Asia, China

When In China

Asia China

After doing a project on Scotia Personnel, who is Canada’s #1 travel agency, I was interested in becoming an Au Pair in China. I’m glad I did because I had the time of my life. Being an Au Pair means to live in a foreign country with a host family. I was mainly an English tutor.

I was a bit nervous since it would be the first time I traveled outside of Canada and my first time taking a plane alone. 14 hours! The plane was huge and when I entered the plane, my mouth dropped open. It was kind of weird to see so many Chinese people. I could feel there eyes on me. I left Ottawa on March 14, 2017, and arrived in Shanghai on March 15. When I finally arrived in Shanghai, I was totally lost at the airport because everything was different; from the language to the lifestyle to the Chinese characters everywhere. I finally managed to find the exit after 30 minutes of searching. A dream come true! I spotted my host with a banner with my name on it. I quickly rushed towards him when I saw my name. He took me along with 2 other Au Pairs for a quick bite. You’ll never guess what we ate. We ate KFC! We were quite shocked to find KFC in China, let alone in an airport. Our host bought each of us bus tickets to Hangzhou.

The bus ride lasted 3 hours. Our mentor greeted us at the bus station and quickly bought each of us a Chinese street snack. The Uber took us to our hostel. Despite the fact that we were tired, we couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the city, with the lights, buildings and the long trees. When we arrived at the hostel, we met our other Au Pair and quickly introduced ourselves. Since we were tired, each of us went to our assigned room with a roommate. My roommate was a girl from the Netherlands; we got along great. At 7:00 AM, we ate breakfast and then a taxi driver drove us to the Lopair office, where we spent most of the day learning about Chinese culture, lifestyle and the program. We were nine Au Pairs from Canada, Mexico, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Italy and France. It was difficult for me to focus in the classroom, because of the time change. There’s 12 hours difference between Canada and China.

Our mentor took us to eat at a local restaurant for lunch and dinner. Our beverages were hot water and green tea with no sugar. We ate hot pot! We visited a Chinese garden and Hangzhou West Lake. We were all fascinated by the modern architecture. 3 days after, we all left to go to our host families. My friend and I took a train from Hangzhou to Beijing. I was staying at Beijing Hills. I had my own bedroom with a beautiful view of the courtyard with a bathroom. The apartment was huge and luxurious.

My schedule was flexible. It was easy for me, to balance my tutoring classes, my mandarin classes and my spare time. I was tutoring English to my host child by reading her books, playing games, crafts, role play, physical activities (indoors and outdoors). My host child enjoyed going to the park. biking, scootering, swinging etc. My favorite day of the week was Thursday because I had the house to myself after 4:00 pm. On my day off which was Friday, I would usually go out to explore with my friends. My two favorite spot to hand out with my friends were the art district and Taoranting Park. I had a great bond with my mandarin teachers, because they were very friendly, chill, open-minded, patient and understanding.

Going to Wangfujing street was like going to the zoo; too much circulation so I was pushed by strangers. You can find snacks such as snakes, scorpions and lizards. I noticed strong smells, everything was fried and served on a stick. Wangfujing is one of the most popular attractions in China. You will find shopping malls at Oriental Plaza, restaurants were filled with people, day and night. I also went to The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, and The Great Wall. My host family and I went on a weekend getaway to Beijing Wtown, where we hiked to the Great Wall Simatai. I went bungee jumping on the highest jump in China. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done!

I had few culture shocks. My first one was during rush hour in the metro; strangers taking pictures and videos of me and touching my hair without my permission. I was very disgusted when I saw people eating scorpions and snakes. It was very difficult for me to drink hot water, especially since it was already humid outside. I would usually take some and wait until it gets to a normal temperature and drink it afterward. Drinking hot water cleanses your body, aids digestion, weight loss, keeps you hydrated and reduces stress level. I’m simple when It comes to food. I like to taste different flavors. Most of the meals are healthy, like fried vegetables, homemade noodles, meat and chicken and seafood. Everything was served on a plate or bowls. I ate a lot of rice, probably 5 times a week. The real challenge was to eat with chopsticks daily. Eating meat with chopsticks was easy, but rice and noodles were difficult!

The program allows us to have culture classes that teach us about the history of tea and how it’s a popular drink in East Asia. Tea is a way the greet someone in your home and is a way to easily bond. We learned how to prepare tea and how to drink it. We were paired in groups of two, which makes it easier. I was paired with my friend and we found out it is a long process to prepare tea.  We then performed a tea ceremony; it was quite funny because some of the team were confused. We enjoyed laughing at each other. We learned Taiji, Konfu and Chinese painting.

Being an Au Pair in China was unreal. I still can’t believe I was there. I used to pinch myself sometimes, just to check if it was all a dream. My host child and I became sister; I felt like we were twins sometimes. She’s one of the cutest, and smartest children I have ever met. My host family is very kind and down to earth. I miss them so much! This experience allowed me to be more independent and fearless. I’ve met amazing people and made lifetime friendships along the way. China became a part of me. It was like a dream come true. Please take me back. I had the time of my life in China. I always had a passion for traveling, but never had the opportunity to do so until now. I’m forever grateful to Scotia Personal for an unforgettable experience.

Contributed by Lydia Chala