Some pics from the snow this morning.  I’ve haven’t seen this much snow fall in London since I was about 5.  It hardly ever snows here and when it does it seldom gets cold enough to settle in the city. 🙂  Perhaps the rareness of it all has caused everything to temporarily shut down…Snow on Sydenham Highstreet

There must be 3 inches at most, but there are no trains and the buses have all been cancelled on ‘health and safety grounds’.   I daresay in the summer when there’s

a coupe of days with +30C temperatures, people will be dying from sunstroke, hosepipes will be banned and trains won’t run ‘because its too hot’.

It Just shows how useless people in the south of England are at adapting to different types of weather.

Other countries with far fewer resources at their disposal manage just fine. Afterall, the roads in Changchun are frozen for 3 months of the year

but they manage so much better than people do here, and on far fewer resources.    The media gets into such a hysteria over it all, making the situation worse than it really is.  Perhaps they just want something to report on?? ?:-)

I did actually try to get to work and started to walk the 6 miles or so, but I turned back and gave up as I was  constantly thinking  ‘who else in my office would bother walking this far to work‘ .   It’s cynical I know, but why bust-a-gut when you know that no-one else has bothered and you’ll get paid regardless….

In a better place  people would be rewarded for getting into work in such situations or simply would not get paid for not being there.

No excuses!   I’m sure if this was the case then most people would find a way into the office, I know I would!

Perhaps one day, people on this little island will learn to get on with life when the weather isn’t overcast and grey, (aprox 50 days per year) though I feel this will take such a seismic cultural shift, I doubt it will ever happen in my lifetime.

Coughs and Colds

I write this sitting in the office during my lunch break, unusually the sun is shining outside and the office is pretty much empty. The pic below shoes what I see in the evenings out of the window, It’s something I still can’t quite get used to.

Things have died down, though annoyingly I am still busy with lots of things going on. Over the last few months the atmosphere at my work has changed, the CEO has announced a pay freeze (on everyones pay except his, some thing never change!) and I am certain that more people will lose their jobs next year (despite what the business says to the contrary).

I guess you have to be positive, so in a perverted way, it gives an ideal opportunity for business to offload the dead wood, those that come to work do very little (apart from watch BBC sport online) and blame the job cuts it on the economy.


It’s that time of the year when people start to get colds and coughs and the perennial ‘flu bug’ goes round. What I’ve noticed over the last few weeks is that there is this mentality (certainly where I work anyway) where people will come to work anyway if they are not feeling well, in the hope that it will go away and they will grin and bear it.

You can’t question the work-ethic of such thinking, but for me it’s very short-sited, selfish and ultimately stupid.

I am very lucky in that I seldom get Ill, but I can’t help feeling annoyed by people that come to work with horrible coughs and colds exposing their germs and bacteria to everyone they get near to. It is selfish and stupid. So of course, those that are not sick soon become Ill and the cycle continues to the point where, last week, so many people were actually off work sick, normal operation of the business suffered.

So many people here can choose to work from home if they are not feeling great, but still feel up to working-they don’t even have to come into the office – So why is is that so many people come to work sick or coughing their guts up and spreading their diseases, when they should be at home?

Mis education

People think it will go away (which to be fair, it will do eventually) they can grin and bear it. Macho attitude – weak to admit you are sick.!

Don’t understand/don’t care just how easy it is for you to pass a cold on to another person (i.e handshake)

Attitude and social values –

Some people think its bad to be Ill and will pretend they are ok. Don’t know why this is, may be a certain stigma is attached to people who can’t work, on benefits etc…

Importance –

Some will go to work as there is something they must attend/do.

Even if they are suffering from the plague they must attend.

It’s interesting contrasting this with China.  Despite it being generally dirtier in Chinese cities and less hygienic for sure, many in the west would think the Chinese are hypochondriacs and overreact to illnesses.

