The MSG wars

For Christmas Eve 2013, I prepare a simple Austrian Christmas dish – sausages with sauerkraut and potatoes. While I’m in the kitchen looking for the right spices, I find pure MSG hidden behind other spices. I show it to my husband. He gets angry and starts a fight with his dad. They agreed that we […]

Mold, mold, mold (and preventative measures)

I’ll exchange the humid climate of coastal Guangdong for the dry climate of Central Europe tomorrow, but don’t worry – I’ve prepared lots of China-related posts to keep you entertained until I’m back in a few months’ time small talking with locals in China. It’s May 2013. Leaving Shenzhen during its moldiest season is probably not a very good idea. […]

“You should have a baby boy”

In February 2014, one of my former co-workers who just had a baby girl stops me in my tracks: “Let me see your belly.” After looking at it, she concludes: “It’s really big. You’re wearing quite sexy clothes. You should wear more layers.” She says that on a sunny day with 21°C that reminds me […]

“You can take apples right out of these boxes”

One day in November 2013, I’m at the supermarket buying fruit. I go to a square counter that is filled with apples. It’s accessible from all four sides. On the opposite side of the counter, a supermarket employee who’s busy unpacking boxes is surrounded by people. A couple standing right next to me point their finger to him. They […]

1980 or The year that my in-laws tied the knot

One Sunday afternoon in February, 2014, my husband and I sit in our living room drinking tea and chatting. My in-laws have gone to the market and we enjoy some alone time. When they come back, we are still sitting on pillows on the floor, drinking tea and talking about this and that. The next […]

Top 10 posts on China Elevator Stories, post 101-150

In celebration of publishing the 150th blog post on China Elevator Stories today, I’ll take a look at the top 10 posts, posts 101-150: 10. Guest post: “My wife thinks I have a lover” A repair guy talks about his relationship problems with guest poster Marta’s boyfriend. 9. “Are you pregnant?” One of my co-workers asked […]

Wearing radiation-proof maternity clothes to get a seat on the subway

One weekend after I find out that I’m pregnant, I go to buy some comfy clothes with a Chinese friend. When we are done with shopping and eat lunch, she says: “You should buy radiation-proof clothes. These are specially made for pregnant women and if you wear such a dress, people will offer you their […]

Up to the mountains and down to the countryside – my mother-in-law, the educated youth

July 1975, my mother-in-law is sent to the countryside in what is called the “Up to the mountains and down to the countryside” movement during the Cultural Revolution. She is one of many young adults who are referred to as educated youth (知识青年 zhīshì qīngnián). She didn’t go to university, but it doesn’t take more […]

“Oh my god, I’m going to be a father!”

After getting to know that I’m pregnant and in the time before the first ultrasound, my husband is anxious. The doctor has told us that we have to monitor the progress and that chances are the egg would nest in the wrong place. This and the fact that miscarriages are highest in the first trimester […]

Men not allowed to enter

One day in mid-November 2013 my husband and I go to a women’s and children’s hospital. We haven’t been to this hospital before, but after having been sent to do a blood sample every third day, we have decided to change the hospital and this one was recommended to us by a coworker. It’s time […]

“Don’t go on the streets to do something stupid”

In March 2008, just a few months before the start of the Summer Olympics in Beijing and right after protests took place that would later lead to deadly riots in Lhasa, Q, a friend from Northwestern Yunnan gets a call from her mother. Her mother is an ethnic Tibetan while her father is Han-Chinese. Their […]

Chinese Lantern Festival and “you shouldn’t eat too many Tangyuan when pregnant”

On yesterday’s 元宵节 (Yuánxiāojié), translated as Chinese Lantern Festival, which falls on the first full moon of the Chinese New Year and marks the end of the new year celebrations in China, my company prepares 汤圆 (Tāngyuán), sweet glutinous rice balls filled with sesame paste. It’s tradition to eat Tangyuan, which come in the shape […]

“The hospital is cheating us out of our money”

After getting back the results of the blood works and confirming that I am indeed pregnant, the next time I see the doctor she sends me to do blood works again. And three days after that, again. It’s too soon to do an ultrasound yet. But why does she send me to do blood works […]

“Sharing the same room”

After seeing the results of the pregnancy test and telling me that we need to monitor the progress, the doctor tells me: “There are three things you need to avoid: ‘Lifting heavy things, falling down and sharing the same room’*.” I: “I’m sorry?” She: “You can’t sleep with your husband. You might have different ideas […]

A cure to my menstrual problems

One day in mid-October 2013 I go see a Chinese doctor at a TCM hospital. I’ve had some menstrual problems I want to treat, so I go to the gynecological department. The doctor prescribes me a mix of herbs, ear acupuncture and moxibustion. After a week, I feel quite good about the treatment. There’s only […]

