10 Surprises for an Englishman in China: Delightful Signs Album

This gallery contains 10 photos.

“Happy is the tender grass when here your feet do not trespass!” Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an A great sign for those with artificial hips! Saving your mobile phone allowance “Green grassland nourishes my heart”   “A small step forward, a big step for civilisation!” Guess where! Wisdom “Don’t climb up becauful”… of the spelling police???

10 Surprises for an Englishman in China visiting Europe

  1. Courtesy (for example, saying ‘hello’ to the bus driver – AND getting a reply!) varies from city to city, country to country. Bristol seems to have the friendliest bus drivers! In China a young person will always offer his/her seat on the bus to an elderly person. In the UK, the elderly are invisible to young people!


 2. You don’t have to go to New England to get a glorious autumn display

IMG_6302(Westonbirt Arboretum) Autumn in the UK: https://www.flickr.com/gp/willnewcomb/2w2C4v)

 3. The ‘shock’ of using a knife and a fork everyday and not seeing kuaizi (chopsticks) for a whole 3 months!

IMG_0835A delicious meal at the exceedingly friendly highest pub in England (Tan Hill Inn) http://tanhillinn.com/

4. Italy has the best ice-cream (we indulged ourselves with a gelato at least once a day in Rome), so how come Italians in the UK don’t make decent ice-cream?


 5. Weatherspoons did a decent haggis, tatties and neeps in the week leading up to Burns night.


6. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam was a big disappointment! I was hoping for a better selection of Rembrandt’s. Hardly any of his etchings, mainly held in the Rembrandt house; I’ll head there next time. Loved the Frans Hals works

Amsterdam: https://www.flickr.com/gp/willnewcomb/09ib56

7. Surprised by the early works of Van Gogh and Picasso. Gave me a new appreciation of the depth of their abilities.

HeadOfFisherman1883Head of Fisherman with a Sou’-wester 1883, VVG Van Gogh Museum http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en

8. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona was the most moving church building I’ve ever visited. The storytelling of the scriptures in the sculptures were large enough to read (unlike most stained glass in British cathedrals). I was on the verge of tears by the end of our tour. I hope I’m alive and mobile enough to visit it again when it’s completed (mainly the exterior).

Barcelona: https://www.flickr.com/gp/willnewcomb/vg7Y9c

9. The discount Roma Card wasn’t really worth it! Still had to pay separately for a tour (and entrance) of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peters. Hardly used the buses. and only wanted the Forum and Capitoline museum entries. Could have saved some for extra gelato, while other things like the Trevi Fountain are free!

Rome: https://www.flickr.com/gp/willnewcomb/2Zg7YP

10. Visiting the Anne Frank house was probably the most moving event of the 3 month visit. So many lessons to learn for today about refugees fleeing for their lives.

Anne Frank Museum http://www.annefrank.org/en/Museum/

Edinburgh Trip 


Enjoyed a wonderful 8 days driving up to Edinburgh 25 Nov – 2 Dec. The biggest disappointment was forgetting to take photos of everyone we visited!

Caught some wonderful places along the way: Durham Cathedral, Tan Hill Inn, Ambleside, Hadrian’s Wall, Lockerbie Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, Holy Island, Angel of the North, Fountains Abbey.

Mike and Cheryl Nimz  

Colin and Rosie Patterson

(Sarah Aicher and Paul Freeman, RIP) 


Simon Barrow and Carla Roth 

Richard and Janet Scott 

Simon and Kathy Kew

Dick and Alison Fitt

Andrew Francis, Janice and Caroline Heath


10 ‘Misc’ Surprises for an Englishman in China

1. At the theatre or a concert you might find that you are the only one applauding. Everyone else has rushed out the door before the final curtain call. And while we’re about it, no-one watches the credits at the end of a movie. In fact it’s usually stopped before the last credit because everyone has gone home.




2. Thinking of mailing something to/from China using Air Mail? Don’t bother. The chances are it’ll never arrive, and if it does it’ll take at least 6 weeks. Courier mail works but allow 5 days – the same as bank transfers! To send ‘snail-mail’ to the UK try an electronic printing/mailing service. Email a pdf to it and it’ll be printed and delivered by 1st class mail. Quite reasonable price!




3. Chinese dogs happily trot along the residential service roads unaccompanied and seem to be very relaxed and happy animals. I’ve yet to come across an ‘up-tight’ aggressive dog! Chinese love poodles!




4. Almost everyone uses WeiXin/WeChat app for txt/images/videos. Sort of like WhatsApp, but better!




5. Everyone goes for ‘a short walk’ in the evening (often accompanied by their dog) and you’ll find the parks FULL at night time. There also appear to be ‘dog meet-up locations’ where fellow owners can chat about their ‘pooches’ and the pooches can enjoy sniffing somewhere else!!! And you’ll also come across many groups doing Chinese square dancing in any open space around 8 p.m.


 jjim_white_in_china_786294c(OK this was not the sort of ‘short walk’ I was meaning to convey!)


