes when I get a Chinese takeaway, and so eating a traditional crispy Peking Duck in China, was soooooooo good. But if you go to China expecting to eat Chicken Fried Rice and Beef Chow Mein, you will be very disappointed. The food is nothing like you imagine, with restaurants and markets offering donkey’s balls, very old eggs (also known as century eggs) and grilled snake. Just watch this clip of Billie both enjoying and gagging over the different types of food.
They love to Dance
Not only do you see group after group of elderly Chinese people ballroom dancing in parks at all hours of the day, but dancing seems to be quite a common ‘Workplace Workout’ in Beijing. Quite a few hairdressers we walked past made their employees take to the street to do a full dance routine, before opening the salon doors.
The Children poop poop EVERYWHERE
I’m not lying, they do. They even have these split pants with a big gaping whole so that they can just go whenever they like, normally on the side of the street.
The traffic is crazy
Much like Vietnam, China’s traffic is terrifying. In Beijing there main roads are huge too, so trying to cross one whilst also trying to figure out which lane’s turn it is to go, is beyond terrifying and we ended up running across most streets in a state of panic.
The Alcohol is STRONG
The Beard and I were joined at our lunch table by a group of Chinese men and a little boy. It was our first day in China and we were already a little overwhelmed by the huge culture difference, crazy traffic, strange food and now even more overwhelmed that we were being told we had to share our table. But the men were lovely and very fond of us, bless them, and so they ordered a green bottle of who knows what, even though it wasn’t even one o’clock in the afternoon. Two sips each and the Beard and I were drunk. Like, properly drunk. Whereas the men and the little boy (yes, the little boy too) weren’t hit at all by this super strong Chinese potion.
They LOVE you
Okay, so I can’t speak for every Chinese person – and certainly not the young children who saw the Beard and ran away in horror – but whilst in Beijing, the people of China loved us. We constantly had strangers saying Hello to us in English, or coming up to us to ask for photos and hugs. Well, it was mainly the Beard because he is 6’2, odd-looking and has a ginger beard. But I did have a few photos and cuddles, however they clearly loved him more. Maybe they thought he was Santa? Or Santa’s ginger cousin?
Did you happen to catch ‘Secrets of China’? What did you make of it?
Have you ever been to China? Got any unusual or shocking secrets to expose?
I’d love to know in the comments below…