Finding my way around Shenzhen – Part Two

I have spent the last two months au pairing and studying in Shenzhen, China through a LoPair programme. I have had some incredible experiences, and have been documenting my journey through the LoPair blog. LoPair is an established au pair agency with an extensive track record on au pair placements, arrival orientations and support care. If you are interested in finding out more about the company, go here. You can also find part one to this story, here.


Close your eyes, close your eyes and get a surprise

This fun children’s chant could not be more apt in describing my experience in Shenzhen. With every day that comes by, and the shut-eyes in between, I find myself learning more about the environment that lays around me.

Despite the temperamental drenching rain, and the (at times) stifling heat that so threatens to envelop you, the Shenzhen air is clear and the sky is bright.

For those of you who are considering joining the LoPair au pair programme, don’t forget your sun cream – you’re certainly going to need it once you’re here!

One of the most important things to do whilst you are out here, asides from maintaining your work and class duties, is to find and build a support system. I know personally that my experience would not have been the same had it not been for my fellow au pairs. Wechat is such a nifty tool to communicate with others, and it is something that I have definitely taken advantage of whilst I have been here.

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Moments for wechat users is what stories are like for fans of Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram. Something you can use to show off your lesson plans, and travels. It’s a great way of keeping track of those around you, and of highlighting some of your favourite moments in China. It is these personal touches, aided by digital bytes, that are ubiquitous here. Certainly what surprised me when I arrived, was the seamless integration of technology that exist in everyday life here. For example, people can pay for meals or simple trinkets using wechat pay. You could come across, even the most remote shop in the city, and they would accept payment by mobile. Just scan the QR code, and you’re a-go.

It is with this in mind, that I am left wondering why Chinese stereotypes are not extended to technology. A city full of digital minds and hearts, Shenzhen certainly has a reputation for being the pinnacle of technological innovation (having been dubbed China’s answer to Silicon Valley), however the same could not be said of reputations elsewhere. China is opening its mind (and wallet) to the possibilities of open networks and constant trade of information and goods, and the rest of the world should take note. With one of the biggest e-commerce markets in the world, China is making a stand for modernity and connection.

It would, however, be a digression to delve further into the inner mechanisms of Chinese society. Certainly that can be left to the sociologists, anthropologists and economists of the world.

What are worth noting instead are the smaller connections that are forged within this community. Recently, I attended a KTV session (essentially a karaoke booth) with some other au pairs. From this, I had hoped for two things: to gain a finer appreciation for Chinese culture, and to stretch out my vocal chords. As I expected, I was able to achieve both objectives. There is something special about sharing a song with others. Amidst all your struggles and worries, you can left everything go in the middle of a Beyoncé or ABBA song. It was something I needed, and something I really enjoyed. Despite the lack of up-to-date English songs (unfortunately Despacito doesn’t count, however memorable and fun it may be), the booth was packed with throwbacks. Picture Jamilla and Natasha Beddingfield: absolute classics in their time, and you can begin to have some idea as to what the atmosphere was like that night.

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It is from this high that I hope to embark on new adventures in my journey here in China.

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Warm air and picturesque surroundings – what more can you ask for?

 

The original blog can be found here. If you have any tips or advice that you would like to share, or you have any questions, leave a comment down below.

Finding my way around Shenzhen – Part One

I have spent the last month au pairing and studying in Shenzhen, China through a LoPair programme. I have had some incredible experiences, and have been documenting my journey through the LoPair blog. LoPair is an established au pair agency with an extensive track record on au pair placements, arrival orientations and support care. If you are interested in finding out more about the company, go here.


 

The art of using chopsticks: like all things in China, it requires focus, speed and precision. It is something I have been getting used to these past few weeks, and like the hustle and bustle of the city, it is slowly becoming a second nature to me.

My experience in the Middle Kingdom has been stimulating to say the least.

From traversing the subway system to tackling testy VPN connections, Shenzhen has not been without its challenges, but like most trials, it has also borne some satisfying ends.

Despite not being particularly known for their warm hospitality worldwide, the people in China have been among the friendliest that I have come across. When you walk around the city, the only danger you face is the traffic (or getting lost!) and the weather is a warm welcome, and a fine departure from the cold drizzle commonly found in Britain.

