First Impressions

We’ve arrived in the Middle Kingdom…

Slightly shell-shocked by the sheer modernity of Beijing after the chaos and laissez-faire atmosphere of Mumbai.

I am trying very hard to keep an open mind and a cheerful demeanour. As a good expat wife should.

I am trying very hard not to think too much about my friend A’s words as he headed back to London from the wilds of Eastern Europe – after a while, expat life loses its air of adventure, “because you get tired of always having to start again”.

Over the last few days, we’ve:

  • Done the obligatory visit to Tian’anmen Square (crazily crowded for the May Day holiday, impressive massive portrait of Mao. Looking forward to seeing the Forbidden City.) We’ve also gone into some back streets in search of the traditional courtyard homes called Hutongs.
  • Been ripped off by an “art student” selling calligraphy scrolls for a “language exchange” to N. America (Mr B denies this but let’s remember, it was he who also got cornered by the ear-cleaning man in Mumbai). I satisfied myself by playing sceptical and scathing and bored wife, thereby gaining huge amounts of sympathy for Mr B and knocking the price down by 500RMB in the process.
  • Checked out housing (much more swish here, much more scarily compound – the kinds of places where you can shop, eat, exercise and socialise with 600 other foreign families and never, ever leave – where have these mountains of foreigners come from? There are thousands of expats here! Mr B and I are quite overwhelmed with it!)
  • Navigated our way around the subway, feeling quietly proud of ourselves in the process (thank you S&S for the basic Chinese symbols, they’ve come in v.handy).
  • Rejoiced that the Olympics seems to have resulted in English signage all over the city. We were especially relieved to find that ATMs don’t launch straight into Mandarin as we were warned. Although we still needed a translator to sign up for a mobile phone.
  • Learned the words for hello/how are you and thank you. I can also pick out the symbols for Exit, North, West, Gate and Person which has made me feel smug and far too pleased with myself. I have also nagged Mr B in to the habit of handing over money using 2 hands.
  • Survived our required government health check to get our visas sorted out (mercifully well organised, although, I do not understand the relevance of checking for colour blindness, or why we were asked to disclose if we had ever had rabies, but not if we smoked or drank alcohol).

It is weird, hard, frustrating, disconcerting to start again but what to do?

Tomorrow we move in to an apart-hotel. I hope it will make me feel more settled.

What do you think?

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