Chunyun 2008 and how my husband got stranded at Guangzhou railway station

6 years ago today, my husband is near Guangzhou railway station. He’s not the only one. It’s the time of Chunyun (春运 chūnyùn), the yearly mass migration that China experiences before the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. Guangzhou and Beijing are the biggest transport hubs in mainland China and every year in the weeks […]

“Before marriage, you’ll have a lot of pressure”

In August 2013 I start going to the gym. When I have my first training, my trainer, a guy probably not much older than me, asks me: “Are you married?” He’s fast to go on: “In your culture that question would probably be inappropriate for me to ask, wouldn’t it?” I: “Well, depending on the […]

Top 10 posts on China Elevator Stories, post 51-100

In celebration of publishing the 100th blog post on China Elevator Stories today, I’ll take a look at the top 10 posts of posts 51-100: 10. “What are you doing to get pregnant?” My co-workers share tips on how to get pregnant one day at dinner. 9. Guest Post: Be Careful What You Teach Your […]

“Did you have to use guns frequently?”

One day in the summer of 2012 I’m in Shangri-la at a restaurant with two acquaintances. My friend has to work and has asked them to take me around town. They have both worked as police officers in the past. Now, they are working as personal secretaries for a government official. I: “Did you have […]

“There’s not much I and my husband talk about anymore”

My new coworker and I have lunch together. She is a woman in her mid-to-late 30s and has a two-year-old child. After she asks me about marrying Y, it’s my turn to ask her. I: “You’re married, aren’t you?” She: “I am.” I: “Have you two been together for quite a while?” She: “We have. […]

“Who takes care of the kids?”

I have lunch with my new coworker, a woman in her mid-to-late 30s who has a 2-year-old son. She asks me: “Who takes care of young kids in Austria? In China, it’s often the grandparents who look after the kids, but what is it like in Austria, with people all working?” I: “It’s often the […]

1st anniversary of China Elevator Stories

I started writing this blog one year ago. In celebration of China Elevator Stories’ first anniversary and for all of you who haven’t been following this blog right from the beginning, I’d like to share five early conversations with you: “Are you Chinese?”: The very first post on China Elevator Stories and the conversation that […]

“How much does it cost to have a second child in Shenzhen?”

Me and my coworkers take a cab. One of them recently became a father for a second time. The driver asks him: “How much does it cost to have a second child in Shenzhen?” Coworker: “220,000 Chinese Yuan (around 27,000 EUR or 40,000 USD).” Driver: “Wow, that’s a considerable sum for a hukou*. We registered […]

Russian in Northeast China, American in the Southeast

“Canadian.” “German.” “American.” “British.” These are all nationalities I’ve been associated with in Northeast China’s Jilin province. Often, people don’t say it directly, rather they’ll tell their friends: “Look, a German.” I don’t really mind if they say that I’m German, after all, it’s as close as it gets. Even many Chinese who know me […]

A family dinner and to raise or not to raise your glass

On our last evening in Y’s hometown, Siping, we have dinner at a restaurant with his parents and uncles and aunts from his father’s side. We wait until everyone is in the room and seats are assigned in order of age. The most respected person (which is usually the oldest person in the room or […]

Guest post: Unconventional ways of learning Chinese

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Sarah, fellow Shenzhen-expat and the face behind the blog Reclaim Your Fearlessnesss that gives tips on how to live the life you want to live and not let others dictate it. I love her blog and have nominated her for the Liebster Award last month (see her answers here). Sarah has grown up […]

Guest post: The day that an elderly Chinese woman slapped me

Today I’m featuring a guest post written by Dan Clarke. Dan has been living in China for more than 6 years, first working as an English teacher and now focusing on writing and coaching, while looking after his daughter as a work-at-home dad. You can read more about him and China on his website Living […]

My mother-in-law and the crazy foreigners

A few weeks before our wedding my mother-in-law takes a train to Beijing to help us with some of the red tape. Since it is her first time in Beijing, she also decides to visit the great wall. All the while, my fiancé and me are at work in Shenzhen, waiting for her to tell […]

“Once you’re married, you’ll have kids”

One morning in March 2013 I buy congee at my favorite congee place near the subway stop. The lovely woman selling the congee says: “You know, you and your boyfriend can be lucky that you can be together like this and aren’t married yet. Once you’re married, you’ll have kids and then you’re not free […]

My in-laws’ old house

Four years ago, my in-laws bought an apartment in their hometown Siping in Northeast China’s Jilin province. Two years ago, they should have been able to move into their new apartment. But the apartment had not been finished at that time. It’s still not finished now, two years later. When my husband and I walk […]