You are taken in by the vibrance and stir of the city, and by the aroma of street markets and restaurants. The city is young and fresh, and in this moment, you are one of its makers.

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Arrival orientation in Hangzhou

I have been in Shenzhen for about a month now and in this time, I have gained the pleasure of getting to know my host brother Brian. A sweet-natured five year old boy, he has taken to British children songs like a regular native. From memorising the words to 10 Green Bottles to Coulter’s Candy (a Scottish classic) to even Frère Jacques (allowing him to expand his repertoire of foreign songs from English to French), it has been a sight to see him grow in confidence in learning popular culture from the West.

It is with this eager companion of mine, I have experienced some of my best days here. From swimming in Guangzhou – a marvellous city where Chinese tradition meets modernity – to trying different teas (how I could write about the tea!) to finding a song in every object (Circle, square, triangle, I see shapes everywhere ‘’ Rain, rain go away, come again another day), China has been full of small wonders, and it is these wonders I look forward to, day in and day out.

As a third of my trip goes by, I find myself wistfully yearning for the next adventures of my Chinese experience.

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A city full of people – the opportunities are out there!

 

The original blog can be found here. If you have any tips or advice that you would like to share, or you have any questions, leave a comment down below.

Romantic Date Ideas That Don’t Cost A Fortune

These days a dinner and a movie won’t cut it – no matter how romantic it is (unless it involves Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks – any movie with these two in it ALWAYS counts) – that doesn’t mean romance is out of the window. Au contraire, this article features the top date ideas guaranteed to land you a second date without using up all your student loan.

Aquarium/Zoo

A crowd-pleaser, this date involves looking at the cutest animals ever (who can say no to a penguin?) and leaves your date impressed with your ‘huge’ caring side. And if all doesn’t end well at least you had a good day watching monkeys.

Bowling

A little competition is always great and a bowling centre provides the perfect backdrop for friendly banter. Bond over a beer and fries as you knock down some pins and establish a connection.

Museum

Not all museums are boring. Try visiting a specialist type such as the Science Museum or even a wax museum like Madam Tussauds. This is a perfect opportunity to get an idea of your date’s sense of humour and tastes whilst reveling in an impression of Prince Harry. You can also get your picture taken with several famous people* in one night – what are the chances of that?

*Note: Unfortunately they’re made of wax.

Theatre/Gig

Live shows are one of the best, if not most expensive, date ideas. You get to dress up (or down) and hang out with your date in one of the most comfortable settings available. Grab a drink and get to know your date’s tastes as you listen to the music.

Go for a show you can both enjoy; visiting a stuffy show to make yourself look ‘fancy’ won’t be enjoyable and may come back to bite you later on. In terms of theatre, comedy tends to always break the ice and can be a perfect conversation starter.

Cookery class

This date idea is perfect as it involves a lot of practical work and ends with your dinner sorted. If you run out of things to say, start up a conversation about food (it might be best to leave out your favourite pot noodle flavour – everyone knows it’s sweet and sour anyway!) And if the date doesn’t work out at least you’ll know how to cook something that doesn’t involve eggs and beans.

Ice skating

This is the only time where being awkward as hell is allowed. So what if you can’t move in your skates (who can?). As long as you keep close to your date and help them out – yes that does include hand holding – then you’re a keeper in their eyes. – Just don’t drag them down with you. ..They do not like that.

Stand-Up Act

The best way through someone’s heart is by making them laugh, so head down to your local comedy club and check out the acts! Even if some of them are terrible, they’ll be great to talk about over drinks, and maybe even dinner.

New Cuisine

Spend your time trying out new types of food. Try visiting a sushi bar or a foreign restaurant and show your date how adventurous you can be. Just don’t order a vindaloo – that’s never a good look… Neither is food poisoning.

Mix and match these date ideas for the best dating experience. If your student loan is completely used up, why don’t you try some outdoorsy activities such as playing a sport or a strolling down the beach – both fun and FREE dates. Just remember to relax and the date will run smoothly.

Think I’ve missed out an idea? Leave a comment down below!