20. 3. 2008
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Britské listy

ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
20. 3. 2008

Cultural Difference and Study China Programme

This is a first instalment of a diary, written by a Czech student at Edinburgh College of Art, who has been selected for this year's Study China Programme, run in Shanghai by the British government.

A Czech translation of this text is HERE

Thursday 13th and Friday 14th March, 2008

The first encounter with the Chinese culture actually started in Paris when I got on the plane. On the Air France flight operated by China Eastern, a good three quarter of the people were Chinese or at least they were Chinese looking . The airplane was large and spacious, especially the first class was very spacious. There were comfortable armchairs with lots of legroom, side tables, table lamps, TV screens. The plane was divided into the section by food storing and preparation units. The second class seats seemed to be more squashed but it was still reasonably comfortable. We got a pillow, a blanket and headphones for the flight. We also got the wet cloths before lunch. The meal was continental, though. The flight went fast, even though it was 11 hours long. There was a Chinese programme on, the radio channels offered a variety of music from traditional Chinese music through to Chinese pop to pop, jazz and classical music. Something for everyone.

There were three of us from the Study China Programme travelling on the same plane. Because we were flying from Paris in the afternoon, the darkness came after few hours. Not having my mobile on I quickly lost the track of time. One of my colleague from the programme was sitting behind me but my Chinese neighbour was so polite that he gave his seat to my colleague. Later on, when we were looking for the third colleague, we couldn't find him, so we approached one person we thought was him. He later on became our friend and was drinking with us. We have been only served drinks. The dinner was served only for the first class so we went to search for food and something more to drink as the air was so dry on the plane. We ended up in the food preparation and storage passage. Where the source of drinks was. We got to one young friendly hostess from Shanghai called Sara. That was her English name. Most of the Chinese people had two forenames: one Chinese and one English. None of the hostesses had a problem letting us into this place. Sara gave us some salmon-horseradish butter sandwiches and opened a bottle of wine for us.

I tried to sleep for a bit but the air was too dry and warm and it was hard to breathe. Traditional Chinese music put me to sleep . Two hours before the plane landed they woke us up for breakfast. The sun was slowly rising up and it lit all the sky. After breakfast, to my surprise instead of Chinese TV they turned on the morning exercise. On TV, the hostess were showing us the exercises. The first set was on a plane and the second set was in a park where the hostesses in same striped T-shirt multipled after each exercise .

Soon afterwards we got to see the land. It was very flat with people's houses in perfect rows one like the other in small villages. In certain places, there were something like factory halls with shiny blue roofs.

The journey was fairly comfortable without any major turbulence.

We arrived into Shanghai Pudong International Airport. It is a brand-new modern glass and steel building. It is very spacious. The security check officer sitting in a small booth with an open roof was nice. There was an electronic marking tool where the passengers could evaluate her work by clicking on one of the emoticons.

We went downstairs to pick up our luggage. To our surprise, the conveyer belt stopped and someone shouted: No more luggage! You have to reclaim your luggage over there at the China Eastern stall. We arrived but our bags were still on the way . There was about thirty of us. We filled the lost luggage forms and as compensation they gave us an Amenity bag and promised our bags will be delivered to our hotel before ten o'clock that night.

When we went to the hall we saw all the welcoming people. One group was also waiting for us with a camera crew, photographers and guides. They gave us a warm welcome and flowers. They even interviewed us on camera. We were the second arriving. One guy was first. He was waiting there for us with the crowd. We felt like a very important delegation. They were so delighted to have us there. At the car park, a bus was waiting for us which took us to hotel. During the one-hour journey there they gave us lots of information and we told them about our experience form the flight.

From the bus windows we saw the tracks of one of the fastest trains in the world, Maglev, which goes over 420 Km per hour and from the airport it's in the city centre in 9 minutes. The journey cost something like 60 RMB. From the city by-pass, we saw the new modern high-rises, the Pudong real estate skyscrapers and went over the Huangpu River. When we got to the hotel we were warmly welcomed by some more guides and by the China Study Programme organizers. We got our stipendium 800 RMB, a Campus card with 100 RMB for dining in a canteen and a Shanghai public transport card with 80 RMB for travel. They gave us a top with ECNU (Eastern China Normal University) on it as a souvenir. One more picture and we were released from publicity to the privacy of our rooms .

After having a shower, we went to explore the outside world. We went to the four floors shopping centre, to the food store to get bottled water as the tap water is not drinkable in Shanghai, and something for the sweet tooth. The group got bigger, as more people arrived. We were waiting for them as we were due to leave to have a lunch with them.

Our Chinese guides took us to one restaurant where we got a private room just for us. On our request they ordered a mixture of food for us from the menu. Even though there were pictures on the menu, the food still seemed to be unfamiliar for us. We shared all the dishes which they served on a round turning table in the middle. Nearly all the dishes were tasty, some of them were too spicy, though.

