Spring Festival 2016

Spring Festival is a time of mass migration in China.  People leave the big cities and return to the rural towns and villages where they grew up, or where their parents now live.  Foreigners should think twice before travelling at this time.  It is common for people to travel 20-hours or more by train, often with standing tickets (this means sitting on piles of luggage in the aisles and praying there are no sudden stops).  Everybody heeds the call to return home for Spring Festival, no matter what the distance or inconvenience.  Spring Festival is basically the Chinese version of Christmas: it is a time for family reunions as well as for eating and drinking to excess in front of the TV. Continue reading


Getting married in China

A single generation ago, arranged marriages were common.  These arranged marriages were nothing but financial transactions between the groom and his in-laws.  Today, young Chinese people are often very keen to please the whims of traditional parents.  Not all Chinese girls would accept a Western boyfriend or husband.  And certainly not all Chinese parents will ever tolerate such a match. Continue reading

Arriving in China

My flight from London Heathrow to Shanghai Pu Dong took 11 hours.  From there I took a short domestic flight to XiangYang (listed as XiangFan), where I lived.  I arrived late in the evening and I was met by my location manager and my foreign manager.  It was all unfamiliar to me and I was in a bit of a daze.  In this article I give a few suggestions for when you first arrive in China. Continue reading