There are some nasty bugs in China that you don’t get in the UK, but the obvious reason for this kind of hypochondria (beyond the fact that nobody really wants to be sick) is lack of employment rights (i.e no sick pay/statutory benefits are almost non existent) and health care costing money.

You get sick, you pay.

I don’t get it, it’s one of the (very few) advantages of the social system that exists in the UK whereby you are legally entitled to not have to go into work if you are unwell. You even GET PAID (unless you work for yourself), If you get really Ill, you continue to get paid in some cases for 6 months or more. You even get free health care, ok you have to pay for a prescription, but access to see a doctor does not cost you a penny!


I also think there is a way of doing things that has grown out of personal car ownership whereby people seldom wear warm clothes that were once worn in the UK; thermals, long coats, thick jumpers are a thing of the past. People get out of their warm cars and don’t spend long amounts of time outside like they used to – I think this is a contributor to sickness and Illness as it makes people more susceptible to illness, but I’m not doctor this is just a thought…


Maybe I am cynical in my attitude, but I think that I am almost entitled to my days off work from sickness. If I feel unwell, I wont go to work. In the UK don’t feel I have to justify this to anybody, after all I pay more than my fair share of taxation that supports this very social system :soldier: !!!  I’m not talking about abusing the system i.e. being ‘sick’ and claiming benefits from the government, rather than working. It’s more a case of making the most of what you pay for and not spreading your illness to others in the office.

In China when I was sick I would not get paid or would have to make up the hours missed. However, I paid very little tax, so when I was Ill I knew that I would have to pay from my own pocket. This is a harsher system and detrimentally affects those that are more susceptible to illness like the Old and the very young , but from a purely selfish perspective it’s better for me in my current situation!


hot!Rather suddenly it’s got really hot, too hot actually, can’t do anything without sweating buckets and/or getting fried – going outside is a chaw. I’m lucky though, as my apartment is air conditioned because it can be miserable living in a place that has little or no ventilation – especially during the summer months.

Being so far inland means that the weather stays pretty contant during this time of the year, but it also means you don’t have the advantage of a fresh sea breeze so at times the air gets a little dusty.


Starting to notice people taking out umbrellas doubling as parasols to protect themselves from the suns rays. The sun in Changchun is particularly bright (I often have to wear sunglasses) and surprisingly strong, much stronger than it ever gets in the UK.

The Chinese have a notion about white skin that those in the west may find peculiar, most of all that getting a tan is not a good thing. Many associate darker skin with uneducated peasant workers or people from the countryside that work on the farms. Their skin is darker because they have to stay outside all day trying to make a living. Whereas, In the west, many think people who are too white look unhealthy but here it is considered a form of beauty to be whiter.

There are many beauty products available on the market – just watch TV and you’re sure to be constantly reminded of this through those never ending TV adverts -about things that can make the skin more pale and ‘whiter’. I have explained, much to the surprise of those being told, that in the west some people actually pay money to make their skin darker, either through cosmetics or sitting under a light for a few hours.

It strikes me that wherever you go, people always have this idea that being something you’re not is somehow better.

Personally, I have a dislike of tans not only because I burn fast but because I think it is silly. Besides the obvious cancer concerns, I have no interest whatsoever in getting a tan, I see it as like putting yourself in the microwave for a few hours, and that’s not something that I really want to do! In this sense I’m with the Chinese in terms of the way they protect themselves from the sunshine, though I disagree with the idea of one colour of skin being better or more beautiful than another.

One of my favourite pastimes of late has been to go swimming. Even though I’m not a very good swimmer, It’s a great way to relax and forget about things, however, It can at times be a little intimidating as everyone stares at the man with the white skin. I know foreigners that wont go swimming here as they can’t stand the stares, Chinese don’t have much body hair and seeing a man with hair on his body, is for some, akin to seeing a monkey at the zoo! Therefore, I guess I’m lucky in that I’m on a par with the Chinese men when it comes to this, so once I’m in the pool with goggles and hat on, nobody can tell! 🙂

劳动节 Labour day

So It’s May already, things have gone so fast over the last month. I’ve now got a 7 day break as it’s the labour day holiday 劳动节, feels both good and weird to not have anything to do this week, would consider travelling but it’s a busy time.

