Third Impressions of the Middle Kingdom: Taobao, Baopals and let’s stare at the foreigner

Ten days after arriving in China, I moved into my new apartment. I was pretty damn excited. It’s the biggest place I’ve ever lived in since leaving home some 11 years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much space all to myself… And this comes as a relief – especially since I just spent four years in Japan: the shoebox-apartment capital of the world. Can’t say I hated Japanese houses, can’t say I loved them either… They had all the amenities so that one could live comfortably; but it never felt like home. 

And now here I am – in a large apartment that I don’t have to share with anyone. No more guests crashing on the couch (or sharing a bed with me); instead they can have a guest room all to themselves. Hooray! 

My excitement was short lived – especially since I realised that there was so much I needed to do before the apartment became properly habitable. The kitchen and bathroom need a thorough cleaning. BLEACH TO THE RESCUE…! And although the apartment came fully furnished, there were a ton of knick knacks I needed to buy. Everyone who knows me knows that I hate going shopping… So it was Taobao to the rescue! (Seems like I need a lot of rescuing these days…)

Anyways, there’s nothing like sitting in your bed with a beer and shopping in the comfort of your apartment. Unfortunately, the Taobao website is entirely in Chinese and the banking procedure is kind of complicated as well… My boss told me about Baopals which is an English version of the website complete with English language support. Although I would have figured out how to use the Chinese version eventually, I couldn’t be bothered messing around with it… Baopals is slightly more expensive than Taobao, but hey… I’m happy to pay for the convenience. 

I work in a rather multicultural environment so I forget that I am a foreigner in my day to day life… But then you leave your gated ivory tower and realise that everyone is staring at you. I’m not white, I’m not black and many people stare at me in an attempt to figure out where I’m from. Unlike Japan, where people pride themselves on social niceties (and talk about you behind your back), the Chinese I’ve met so far seem to do it openly and in front of you.

I can’t decide which one is worse… 

And some people do stare and stare and stare… And they’re not afraid to come waaaaay too close and stare and stare and stare… It is rather uncomfortable, and I still haven’t figured out the best way to go about dealing with it. Whilst some people I know enjoy this sort of attention, I can’t say that I do… 

It’s still early days and my life is in a state of disarray (as it has been all year). I’m still not sure what to make of China, this new job or my new life…

Well, whatever it is – I am here… And I might as well make the most of things. 

Till next time, stay warm!


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