The Favourite.

When China introduced the One-Child policy, few realised how drastically it would affect the Chinese psyche.

The over-whelming preference for sons quickly became clear. They stayed with the family, carried the ‘family line’ and would support the parents when they were old. Daughters on the other hand would be married off to join someone else’s family and therefore, when parents got a bit older and needed taking care of, daughters couldn’t be relied on.

The effects of such a mentality are still clear in China’s current population statistics with the number of males significantly outweighing that of females.

Nowadays in many places, the policy has been relaxed and a fair few families (outside of the main cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) have two children, sometimes more. On my recent travels, I met a family who lived outside the city limits of Guangzhou and had four children!

It seems that even though the restriction itself is gradually being lifted, the preference remains, especially among the older generation.

Living in Changsha this past fortnight, I’ve had a fantastic time playing with Wenhamn and his little sister and brother, Jemima and Oliver. They’re all absolutely adorable and I care for them like siblings.

Here’s a photo of Wenhamn and I in the cake shop last week….^^


And of his sister and brother today at lunch!


In the run up to New Year, the grandparents (who live here most of the time anyway)  properly moved in on Monday for the holiday and made themselves thoroughly at home.

I love the grandparents too…especially Wenhamn’s Dad’s Mum who is great fun, cooks amazing food and then teaches me to cook it too!  (If I ever have a Chinese mother-in-law, I hope she’s like this!)

However, one thing is starting to…..annoy me somewhat.

The Grandad constantly talks about his favourite child; Oliver.

(Here’s Oliver and I  - he definitely is very cute….but does that warrant favourites?)


Now this confused me a little since Oliver is not even the first born son….until I realised it’s not even between the three of them. Wenhamn and Oliver are equal favourites and Jemima is put firmly in last place.

Yesterday lunchtime, she was screaming and crying while Oliver got fed first.

So today, after two days, I…..well, I’d had enough.

When lunchtime came, as Grandad pulled Oliver up onto his knee, I pulled Jemima up onto mine.

Everyone looked at me, a tad confused, but as I started to feed Jemima and she grinned in the way that very happy babies do, everyone relaxed a little.

(This is not Jemima’s happy grin….she didn’t want to smile for the camera…~)


Grandad looked … well, he always has a poker face but both the grandmas found it rather amusing.

I don’t quite get the dynamic that reasons it’s ok to have one baby eating happily and the other one waiting and crying but it seems no toes were stepped on and problem solved….at least until I leave for Beijing.

Talking with Wenhamn’s mum this evening, it was slightly saddening to hear her talk of the hopes she has for Jemima and at the same time, acknowledging the fact that in the eyes of her own father, her baby girl just doesn’t quite match up to her sons for no other reason than the fact she’s a girl.

This isn’t the same for every Chinese family but when speaking with my friends, many female friends have voiced similar complaints, particularly regarding past events such as male siblings or cousins getting more money in their 红包 (hongbao – the red envelope containing money given at Chinese New Year).

My poor dad probably would have liked a son – with the only other male company in our household being….well, the cat….(which I guess doesn’t quite count) – but I know that there’s no chance he’d swap me or my sister … it’s just not something that would’ve ever crossed his mind.  Perhaps this is why I laughed so much reading Jocelyn Eikenburg’s blog ‘Speaking Of China‘ where she writes about her Chinese husband almost being swapped at birth because the neighbours wanted to swap him for their baby daughter.

Having grown up in a family where being a boy or girl didn’t matter and being taught that gender wasn’t a restriction in any way, it’s strange to come to China and step back into what many Westerners would see as a seriously old-fashioned perspective.

But one must remember that it’s a cultural thing, a strong reminder that although the China we see today is completely different from the one that stood twenty or even ten years ago, many of the perspectives and views remain.  The landscape has changed radically and the collective mind is, to some degree, playing catch up.

As China develops and further loosens the One Child Policy (as it undoubtedly will), I have little doubt that this perspective and gender preference will change too.

