今天是我的生日- 祝我生日快乐! 呵呵 Happy Birthday to Me! :-D

It’s my Birthday again… and for the first time since 2003 I’m in the UK for it! and of course it’s raining! Time has gone so slowly since I’ve been back in the UK.

The last year has been eventful with lots and lots of changes, some good, some not so good but, I have certainly learned many new things for the better.

Seems like it was years ago I was in China, feels as if so many new things have happened since then. It’s as if time has slowed down over the past couple of months. It’s weird how time passes…

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London Chinatown 伦敦中国城

Been lazy/too busy to update things here… Have lots of things to write about, will put them here once I have time. 😀


The other day had the opportunity to check out London’s China Town, I’ve only been once before, many many years ago.

It’s situated very close to Leicester Square and makes up a much smaller area than I expected. I really was expecting a little more than just a few streets…

As expected, Chinatown is not really reminicant of any place I’ve seen In China, for me the only striking simularities being the obvious characters on signs (almost all traditional characters) and the Chinese looking people walking around the area.

fruit and veg chinese supermarketCantonese 粤语 is the main language spoken here, most Chinese here I would guess have links with Hong Kong / Taiwan or southern China. I haven’t heard much Cantonese before and I have to say it’s a very ugly language to listen to and sounds really aggressive to the untuned ear.

I was sitting in a cheap buffet restaurant (£5/75元 all you can eat – Incidently – you wouldn’t want to eat too much food here!, but for London prices it’s very cheap) and the manager was telling the fuyuan (waitresses) in really stongly accented Mandarin where he wanted the customers to sit, whilst chatting with some customers in Cantonese. The fuyuans were clearly mainlanders.

I wondered how/why they got/came to the UK, they clearly were not students/skilled migrants, but I didn’t ask them for obvious reasons. From what I heard they spoke very little english beyond restaurant vocab.

I couldn’t help thinking that their quality of life here couldn’t be much better than what they had in China? Perhaps I’m wrong and they are here legally, but knowing how very difficult it is for Mainland Chinese to get work outside ancestry, I highly doubt this. – My guess is that they paid a gang in China and came here illegally…- working in Chinatown for less than minimum wage…- posting cash home or paying off the debts to the gangmasters… Who knows?

I think there are two sides to Chinatown; the obvious side you’ll see walking down one of the pedestrianised streets- tourists sightseeing, taking pictures and visiting restaurants. Locals and tourists alike wanting to try sample ‘real’ Chinese food and perhaps what they think It’s like in a Chinese restaurant in China.

The problem with this, I think, is that there are so many rules and health and safey regulations that to have a ‘real’ authentic copy of a Chinese restaurant in London would probably be illegal! And to be honest I dont think It would be popular with British people ‘laowai’ 😀 – so you end up with a compromise, not one or the other. Just as in Changchun the ‘western’ restaurants (i.e. 欧娄巴) are also compromises – it’s a question of supply and demand – you give the customer what he/she wants or expects, whether its ‘real’ or not is not the point!

And the other side, the darker side. Chinese people and immigrants from other asian countries working (many illegally, but they do jobs that many people here simply wont do.) for very little pay and poor working conditions.gate or paifang to chinatown

Something else that I noticed or at very least percieved was the relative ‘poverty’ of the Chinese (excluding asian looking tourists/students – who stand out like saw thumbs) looking people – I’m sure most chinese speaking immigrants end up here,

I am also sure there are operations in people trafficking probably operated from within this area. -I’m not making a judgement I’m just saying, I think that’s how it is.

bannerThere was an interesting banner draped over a shop that looked as though it had recently been closed down, (see pic on left) stating that the British were not supporting migrant workers – I can only guess why this shop was boarded up, It would be interesting to find out why. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has something to do with hiring illegal workers.

What I found funny was the way in which the Chinese have exported their business models and how they are being used in London – here you can find small shops (just like those in Changchun) selling anything – fake DVDs, SIM cards, foreign foodstuffs, you can even change your renminbi

There are adverts places outside, posters, billboards – just like those in Changchun. I think the the Chinese here are incredibly entrepreneurial and profit conscious, they even use western selling ideas (never seen in China) – such as buy one get one free or two for the price of one. Also it’s the only place in the UK where I’ve seen there are too many staff!

It much harder to do this here as its not so easy to strar up a business, but i think there is greater potential to make more money long term.

I have spent some time in various Chinese restaurants and being tchao mianhe UK they wont let you take in your own drinks, afterall this is financially to their dis-advantage and how other restaurants operate in the UK. Yet they keep other Chinese practices – such as service being very direct to the point- which of course in the UK, can be misinterpreted as being rude and impolite.

But it’s accepted by the customers I think. Personally I would rather have one or the other – western service or chinese service and all that goes with it – but that’s not how things have developed.

I find it curious how the Chinese food here has been anglocized with things that people from the UK think is ‘Chinese’ just as western foods in China are ‘Chinacized’ to suit tastes, because that’s really what Chinese people expect of western food.

This runs through many areas and happens I think because of a combination of perhaps ignorance on the customers part, stereotypes things from films TV, and adaptation on the businesses part – that is changing a product to meet more local demand.

bilingual sign

Anyway, The ‘Chinese’ food here I’ve tried thus far is pretty bad. Awful.. 🙁

If I want Chinese food I like then the only way is took cook it myself but I knew this would probably happen before I left China…

Luckily I have a sweet toooth and so can get used to things here but I can imagine how difficult It must be for someone new to the UK. The food isn’t as bad as I remember, it just seriously lacks taste and flavour!

I’m not so sure now that If you look hard enough, you’ll be get lots of different types of Chinese food, as I only seemed to be able to find the Cantonese restaurants!:evil: 广东菜真难吃了!

I did find several Chinese supermarkets and was very happy to find they sell many of the same things I saw In Changchun. Those packets of instant noodles for 30p (5元), sunflower seeds for 2 pounds (30元) a packet and one of my favourite drinks – 水晶葡萄 grape juice for a very reasonable 60p (10元) a bottle!

Unfortunatly I was unable to find many of the sauces that I recognised in Changchun. Predictabally, almost all the ingrediants are imported from Hong Kong and so are quite different from the stuff in dongbei.

sunflower seeds 2 pounds!

An interesting problem I encountered was working out what was what, as the characters used are traditional and so are difficult for me to read and a westernised English name or Cantonese name is used, rather than pinyin

For example: hoisin sauce is haixian jiang 海鮮酱. I dont know the English name or cantonese spelling/pronuncaiation so I am having to learn!

But I did find these sunflower seeds (xiang guazi) 香瓜子 for a very reasonable 2 pounds for a big bag!