After our lunch the Chinese guide girls took us on the bus to the new modern shopping mall to get necessities as adaptors or new mobile phones for the people who haven't had their mobile phone unlocked. They brought us to a large Chinese Carrefour. Afterwards we went to a small shopping stall next to the university to get our new Chinese SIM cards. We were shown round the campus, which is one big park with a river, university buildings, streets and paths. There are as many new building as old ones, there are sport grounds. In the middle, there is a statue of Mao Tse Tung made of sand stone. After the tour, we went back to hotel to catch up on some sleep. After all, the eight hour time difference needs of lot of adapting to.

On the first day in Shanghai, as a result of lack of sleep I got very confused. In fact everyone was somehow confused and very tired.

My flatmate, Aeslingh, arrived in the morning after me so we got to know each other. She flew from Spain where she is on a Socrates study exchange.

My bags arrived safely at 22:00.

Saturday 15th March

I got up at 9 am and had breakfast with colleagues from the programme. The food at the hotel is mixed Chinese and continental. I had deep fried rice cake, egg in soya sauce, steamed dumpling cooked in leek stock, steamed dumplings (looked like tortellini sachets), cooked sweet potato...

We had the official Campus tour on the afternoon. It started with a PowerPoint presentation about the university and Shanghai. Than, because the number of participant was growing, they split us up in smaller groups and showed us round the campus. They recommended a Korean canteen, so me and two other fine art students went for lunch there. The menu was with pictures, so it wasn't difficult to pick something. The food was tasty but very spicy. My colleagues ordered octopus in spicy sauce with rice. I had noodle spicy soup. The food in a canteen is cheap. The soup was about 10 RMB. The meal with rice 15 or 20 RMB.

We went to the city centre by the metro, had to change lines but the underground is very clean, very well sign-posted and it's written also in English. The speakers call each station in English on the bus as well. There were a lot of people but the metro was not overly crowded. We went to the People's square. It is a large square surrounded by high buildings. The neon signs were shining on the buildings and some of them lined the buildings. We went for dinner to some of the side streets. The menu was only in Chinese characters so we couldn't understand any of the words. We used our phrase books to order some food. The average price for each of us was 15 -- 20 RMB. The Chinese green tea pronounced shortly cha is for free with every meal .

Sunday 16th March .

I got up at 9 o'clock, but because I had gone to bed at 3am the previous night, I felt so tired... Today we had a different type of steamed dumplings for breakfast. One filled with meat and rice and the other filled with sweet red bean paste. I also had leaf-wrapped soya sauce rice. At the breakfast table we all agreed that we were going for a trip to the Longua Temple and Pagoda today. We took a bus No.67 to Cloud Nine Shopping Mall Zhongshan Park and took Metro line 3 from there -- the Metro went above the ground so we could watch all the high rises on the way. In each public transport vehicle, Metro included, they have flat TV screens where they are playing advertisements, film trailers, news etc. ... Each station is called out in English. We got off the Metro station and walked to the Longua Temple and Pagoda. The entrance was 10 RMB and the temple was large. It consists of 4 main temples, which one could walk through, and several side temples with different gods and goddesses. People were praying to them. Each of them had incense which one could buy also at the temple. People either prayed in front of an altar kneeling on cushions or standing , bowing up and down, in front of their gods. They had the incense sticks in both clasped hands like they would pray. People standing outside prayed to the four corners of the world and to space above them. They were bowing up and down, as they belive that god is all around them. I saw some monks wearing yellow habits passing by, going to the temple. I was surprised by the amount of young people praying there. There were also grandparents teaching their two year old grandson how to pray, which was cute.

Next to the temple is a huge memorial park. The museum itself is built as a pyramid.


I have seen it for the first time when we arrived at Pudong airport. A Chinese guy in his middle years who was walking in front of me cleared his throat and spat on the shiny new marble floor in the airport hall. Today when we went to the memorial, one guy cleared his throat and spat on the clean floor inside of the museum. I could not believe it. In the underground there are signs Spiting not allowed or No spitting. I wonder if they spit in public houses, do they spit on the carpets or in their houses as well?


Going fishing in Tesco's in China. They have water tanks (aquaria) with fish and you can catch the one you like in there. Just next to it is a container wrapped with a net full of turtles and next to it one full of frogs. Then you have mussels and cockles and all sorts of fish. Prawns live, dead -- frozen or dried, seeweed dried or fresh, all what you can think of and even what you can not imagine. All the specialities. It was like one big shopping market but under one roof . In every supermarket, they have plenty of shop assistants. It looks like over employment -- no wonder if they have so many people in here .

Tomorrow is our big day. It's the first official China Study Programme day and we have Chinese classes straight from the morning

Shanghai has over 19 million people if we compare it with the Czech Republic it is nearly twice as big. You can fit 16 thousand people into one skyscraper. So you can fit my home town Příbram into two skyscrapers .

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