Posted in china, experience, changsha, dating, lifestyle, 2013 | Tagged changsha, china, 2013, sexism, favourites, one child policy, girls or boys, sons or daughters | Leave a comment

You’d be prettier if you lost weight.

Everyone will know what I mean when I say there is a list certain things you’re not meant to say to girls unless you happen to be either her mother or her closest friend.

Pretty close to the top of that list is the anything weight related and the typical “Yes. Your bum does look big in that”.

Weight is a dangerous topic with most girls… you’re either criticised for being too thin or too fat and people are either trying to force food down your throat or politely suggesting you pass on that extra slice of cake…you know…since you shouldn’t have even had a slice in the first place.

Since starting to travel in Asia, I have had to adjust to people commenting a lot more on my weight – for better or for worse.

The first time I arrived in Korea back in 2009, it was a struggle to find clothes that fit properly for my height and admittedly my size….. because to put it politely, I was rather well endowed….and I just didn’t fit the stereotypical Asian body structure that the shops catered for, or rather, they didn’t fit me.

When I came to Changsha, China for the first time in 2011, living with a Chinese family was difficult. The number of teary phone calls and upset emails my parents received is testament to that. The grandma would every day tell me I was too thin and constantly try to feed me….. the mother on the other always told me I was fat. As we all sweltered in 35 degree centigrade heat, she would say “Anna, would you like an ice cream?….Hmm, you should probably pass, it will make you even fatter”.

Even today, (I am back in Changsha visiting the very same family) she came into my room and said “Anna- would you like some dried plums? Don’t worry – they won’t make you fat again!”

I remember arriving in Korea last summer post exams and meeting the parents of a good friend of mine for dinner.

The first words out of her mother’s mouth were, I quote, “Anna, how are you? I can see you’ve gotten a bit fatter haven’t you?”. The words were bad enough but the sympathetic tone with which it was delivered cut just as much.

I’ve learnt that in Asia, mostly, it’s a way for people to show they care. That’s not to say the model-esque girl who sat next to you on the bus and made some snarky comment when you left cared about you but when it comes from the people close to you, it’s generally meant well and on the whole, isn’t taken half as negatively as it is in the West.

I say all this inspite of the following.

I mentioned the following a while ago on my facebook but with it still going round in my head, I decided to get it out properly.

 A few weeks ago now, I was working at Beijing TV Station and with three episodes done, we were preparing to film the penultimate episode of the evening.

I can’t even quite remember how it came about but one of the ‘cast’ members casually commented that I could be so much prettier if I was thinner. This was confirmed with murmurs and nods of agreement from other members of cast and crew.

Later on, in the dressing room as we were waiting to start the filming for the final episode again, my weight got brought up again.

“You really should diet, people will like you a lot more”, one of them said.

“It’s true – you’ll get a lot more opportunities” said one of the assistants.

All of sudden my weight became a debate and everyone wanted to give their opinion.

That…….well, that I could handle.

In the team, we also have a lovely (incredibly tall and ever so slim) Russian girl who speaks amazing Chinese and works there too. In her spare time, while not filming, she works as a model in China.

So then people started comparing us. I will admit, this was when things started to get a little painful.

At 5 foot 5 inches (and proud)…it’s not particularly fair to compare me to a very tall (I’d guess 5 foot 11 ish) model.

I mean…come on guys, it’s not rocket science that my legs are going to be shorter than hers……DUH!

Two of my good friends on the show (one of them being the aforementioned Russian girl) told me to ignore it, laugh it off and tried to help me cover the cracks in damaged confidence but I still went home with everyone’s words echoing in my head.

Would I really be more popular if I dropped 5kg?

Would it really make a difference?

The sad reality? Probably.

They gave me a lot of food for thought (ha!) and seem to have unconsciously influenced me somewhat….unfortunately, seemingly with the opposite effect.

I’ve become more confident.