Many of the DVD shops here are now selling mostly DVD9s (apparently better quality than the standard ones) for an exhorbitant 10 yuan (75p!) a piece. Since I have a good internet connection and I resent paying so much, I’ve started to burn my own copies. I wish I had done this sooner as you can download much, much more than you can buy in the shops and a blank disc costs less than 1yuan to buy. Furthermore I no longer have to worry about getting bad quality copies, broken discs and films in Russian only!

Outside over the space of the last 4 days the shrubs next to my apartment have turned from dead looking sticks into healthy looking green trees. It’s quite amazing how quick the transformation has been, especially so this year with the weather like summer already.

This time of year it’s considerably warmer outside than staying inside as often the buildings walls are built very thick (therefore making full use of the cave effect in keeping a constant temperature all year round), I find myself in the curious position of puting on clothes when inside and taking them off to go outside!

Back again

Went home over the winter came back here for thecar stuck in snow start of the semester. It seems that winter has been on strike this year, It hasn’t been very cold and so there has been a lot more snow than normal. It even rained in February -I think the summer is going to be a long one.

Being away from things and travelling back makes you re-evaluate what you’ve never even thought about before. I found myself on more than one occasion saying to myself ‘it never gets light’ ‘where are the people?’ ‘everyone is so fat!’ ‘carpet!’.
Some call it reverse culture shock, however, it’s not like culture shock when you go to a new place.
I was told it would feel like being a tourist in your own country, however, It’s more complicated than that. Things are familiar but as if there has been a rift in the space time continuum, so that some things are different but nobody notices except you. Moreover if you tell people that this is different from how it used to be, you are looked at as if you should be committed!
From this I think you can start to understand where people from foreign countries get the ideas of social stereotypes, as from their perspective that’s how things appear.
The Tube from Heathrow presented a microcosm of sorts. Quiet, everyone reading pretending to be asleep or inspecting their shoes – just as you’d expect. Then at a stop a group of Mandarin speakers got on. (I couldn’t quite work out where they were from though accents suggested they weren’t from the north of china) They talked enthusiastically (and loudly) with each other, I could register looks of disdain and near contempt from some of the other passengers as if to say ‘be quiet!’, ‘don’t you know we Students clearing snow on busy roaddon’t talk on trains’.

One of my students asked me about strangers starting up conversations in public places (i.e. on public transport) and I told him that you often think (wrongly or rightly) the person wants something will stab you or is a nutcase.
Every so often I would have a quite laugh when someone would use language that I had forgotten about, slang or some new words that I haven’t heard.
Overall though, not much about home has changed beyond the obvious and I doubt anything substantial really changes in the UK. I can imagine going back in ten years (bar technological progressions) things being pretty much the same as always.

And there are so many similarities between the UK and China – there are some things done better in China than the UK and vice-versa.
Of course It’s probably me that has changed the most. Obviously that is because I have been in Changchun for over 2 years and I have had many different experiences from on train

I’ve been asking myself is this a good thing, afterall having to re- adapt to different surroundings isn’t easy – is it worth it.
I believe so, experiences change opinions, broaden minds and I believe make you more tolerant of others. It certainly has opened my mind up to all sorts of other ideas and ways of thinking.
Indeed, I couldn’t help noticing how insular looking and narrow minded (to me anyway) many people sounded when I was at home.
Many foreigner teachers complain about how ‘brainwashed’ the Chinese students are, but infact they have much greater understanding about the UK than someone from the UK does about China and that speaks volumes about peoples general knowledge about other countries and cultures.

