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4 Mar 2013

Foreigners in Belarus: a Chinese lecturer

Expats in Belarus

A Chinese lecturer talking about Belarusians which are kind and well-behaved, but drinls heavily 

Chinese woman Na Siao, the teacher at Republican Confucius Institute of BSU, shared her impressions of Minsk and its citizens.

Na Siao was born in Anshan, eastern China. She studied the Russian language and literature for 4 years at Harbin University. After graduation she passed an exam, studied for a month at a training course of teaching the Chinese grammar and then she was sent to Minsk.

In the childhood she dreamed of becoming a scientist in the field of physics or chemistry. Also she wanted to become a lawyer. But it happened that the Chinese girl connected her life with Russian and came to Belarus for work.

I learned about Belarus from Google
- After I had found out where I was to be sent to work, I opened Google and entered in a line of search "Belarus". I read about it and learnt that it is the capital but not a village. I understood that Minsk is rather safe city. The policy in the country is similar to the Chinese one and the countries are on good terms. When I was going here I thought Belarus is Europe. But when I arrived, the opinion changed a bit.

Besides what I read in Google about Belarus and about Minsk, I knew nothing more. But I didn’t have a choice whether come here or not as it was a compulsory condition after graduating. I could wait for a year in order to choose another city, but I didn't. And in the autumn of 2011 I arrived to Minsk.

Minsk is like Harbin
- When I saw Minsk for the first time, I saw that it was a very clean city. In China there is practically everywhere garbage, it’s not as clean as here. People here are very kind. Earlier when I was looking for a place to stay in, I used to ask people and they always showed me the way.

Once a year ago when I just arrived to Minsk, I needed to find linguistic university. I asked an old lady in a bus №100 how to get there. That kind lady told me at what bus stop I had to hop off and then led me directly to the university doors. It was very poignant.

At that time the weather was cold, like in the northern city in China, Harbin. It was snowing and freezing. The Chinese winter is not as long as that.

Minsk appeals to me as there are birds here. Ducks are in the river, crows are in the streets, pigeons are in yards. In China there are few birds, some bad people kill them.

For a long time I was getting accustomed to the Belarusian money, it took me around 3 months. At first when I came home in the evening, I sat down on a bed and counted the money. I was imagining how rich I was.

The Belarusians eat in order
- Speaking about people, the citizens of Minsk are very favourable. They do everything in series, properly. For example, if they eat, they do it in course: at first they eat soup, and then the second course, then the third course. I can't wait and keep my patience. I want to partake the second course after a couple of spoons of the first, - laughing, tells Na Hsiao.

I like the way people behave in public transport. They act logically and seriatim. When a bus stops, at first passengers hop off, and then those who stood at a bus station hop on. If I’m near the doors I’m usually asked in advance whether I am going to get off at the next stop. It’s very nice and makes me glad. In China it is absolutely in a different way. People get on and off at the same time, despite of everything.

All my friends are students
Having lived in Minsk about a year, I can say that all of my friends are students. Besides to students, I have few friends. Most of them are those who speak Chinese a little. Also there are Chinese friends in the hostel I live in.

-Where a Chinese girl can meet someone in Minsk?
-We don't make the acquaintance on the street. We are afraid of it. If a Belarusian guy comes to me to get to know me, I’ll be very surprised and won’t understand why and what for he has done it. Meeting somebody in a company is another matter.

In the evening in public transport I often pay heed to tipsy men’s pestering me. They are trying to make a conversation with me. But I do not understand them. In China there’s much less drunkens.

Here I have few opportunities to meet people other than students and those who are interested in Chinese culture and traditions.

-Where a Chinese can get a job in Minsk?
I think in Minsk a Chinese can get a job only in Chinese companies. Also he/she may work as a translator, but again in a Belarusian-Chinese or Chinese-Belarusian company.

I have an acquaintance – he’s a Chinese married a Belarusian girl. Now they have two kids. About 20 years ago he arrived in Minsk and started working as a translator. So he met a girl and married her.

The most interesting thing is that kids take after their dad and speak  Russian better, since they spend more time with mother.

In Belarus goods are much more expensive, than in China
- Your cuisine fetches me on the whole, but I dislike Belarusian potato pancakes with sour cream. Russian cabbage soup is nice, too.

The Chinese food in Minsk cafes is similar to Chinese, but we prefer cooking in a hostel. In China’s cafes and restaurants giving waiters tips is not universally accepted unlike in Belarus.

In Minsk stuff is much more expensive, than in China, and the choice of vegetables isn’t large, especially in winter.  Mainly you can buy cabbage, carrot, dill - and that’s all... And meat is extremely expensive.
In general I prefer eating and cooking seafood. To buy these products I usually go to the Komarovsky market. The assortment is wider than in shops and supermarkets, and sellers are very nice.
When we gather together with Chinese in a hostel, we are sure to cook and then we play the Chinese cards.

What are Minsk and Beijing similar in?
- Minsk and Beijing are similar in being metropolises. Both have lots of wide streets and avenues. In the subway there’s almost identical jam, although, frankly speaking, in Beijing there are more people.
For me buildings in Minsk are too low in comparison with Beijing and other Chinese cities. Minsk houses are usually 9 - 12-storeyed, and in Beijing  -  20 - 30-storeyed.

From the regional cities I have been to, Mogilev pleased me most. There is a beautiful river, the streets are not crowded. And in general the city is ideal for meeting there an old age and to stay there on pension.

Grodno is a beautiful city as well, but the trip’s story was very sad. When we arrived there, it was very cold and we were tired, therefore we couldn't stroll and admire local beauty.

Favourite places in Minsk
- Once I went to the National Opera and Ballet of Belarus to watch the opera. I liked it immensely. Quite often I go to the cinema. Most of all I like the cinema "Belarus", because the chairs are very comfortable.
I like wandering around TC “Stolitsa” as there are a lot of various shops.

Often I come to cafe “Seven”. I like it and even have a discount card for lunches. "Lido" is nice, too. And the first cafe I visited was "El Pomidoro ". It’s quite OK, but the service is slow.
Recently I discovered a new place - TNT club. It not so big, but there is live music and there you can communicate with friends and meet new guys.

As to holidays, I liked the Parade on the Victory Day in Minsk and Maslenitsa in Gorky Park. On Maslenitsa they cooked tasty pancakes and a Shish kebab. Also it was very interesting to watch an effigy being buried. I even threw a piece of paper in fire with what I hate written on it. But now I don't remember what I wrote.

About obscene things in the subway
- I saw an unpleasant scene a week ago in Minsk metro. One evening I was in the subway waiting for the train and next to me there was a pervert with the undone pants and he behaved himself inappropriately.

"Havajsya u bulbu"
At the end Na Hsiao shared her plans for the future. She wants to enter a postgraduate course at BSU.
Not only I teach my students. They teach me as well. For instance I learnt these words from one of my students: havajsya u bulbu, pryvitanne, syabry, da pabachenna.

Nadezhda Naimushina

Translated by Katya Klishchuk


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