Admittedly, I see it now that I used to be crippled by what other people think of me and when I was younger, I lost out on many performing opportunities because I was too busy focused on what everyone else was doing than what I was doing.

People have more opinions about me now than ever before and while support will never fail to put a smile on my face whatever form it comes in, I’m learning to care a little less for the negative things that people have to say about me.

As nice as it would be, you can’t be liked by everyone. You can’t fulfill everyone’s expectations of you.

I read their comments, hear their opinions – the good and the bad…but at the end of the day, I can’t help but think that it’s my opinion and it’s how I feel that really counts.

Posted in 2013, beijing, Beijing television, china, experience, food, performance, television, welcome to China | Tagged 2013, beauty, beijing television, body, china, culture shock, weight | 5 Comments

Sweet Dream by MFBTY

The project group MFBTY (My Fans Are Better Than Yours) featuring Yoonmirae, Tiger JK and Bizzy has released ‘Sweet Dream’ – an addictive, rather wild, definitely crazy alternative to the candy-pop normally served up by the K-pop industry.

Since I got hold of it yesterday, it has already accumulated 37 plays on my itunes. That says way too much about me.

Back to my homework.

(On a side note, to anyone who wants to turn round and say Girls Generation’s “I Got A Boy” isn’t candy but “hip-hop” style… isn’t.)

Video | Posted on by exploringtheorient | Tagged changsha, china 2013, Korean music | Leave a comment

OOOoooohhh ~ So delicious :)

It’s cold outside…but that didn’t stop my friend Dominique and I stopping by for some ice cream ^^


Image | Posted on by exploringtheorient | Tagged 2012, changsha, china, ice cream, winter, winter travels | 1 Comment

Holiday Commences….

And so the exams are finally over. Well, all two days of them…but they were stressful and there was lots of work. Wait. That sentence is redundant – if a test isn’t stressful and there is no work involved, well, then it’s not really a test is it?

About Thursday last week, I went into complete study shut down, except for my daily facebook check and my escape on Saturday to eat sushi (on my own…) and engage in some of the best kind of therapy (…retail therapy if you’re wondering!). Study shut down involved working from 8am-10am, 10am-12am (break/nap) 1pm-3pm, 3pm-5pm, 5pm-7pm (break/nap) 8pm-10pm, 10pm-12pm then bed. Hopefully, you can see why the retail therapy was necessary. After two and a half days straight of character writing (which is really what our exams surmounted to), my hand was ready to fall off and the world was becoming a world of squiggles!

Monday was tough. We started the day with our lovely 读写 (reading) exam which was pretty tough, I found it doable but nicely challenging! ^-^. As part of the exam, we were given two essay titles from which we had to choose one to write about. The titles, along with others, had been previously set as homeworks during the term so we did have some idea of what was coming.

However, my own eagerness to show off  improve my Chinese meant that when I’d written these essays initially, I’d spent ages writing really fancy essays with complex terminology and grammar. This is all good and well until I’m expected to replicate the same essay under exam conditions minus dictionary. I’d chosen to prepare two of our previous homeworks for the exam (I ran out of time) and typically, the two I had prepared didn’t come up.

Instead we were given “Discuss an environmental problem” and “Write a story about the most intelligent person”. Joy. How am I going to do that!?!

I twiddled my thumbs for a few minutes and did that thing where you look back at all the questions you have or haven’t answered and try to work out what your maximum score can be assuming everything you’ve written is correct – you know, to ready yourself.

But then, the lightbulb flashed and inspiration came to it.

I started my essay with something like  ”对我妈妈来说, 我是最聪明的所以我就告诉你我的故事”。

(Which translates to : “According to my mum, I’m the smartest so I’ll just tell you my story”.)

Surely I get bonus points for imagination?

