Going back to China after 7 weeks in Europe: What I’m bringing back to China and what I wish I could bring.
A year ago, almost to this date, I told you how I felt about going back to Beijing after a long summer in Europe. Last year, I focused on the emotions - whereas this year, I'll take you right back down to earth and tell you what’s in my suitcase.
The things I have bought in Europe - and the things I wish I could bring back to China.
(Apologies for the layout on mobile phone)
In my suitcase:
What I wish I could bring:
Cooking has always been one of my least favourite chores and since we moved to China I have really tried to find the passion for cooking by buying new cook books, strapping recipes from magazines and watching cooking channels - including my friend Jens's genius youtube channel peking papa. But alas. Ask me to host a dinner party and I'll be quite happy but everyday cooking, not so much.
But I have a solution for that. An incredibly privileged solution! Like 99% of expat families in Beijing, we have an Ayi. A maid. She comes a whopping 5 times a week for 4 hours. She tidies up, washes and irons our clothes, cleans and...cooks. I still have to get used to having a maid so I am still as disorganised as when we lived in Belgium. I would like her to cook but I forget to plan ahead, buy the necessary groceries or ask her to pass by the market so she can pick up what she needs. But all that is going to change now thanks to my new purchase! A cookbook of everyday French dishes with all the recipes written in English AND Chinese! Ladies and gentlemen I give you "Cuisine mei wenti!"! Mei wenti means "no problem" in Mandarin. The book is divided into sections with starters, main dishes, side dishes and desserts and includes useful information about the differences between Western cuisine and Chinese cuisine. For example, point 6 is "MSG is not usually used" [in Western cuisine]. Yes this book is the kind of idea I wish I had had! Just like other great ideas that cater for expats and tackle the language barrier here in China. But the woman who DID have the idea is called Olivia Guinebault and I am very happy that my neighbour Anna passed me her contact. However, I am very curious to see if the book lives up to its promise on the front page: "Daily cooking becomes a pleasure". Well if not for me then for the Ayi :-)
My shopping habits have changed completely since I moved to China. I used to live in Brussels, Belgium and there were only 2-3 shopping malls to choose from. Nevertheless I enjoyed going there. Browsing around alone or with a girlfriend, having some lunch etc. In Beijing we have hundreds (if not thoussands) of big malls. Glossy, beautiful malls with mostly western shops and decent food options. Open until 10 pm. With the exception of Solana (close to my place) and Indigo mall (great restaurants) I almost never go to the mall! The brands I know from Europe are more expensive here and even the sales are not that convenient.
What's very convenient, on the other hand, is Taobao. The online shopping mecca where you can buy EVERYTHING! To set up an account you need a Chinese debit card, a bit of patience and google translate - for which you first need a VPN - but then the magical world of Taobao (with mostly next-day delivery) will open itself to you!
I thought I'd show you some of my purchases from Taobao. Including an item I need to send back.
I know I already published a post about grocery shopping in Beijing but because of the interest in this topic (both from my readers and from myself :-)) I have decided to show you my local Chinese supermarket and what went into my newly acquired shopping trolley today.
I've been warned about buying frozen goods (as apparently they may have been thawed and refrozen) but Rebecca and I love bao - these soft buns that contain either pork meat or vegetables. So I got a pack of them but couldn't read what they contained. Turned out it was a not very tasty onion and spinach combination.
We do have a couple of supermarkets with "western" goods near our apartment - but this supermarket is much closer and perfectly fine for most things. It also has the authenticity I like! In fact, I have never seen other foreigners here.
I do not buy fresh meat here! It's not packed but just sort of lying on a table in huge pieces.
There are also things I can't get here. For example cereal (except from porridge powder :-)).