Asia | Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

Awaiting Chinese Books

I finally decided to get the books of the New Approaches To Learning Chinese series: Intensive Spoken Chinese, The Most Common Chinese Radicals and Rapid Literacy in Chinese. The reviews are quite promising and the method convinced me. As the books are already sent, I hope they’ll arrive tomorrow.

Chinese Textbooks

The Chinese course I attended last year used the book Chinesisch für Deutsche (Chinese for Germans). The problem is that it doesn’t contain information on how to write Chinese characters at all. You have to figure it out by yourself. And the first dialogs are about mother, father, cat, dog and the fact that some students learn while others have a break. Not the kind of vocabulary that I suppose is most needed during the first days in Shanghai.

So I think about getting a new book. ChinesePod is going to cover Integrated Chinese throughout the next semester. I also read about the New Practical Chinese Reader which is prefered by some reviewers. How on earth should I know which one is better?

Golden Shield

I just told a Chinese friend that I started blogging but she couldn’t open the page. Google found out why., where this blog is hosted, is blocked in China what might become a problem when studying there…

Singapore Flyer

Another reason for a detour to Singapore:

And it’ll open just in time.

Not Yet Arranged

I called Tongji University yesterday to ask them when the spring semester 2008 will start. They didn’t know, told me “the schedule is not yet aranged” and I should try again in november. The whole thing seems to depend on the Chinese Spring Festival whose date is well-known. I suppose it’s one of these intercultural challgenges we have to cope. ;-)

Just to show the difference to Germany: The winter semester 2008/2009 at TU München will be from October 13, 2008 until February 2, 2009.




I recommend you to get a SIM card from one of the three large telco companies:

  • Viettel, operated by the Ministry of Defense
  • Mobifone, operated by the Ministry of Information and communication
  • Vinaphone, not operated by any ministry but a subsidiary of VNPT, the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group considered the “Operator of State Servants”

Make sure to check out the promotions they are running. It might also make sense to buy a second-hand SIM card that is eligible for a menu that is no longer offered.

Each of my two Viettel V90 menus gives me 2 Gigabyte of data per day (!) for 90.000 Dong (3.90 USD) a month.


Depending on where you live you might need one or two things:

An air filter. I recommend the Sqair. It’s inexpensive, silent, effective and beautiful.

Less obvious: A dehumidifier. Humidity goes up to 85 percent. When I realized that there is an issue the backpack and toilet bag in my closet were already covered in mold.

Today my dehumidifier gets eight liters of water out of the air of a 27 square meter studio.


The easiest way to get around is on a scooter. Tigit Motorbikes has good guides that help you with selecting your bike.


Furniture & Home Accessories

Moving to Saigon one of the hardest things was finding things like (affordable) duvet covers, usable toilet paper. Some recommendations to make your life easier:

Health Care

I’ve had good experiences with all kind of departments in FV Hospital, both inpatient and outpatient.

Unwanted guests

You might find ants, cockroaches or mice in your apartment. I had a good experience with Absolute Pest Control who took professional care of an ant problem for a reasonable price.


Multiple Days

There are some things that I’d say are essential, like Pudong, the French Concession or the Bund. Here some advices which might help you to plan ahead.

Century Park → Lujiazui

You can take Line 2 to Century Park, one of the largest parks in the city. After crossing it you arrive at the Shanghai Science and Technology Market with its large underground fake/tailor market.

Then you walk the whole Century Avenue (or take the metro to save time/energy) to Lujiazui, the area with the highest skyscrapers. You’ll find the Shanghai Tower, the World Financial Center and the Jin Mao Tower as well as the Oriental Pearl Tower and (if you like to go shopping) the Super Brand Mall.

This trip should end with a scenery of the Bund at dawn, seen from Pudong. Preferably at the weekend as I don’t know if it’ll be illuminated during the week. Depending on the time you spend shopping, I think that’ll take half a day to one day.