After that in the afternoon we had our 报刊 exam (Newspaper reading class). These exams are never particularly pleasant, simply because so much of the material is unseen that you can’t really prepare – obviously you read as much as you can and study as much as you can but at the end of the day, with a newspaper text that’s not from the textbook, it’s going to be full of new vocabulary. With this vocabulary, you either know it or you don’t. That said, I’d prepared a lot and I read a lot in my spare time … (spare time!?) so I think it was ok! (She says hopefully..!)

This morning we had our infamous written speaking会话 exa (conversation class). Despite having already been tested repeatedly on our writing skills, our speaking class exam was also in the form of a writing exam. Even our teacher doesn’t know why…but hey, we digress. It also went pretty well – even better considering the teacher basically told us what was in the exam beforehand…

Finally, this afternoon, we had our final exam of  听力 (listening class). Now, this exam is quite hard because I personally think it requires the most concentration. There are 25 sentences, followed by a further 24 mini dialogues with questions based on them. The problem is you only hear each sentence / mini dialogue once meaning you have to start reading ahead as soon as the exam starts so you already have clues about the context / potential answers of the question!

That said, I think everything went pretty well….I guess I shall find out on Wednesday!!

Wait….that’s today.

Oh goodness.

Posted in 2013, beijing, BNU, busy, class, experience, studying Chinese | Tagged 2013, beijing 2013, beijing normal university, BNU, china, china 2012, chinese, exams, listening, newspaper class, reading, speaking, studies | Leave a comment

Actually Being On TV!

Those who follow my blog will know that late last year I received a fair few love calls to appear on some Chinese television shows. The calls came following the success of one of my youtube videos, 我的歌声里 (You Exist In My Song), which I covered in September last year. The cover itself is currently sitting on around 15 million views in total….unfortunately none of these are linked to my youtube channel as 1) the views are all on Chinese video sites 2) some kind person nicked it off my youtube and uploaded it there without telling me  - no complaints whatsoever, just saying, so the views are all on other peoples accounts….which, I do admit, sucks quite a bit!

But 15 million views.

That’s quite a lot!

Here’s a link to the original video on Youtube:

Screen Shot from CHinese video

A teaser for one of the shows I participated in was recently released so I wanted to share it with you ^^.

Hopefully, this will also deter many of the comments left on the original video including

  • “But she’s white…must be fake!”
  • “She’s foreign therefore she can’t speak Chinese. Fake”
  • “It must be that a Chinese person sang it and she is just miming. Fake”.

Well, I guess we’ll just have to see. Haters gonna hate! That said, the number of people who are pleasantly surprised that foreigners can sing in Chinese too is .. well… pleasantly surprising!

Changing the world one step at a time… sort of.

Changing Chinese perceptions of foreigners…. slowly?

I’ll be back in the TV studios on Thursday before heading off to Shanghai next Monday…oh, such a busy bee.

But you all know me – I wouldn’t have it any other way! :)

Posted in 2012, beijing, china, experience, singing competition, television | Tagged 2012, beijing, beijing 2012, beijing television, being on TV, btv, china, performance, singing, you exist in my song, 我的歌声里 | 6 Comments

The things I miss…

It has to be said, I don’t miss much from the UK. If you offered me the chance to move permanently to China (or Korea) tomorrow (assuming job, house etc all sorted), I would, without a doubt.  

This may seem a bit odd but aside from my family, the thing I miss the most is ….. rain. 

You heard me. I miss the rain.

Of course, it rains here in China but not half as much as in the UK…..and well, this bothers me.

I like the rain.

I also miss the greenery…England is just…so green. (Of course there are parts of China that are pretty green too…but they don’t really exist much in Beijing..)

I remember studying for my high school exams with the rain pouring outside and later, falling asleep to the sound of raindrops on the window…. 

Now, this is even more peculiar – but I love to go running….especially in the rain.

Sadly, for obvious reasons, this is kind of a no-go in China…. 

It seems I shall have to wait until I’m back in London for that….^^



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged china, rain, running, things I miss most, UK | 2 Comments