Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘beijing subway

Published pieces about being in China: 2012-present

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Some friends and I.

Me and some friends

Here is a list of articles that I have had published about my time in China. The following collection of articles are specifically about life and the experiences I’ve had in China, rather than journalism about China itself. This post will be updated whenever something new is out.

Fast track to love? Hunting for a date on Beijing’s subway

This is a lighthearted piece about the time I took on a bet to see if I could get a date while riding Beijing’s crowded subway system within a week. A piece of whimsy that was fun to write but hard to pull off.

“Finding a date in Beijing is not especially difficult. If you know where to go, you can have your pick of either wayfaring expats, happy-go-lucky students or young, eager Chinese all on the lookout for potential mates. Beijing, like any other great city of the world, is a mass of people trying to hook up”.

An ode to Chinese greasy spoons

This is quite tightly written and quite a personal piece too. About the first fragile months after I’d moved to Beijing, my ambition as a young journalist, and growing up in the city through the habit of eating out.

When I first arrived in Beijing in the autumn of 2012, I was nervy. A confused young journalist straight out of university and with big ambitions. I walked the large, grey streets of the city aware of my surroundings, but alien to the environment. Everything was ordinary and extraordinary, new and old; a city of 21 million people where the mundane – a beggar, a street festooned with litter – jostled with the outlandish. 

Travel and Videogames: Missing Play in Beijing

I’ve been a gamer for a long time but since moving to Beijing I’ve mostly not been able to. This essay explores the incredibly strong desire I had to play and how much I missed playing my console. It’s also about travel, reality and the desire for adventure.

“I knew that I should be having adventures and experiences for real, too. For myself, rather than through a virtual character. That I should get to know “reality”…. When I was 18, I decided to go abroad. I lived in a small town thousands of miles away from home. I learnt a lot about relationships, what I want and how to get it, all that stuff”.

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Part two: 4 Good & Bad Things about Living in Beijing

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The Good: Cheap Accommodation. Accommodation in Beijing is not as cheap as you may think. It is, after all, the capital of China and increasingly overpopulated. But good deals can still be had. For example, I lived in a place that cost me RMB 3600 for three months (£120 per month). In China, you often pay for three months at a time. My apartment now, which is about seven times bigger than my previous place – and a whole lot nicer – is RMB 7500 for three months. Some of my friends pay more than this, but they get pretty decent bang for their buck: free internet, large living rooms, a cleaning service etc. The Bad: Poor Accommodation. So things may be somewhat cheaper but this can also mean things don’t work properly; tiny kitchens and nasty bathrooms. My current apartment has a king size bed that is almost collapsing, curtain rails that are held up by glue (which fell down) and a toilet that doesn’t refresh its flush reliably. The worst thing is probably the dirty and incredibly small kitchen which I would use more often if it weren’t so. But Beijing is full of old, poorly constructed housing, and new housing with poor attention to detail, so these are compromises you will be forced to make.  

Beijing’s subway can be crowded

The Good: The Subway. It’s cheap, fast and reliable. It costs RMB 2 for all journeys. There are a surfeit of lines and it’s a convenient way to organize meet-ups. The Bad: The Subway. Commuting on the subway is horrible. It’s hot, sweaty and there are far too many people crammed in. Queues are disorderly and ill-mannered, and people still haven’t grasped the concept of first off, then get on. And services finish too early: by around 11.30pm (some lines close earlier than others).

The Good: The People You Meet. In Beijing, I’ve made Japanese, German, Italian, American friends. I’ve met people from Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Nigeria. It’s easy to befriend such people because you’re all foreigners in a foreign land; it’s a common bind that makes striking up conversation easier. The Bad: The Smallness of Circles. Work friends and people you may see regularly for whatever reason become your friends in China. This limitation means your friendship circle can be suffocatingly small. From what I’ve observed your best bet is to make three close friends who are all mutual friends too; a strong base from which to branch out.

The Good: Great Opportunities. The opportunities that are afforded to you, especially in media, business, marketing, architecture, technology and fashion (to name just a few), in China are legion. People move up rungs of the ladder far faster here and your foreign status accords you instant prestige. In practice, this means that simply because you own a foreign passport, you are paid a salary far higher than your Chinese nationality co-workers (even if you work less than they do). It is not fair and although it is more competitive than it was five, ten years ago, such is the relative dearth of foreigners in China that demand still outstrips supply. The Bad: The Sense of Entitlement and White Face Worship. This treatment of foreigners means many a foreigner in China develops an inflated ego. I’ve met plenty of people who expect others to take an interest in them, rather than reciprocate and those who demand higher salaries for no apparent reason than the fact it’s simply not what they’d expect from back home. Those who are foreign will face some harassment, but those who are non-white will face discrimination they might not expect. For example, those with Asian faces may expect a few clubs demanding entrance pay while their white friends walk in for free.

Part One is available here.