Xujiahui → Huaihai Lu

Xujiahui is a large conglomerate of Electronic Markets in Xuhui District. You can get off, look around, maybe visit a nearby church and then walk Hengshan Lu to Huaihai Lu through the French Concession with its villas and plane-lined alleys. You can continue on the high priced Huaihai Lu to People’s Square. Takes a half to one day. (If you only want to do the French Concession then go to South Shanxi Road and continue from there.)

Moganshan Lu

The art street. Moganshan Lu 50, a former factory, is now home to many artists and galleries. Everytime you go there things have changed, new exhibitions open every week, there are concerts and other events. Especially on Friday/Saturday. I’d advice to go there around lunchtime, visit the galleries, take a dinner somewhere and return for a concert.

Nanjing Lu, People’s Square

Two of the most famous places in Shanghai. Not necessarily the most beautiful ones but definitely members of the “must have seen” category. Half a day should be enough but you can spend much more time in the numberous museums around there. Although not quite as famous as the East Nanjing Road, the West Nanjing Road is, in my opinion, more beautiful. Very elegant and high priced. It leads to Jing’an Temple.

Bund → Old Town

Starting near the Old Town you should walk the Bund up on the riverside to see Pudong and down on the other side to enjoy the buildings. Then you can continue to the Old Town. Should take half a day to one day.

Old houses

That’s something I highly recommend. See one of the poorer neighbourhoods that are being torn down to make place for uniform appartment buildings. In these places you can still see little food markets with living animals (with broken feet…), meat lying around in the sun and things tourists usually don’t see.


A friend adds that there is another interesting place in Hongkou District, Duolun Lu, a street where many famous Chinese writers have lived. Knowledge of Chinese history might be helpful. I haven’t been there yet.

Maybe you also want to visit the Campus of Chinese Universities. Either Tongji, where I studied, or Jiao Tong.

24 Hours

If you’re not afraid of walking:

  • Take the subway to People’s Square and walk east to the Bund. You can either take the popular but very commercial East Nanjing Road or one of the roads running parallel like Fuzhou Road with a lot of stationary and book shops.
  • You’ll get to the Bund at the Huangpu River and have a great view at the tall buildings in Pudong. Walk south along the river until you reach the old town where you can visit the Yu Garden.
  • After that, go west until you reach the subway station South Huangpi Road on Huaihai Road and take line one to Changshu Road.
  • You’re now in the French Concession. Walk down Hengshan Lu until you reach Xujiahui Park and the big electronic stores at Xujiahui.

Here’s a map:

In the evening, you might enjoy the great view over Pudong and Puxi at the Vue Bar in the Hyatt on the Bund.

The story of my life in China is here.

Latest Posts

Doing and Sitting  

John Pasden at Sinosplice shares this cute conversation between a bilingual kid in the US and a Chinese adult:

Adult: 你最喜欢跟家人做什么?
Child: 椅子。

In English:

Adult: What do you most like doing with your family?
Child: Chair.

John explains:

The key to understanding this exchange is knowing that 做 (zuò), the verb meaning “to do,” sounds identical to the verb 坐 (zuò), which means “to sit.” Add into this that many verbs in Chinese don’t require an additional preposition like their English counterparts (for example, we’d say “sit on” rather than just “sit”), and the child’s answer starts to make a lot of sense.

Great example of the challenges understanding spoken Chinese. Using characters this mixup could never happen.

Then enter Vietnamese, where even in the written language everything looks the same:

Chào em = Hello
Cháo em = You porridge

TikTok War  

Ben Thompson suggests blocking TikTok in the US:

This is, without question, a prescription I don’t come to lightly. Perhaps the most powerful argument against taking any sort of action is that we aren’t China, and isn’t blocking TikTok something that China would do? Well yes, we know that is what they would do, because the Chinese government has blocked U.S. social networks for years. Wars, though, are fought not because we lust for battle, but because we pray for peace. If China is on the offensive against liberalism not only within its borders but within ours, it is in liberalism’s interest to cut off a vector that has taken root precisely because it is so brilliantly engineered to give humans exactly what they want.

I would add a friend’s suggestion to block WeChat so the Chinese elite’s kids studying overseas can no longer communicate easily with their friends back home. Let them see how it feels.