6. Often big stores are open late in the evening. Not so many shops close at 5 or 6 p.m.




 7. The Metro/Underground has airport style security at every station. Bag and body scanners are standard.




8. In summer when it’s hot, quite a lot of men on the street roll their shirts up to expose their tummies. Not good!




9. QR codes are EVERYWHERE, even stitched into the fabric on the backs of theatre seats.




10. There are no local GPs in China. If you want medical attention you go to hospital. You don’t need to make an appointment, you just turn up and take your turn. A fully annual health check (something unheard of in the UK) will cost about £50. Very thorough.




(Several images in this blog are not my own but came from Google searches)

10 Surprises for an Englishman Buying a New ‘House’ in China


1. EVERYONE lives in apartment blocks but they still talk about their ‘house’ rather than their apartment or flat.


2. I’m very lucky to have a wife who does all the negotiating with the architect and builder, since I have no workable Chinese myself!

2015-06-13 11.25.49m

3. New property comes as a bare concrete shell which then needs significant work to convert it into a liveable house (re-configuring walls, electrics, plumbing, heating, lighting, air-conditioning, flooring, windows, decorating etc etc). 3 months estimated work and then there’s the furnishing!

2nd Bedroom IMG_5339

4. It is quite common to buy all new furnishings rather than transfer the old to the new house.

5. Building/furniture stores are huge and more like malls than individual big stores. Be prepared to wear out a couple of pairs of shoes before you’ve decided on what you want, AND be prepared to get lost – again and again. Interior layouts and signs leave much to be desired. Areas of the city seem to be dedicated to small shops supplying various aspects of the building industry. Smaller items can be significantly cheaper on the internet (via TaoBao).


6. Many Chinese enjoy ‘Victorian/Georgian’ elaborate styled furnishings known as ‘European style’.  Lighting shops are crammed full of chandeliers! We seem to be a little unusual in wanting modern styled things.


7. A whole wall is often dedicated to the large flatscreen TV in the living room. Much like the fireplace of old!


8. In southern China built in heating is unusual, particularly underfloor heating. However many brand new properties are having it installed. While summers are hot and need air-conditioning, winters still feel cold and seem ‘freezing’ without central heating. The reality is that winter temperatures are not that different from London’s.  Thick quilted PJ’s provide personalised insulation, and are very cosy too!

2015-07-13 17.39.58

9. Contractors seem to be able to work at incredibly short notice. In terms of home repairs, expect someone to be able to come over and fix things on the same day! Many in the building/construction industry appear to work 7 days a week and only take a few days off occasionally!

10. I’m terrified watching window installers, air conditioning engineers etc work at high levels without safety equipment. What about Health and Safety at Work? I’m also terrified by the colour coding used in Electrics. I can’t work out what the convention(s) are and whether anybody follows them!


10 Surprises for an Englishman on the Street in China

1. There are textured paving stones on the pavement to indicate the direction of the path and junctions with the road for those with sight difficulties. They’re also there on the Metro!
2015-03-24 21.26.09
Surprising as the city seems generally pretty unfriendly for disabled people. Very few ramps, no low-entry or wheelchair friendly buses, poor maintenance of footpaths, often the footpaths being blocked etc forcing pedestrians to walk in the road.

2. A Starbucks’ Cappuccino Grande will set you back at least 30rmb (£3.25). It must be the high wages that are being paid in China. NOT! And in the airport it’ll be more than double that!


3. The PA on the Shanghai Metro (and the new one in Changsha) is in both Chinese AND English (yay)!

2015-03-24 21.18.59

4. Stepping out of the Metro in Shanghai the first thing I saw was a Victorian church and other English styled buildings. Where am I?


5. ‘Mind the gap’ is there on the Shanghai Metro too. Not just on London’s Tube!

2015-03-24 19.23.18


6. Shanghai Metro tends to travel in straight lines instead of meandering all over the place as on London’s deep Tube lines, is smooth, and has ‘normal’ sized railway carriages unlike the ‘mini’ claustrophobic carriages on most of London’s Tube. It’s also got a huge network and is cheap (5rmb – 55p – from airport to city centre). The stations are large and the passages are wide. They need to be. There are 28 million in Shanghai!


7. The MagLev line to Pudong International Airport travels at 300km/hr. They’re also building one in Changsha to serve the airport, but it’s shorter and not so fast.



It’s not perfectly smooth but as good as most high speed trains.

8. You are quite likely to be run down by an electric bike (rather like a scooter) when walking on the path marked for pedestrians. Cars park on the section marked for bikes! For the same reason many pedestrians choose to walk in the road; it’s safer!


9. A traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing is a good place to get killed as a pedestrian when the light is green for walkers. Often you will have to cross one lane at a time and hope that there’s a break in traffic to get across the next lane. Likewise at intersections a green pedestrian light indicates that you are unlikely to be killed by cars coming straight across the junction, but will be killed by traffic turning right as they have permission ‘if it is safe to do so’.


10. Electric bikes appear to have a dispensation to ignore all traffic regulations especially the ones indicating the direction of flow! And on the highway, there don’t appear to be any rules governing lane behaviour for any vehicle. While traffic generally does not speed (as in the UK) it’s very difficult to predict what another motorist will do.