Sometimes I have written about a situation that has happened to me that I have said wouldn’t happen in the West. This situation would never happen in China. The single biggest problem I encountered whilst in the UK was communication. In China sometimes there are communication problems, which is what you expect from trying to speak a second language. At least in China you can always find a human being to speak with if you have a problem with something and if they don’t want to help another human being etc. e.g at the train station.

skyline from apartmentAt the bank, If I have a problem I can sort things out. Sometimes the process is infuriating and cumbersome but it can be achieved because of the human involvement! In the UK I went into the bank no human beings were available, but i could talk to a machine. There is only so much a machine can do.
I read that both China’s greatest asset and its greatest problem is its population, I think not having enough people is almost as bad.
The langauge barrier is nothing – you can do things. Without a human – even though english is my first language – you can’t.


Been ultra busy of late not had much time to think.  The weather is still very mild, it broke freezing today.  They say the North Pole is going to totally melt by 2040,  I can believe it.   

As part of my job,  I am obliged to give a final mark to all of my students. Anything over 60 is considered a pass, however all of their marks over all of their subjects are averaged to come up with a final score. If they fail they ‘cannot’ continue to the next year and will be required to take a ‘make-up’ exam to compensate for this.   Actually, I refuse to fail any of my students.  The lowest mark I give is 61.  The reason for this is that if I do fail them, they will simply take the make-up exam and pass anyway.    The make-up usually  consists only of giving the the dean of the school a brown envelope in exchange for a pass. 

 Perhaps one of the most important things for the students are the scholarships that are available. From what I understand, all public universities have a government scholarship available to the students just for passing all of their subjects. It’s something tiny like 60yuan a semester, but better than a poke in the eye. The universites also offer a scholarship based on the scores, though they may differ depending on the institution. where I am now, if a student scores over 90 in all areas they will get something like 1000yuan for the year.

At a previous university  I gave all the students written and oral exams as well as taking into account their general attendance. I gave the department the information at the end of the semester, satisifed I had done everything as equitably as possible. Come the next semester I had perhaps 20 students complaining about their marks; they either had a very low mark or not one at all!

So I went back to the dept, got the copies of the mark sheets from the office only to find that they had been changed. Not only just edited, but these were not the sheets I had handed in previously!  I scanned down to the bottom to see that my name had been forged, somone had written DAVID in large child-like handwriting as if to indicate my signature!

Anyway these poor students eventually got a mark and everything was ok. But I was annoyed as it questioned my competance and made me look like an fool.  The students seemed relativly unperturbed by this, suggesting to me that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to them.  Looking back I’m sure it wasn’t!

The Chinese academic institutions aren’t great at accountability, so when you get into a problem it’s often difficult (if not impossible) to get a straight answer from anyone. Nobody wants to know.  It’s not their problem.  I’ve heard tales of students not being able to graduate just because their exam scripts were ‘lost’  by the university.  Or the student that told me her grade was 100% wrong –  she had been given the wrong mark  by her teacher and was unable to change it as the university was unwilling (or more likely unable) to get the original script. 

No re-take. No second chance.

Here extreme strict liability applies, the burden falls on the student. 



There’s something seriously wrong with the weather at the moment, It almost feels like summer to me. 

Yesterday I had to take off my jacket and strip right down to my T-shirt because I was sweating just like it I was last summer.  It got above freezing yesterday and tomorrow they say the high is -2C!! 

It should be -10C to – 20C by now,  If it continues like this I’ll have to consider moving to another city with real weather!! 🙂  

 One of my students told me that the hot weather is due to some natural phenomenon that has something to do with the wind patterns, though I’m not sure whether this is true of not?


It’s been unseasonally mild of late but the other day the weather finally turned. The leaves fell off the trees in only a couple of days, things changed so fast.
Winter is just beginning, hopefully it’ll snow next week. Fortunately my apartment is very warm and often I have to open the windows to let in the cool air. 🙂 But I’m not complaining, having an apartment that is cold during the winter is enough to make anyone want to leave China.

nov weather