In the spotlight in China, by Sonja Magnus

I have been in China for almost three months now. Before I came to Beijing I didn’t really have any expectations for what it was going to be like. However, after only a short amount of time here I have come to realize that not only is China an extremely diverse and interesting country but the people here are also some of the most interesting individuals I have ever met.

Chinese people are welcoming, hard-working and very family-oriented. They are also rather curious about foreigners, which often leads to funny encounters with the locals on daily basis. That being said, one of the things you have to get used to China is getting your pictures taken. The way Chinese people do this is not subtle to say at least and I often spot someone taking a picture of me on the subway, bus or on the street without even trying to hide it. It can come as a bit of a shock in the beginning when random people approach you and suddenly you realize you are posing for a “selfie” with a Chinese family. Especially for a lot of the mainland Chinese people, it is very exciting to see a westerner and it just adds to their excitement if you try to speak some Chinese with them. I have no idea of what they actually do with the photos of my confused face but I’m just trying to embrace it and get used to these moments in the spotlight.

Probably the funniest encounter I’ve had so far was a couple of weeks ago on my way to work. I was walking towards my center from the bus stop when an older Chinese man spotted me. His whole face lit up, he raised his hands in the air and joyfully started running towards me. Speaking in extremely fast Chinese (way beyond my non-existent Chinese skills) he excitedly pointed at my hair and did a funny dance around me. Then for my amusement he got on one knee, took my hand and obviously jokingly proposed to me. People around us were clapping and cheering. Then this sweet man disappeared as fast as he had appeared and I was left on the street with a confused smile on my face.

It’s little encounters like this with the locals that add to the experience and make your stay in Beijing so much more memorable.

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