Katya, what pushed you towards such a long journey?
At some point I stopped making long-term plans, when I realised that living without them was much more interesting. You never know how each encounter is going to end. So six months ago, I got to know this tour company and realised that it was time to move and broaden my meagre horizons.
What did you live on, what did you eat, what did you do and where did you live?
Before China, I worked as a drawing instructor in a private Russian school and nursery in Thailand. I saved up enough money for the first two months of travel around China and then I found work in a hotel in Dali City in the Yunnan Province, where I spent the rest of my time in China. On top of that I worked evenings as a face painter in a children’s cafe. I hitchhiked by myself around 2500 km of south and south-west China, almost up to the Tibetan boarder.
What surprised you most about this country?
What surprised me most was the local people’s tenderness, but I couldn’t get used to the large number of people, the queues and the noise.
Were there any unusual situations in which you didn’t understand what was happening, or any funny incidents?
As someone who finds cigarette smoke unbearable, what sticks out in my memory most is the time I took long-distance bus trip. The passengers were allowed to smoke. It was horrible! Smoking is allowed almost everywhere in China.
What ways do the Chinese differ from Europeans in their behaviour and mentality? Do they have any particular characteristics, nuances or peculiarities as a nation? Did any awkward situations arise from these idiosyncrasies?
There was a noticeable difference that I couldn’t get used to. The Chinese are a very social people and love helping each other. You rarely see one Chinese person on a walk or relaxing somewhere by themselves. They act collectively everywhere; even at discos they often stand in a circle. Such quantities of people talk in queues and the noise level in any public place or in the streets…!
In the roads, pedestrian crossings serve only as decoration; none of the drivers voluntarily let pedestrians cross. In these situations I tried to interact with the drivers, gesturing for them to stop. All of them were hurrying off somewhere and sped up.
The Chinese are very open and ‘non-envious’ people. I often heard people being happy for other people’s success. And they don’t scrimp on compliments, which I myself received every day, from both guys and girls alike. They openly approach strangers and tell them how good looking they are. I won’t even mention the endless selfies, which I never refused.
Which cities did you visit in China? What did you like and will remember the most?
The combination of tea plantations, rice fields, mountains and architecture very harmoniously create the picture of the culture of this country. I am not a lover of megalopoli and I always tried to find the most beautiful places of which there were very many in the Yunnan Province in South-West China, in cities like Dali, Lijiang, Shangri La and Yungshuo.
What would you like to recommend to people who are travelling to China for a trip, to study or to move there permanently?
The majority of Chinese people don’t speak English and it can cause a lot of inconveniences. I recommend preparing a text at least for all the typical scenarios in life.
What did you learn in the time you spent in China?
To interact with people and trust in them.
Do you like Chinese cuisine?
Very much, and I even managed to work a bit as a chef’s assistant in a hotel in Dali City.
How do the Chinese regard work, studies and family?
The Chinese take a break from work all of one day a week. Compared to Europeans, the majority of Chinese people start a family quite early and foster in their families ideas like paying your dues to your elders. They love to learn and are quite hard-working.
How did the Chinese treat you?
They were quite friendly and kind!
How did you make yourself understood without speaking Chinese?
In English or with a Chinese-Russian offline translator.
What did they call you? Do you know what your name means in Chinese?
They called me ‘Keit’ or ‘Keita’, but I could not remember a single Chinese first name.
How do young Chinese people live? What is fashionable in China? Where is it prestigious to study for example? What are their thoughts on love and education?
You can find Chinese people in every place on Earth but at the same time they love their country and build and develop it from within. The Chinese are a hard-working nation and so very responsible when it comes to their studies or work. I can’t say precisely what’s fashionable.
How do they regard European culture? Are there any stereotypes about Europeans, or Russians?
In China, they really value European looks so much that even plain Janes can find work as models for magazines or adverts. They think we live happily and wealthily.
What did you discover about how the Chinese differ from others?
They have a simpler approach to many everyday situations.
Did you make any Chinese friends?
It was more that there were people who helped and supported me in times of need but I don’t think that we will meet again. I recently sent them postcards from Russia thanking them.
What do you think of the architecture there and nature?
In the architecture there are many symbols of nature so it is very harmonious with the surrounding rich nature. In the evenings red lamps burn in the streets and create a special ambiance. For the first time in my life I saw the most beautiful blooming of beautiful lotuses in decorative ponds in parks and other places with fresh water. By the way, the Chinese use lotus roots in cooking and it makes a really tasty dish.
How do Chinese people relax and how do they spend their free time?
You can often find groups of people everywhere on walks. Many nationals do not travel outside of China but they travel within the country itself.