Differences on News Reporting Between China and The UK

TVB Pearl Hong Kong logo. Photo credit twitter.com

Until recently it had been a while since I’d read any Western newspapers.


Occasionally I’ll catch a headline on a western website but I rarely follow through to read the full story. My local television news comes from Hong Kong in English and provides me with a daily or weekly news update.

I’ve been quite satisfied with this, quickly acclimatizing to the wealth and variety of local news and news stories throughout Asia and I still really enjoy hearing in-depth reports from Thailand, Vietnam, parts of Africa, Japan and Indonesia.

I love the way these places are mentioned as casually and as frequently as European countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy and Greece are spoken about on British news.

But, sorry, I digress a little, let me get back on track.

Joao Da Silver TVB Pear
Joao Da Silva reporting on TVB Pearl News from Hong Kong. Photo credit youtube.com

Guess I’d Just Forgotten

I received a shock this weekend when I checked out some of the British newspapers online.

After many months of the relative positivity and the comparative mildness of Asian news reporting, I was really taken aback by the negative, close to the bone slandering, doom and gloom of the UK press.

No wonder I was so fed-up just before I left. I’d been subconsciously absorbing a mental diet of always waiting for the worst to happen. Pessimism without borders.


Daily Mail Online. A popular British newspaper. photocredit tutor2u.net

Is All Good News is Good News?

Why do they do this? I wondered as I read yet another article on some nasty event which hadn’t yet occurred but, which, according to the journalist, ‘could’ happen or was even ‘on the brink of happening’.

Everything about the writing seemed to be designed to shock, upset or evoke your morale sensibilities into condemning those who operate at a lower standard.

Standards defined by whom?

Who decides which group is morally right and which group is morally wrong in British society? The UK press, apparently.

TVB Pearl Hong Kong logo. Photo credit twitter.com

Once You Start…

One of the most scary things was how hard it was to stop reading after I’d begun an article. This could have been due to the layout which seemed designed to suck you in and keep you there, or it could have been the force of the fatalistic, sensationalist reporting, which as I’ve mentioned, was full of ‘possibilities’ along with judgements on society’s ‘outcasts’.

Perhaps I should be glad that at least the range of those we were encouraged to look down on was all inclusive. From the very rich to the very poor. The employed and the unemployed, male and female, irregardless of race, creed or religion, nobody was above condemnation.

Break The Chain

An hour later I finally logged off because my brain was hurting and I literally couldn’t take anymore.

Reading the articles had left me deflated, depressed and irritated. Annoyed with myself for wasting brain cells which I’d never get back and angry at the UK press for churning out a stream of emotion grabbing content which is essentially devoid of intellectual and uplifting theoretical fibre.

In short, it’s nonsense.

They call it news, but it’s not. It’s empty, rumour fuelled, here today, gone tomorrow, time wasting. money draining, gossip-filled dross.


ATV (Asia TV) news Hong Kong broadcasts in Cantonese and English. Photo credit scmp.com

Final Thoughts

I wish, oh how I wish, that they would take a lesson from the form of news reports here in Asia. I’m not saying it’s perfect, far from it and I could probably write another post on all of the ways it could probably improve.


Realistically no news gathering organization on the planet has managed to get it 100% correct, but I know it’s better simply because watching after the thirty minute evening news I don’t feel like it’s the end of the world or that all lesser beings (whoever they are, most likely including myself), should be rounded up and recolonized on a far away planet.


Instead I feel informed, educated and enlightened, sometimes even entertained.

I thought that was the whole point of news reporting, to give the facts, hopefully in a balanced way and let people decide for themselves, but I guess not.

Forgive me for being naive.


A Cold Blast Through Tropical China

Snow in Shenzhen
The first snow in Shenzhen in more than 80 years fell on Sunday January 24 2016

This week has been a real anachronism in tropical Shenzhen as it’s been cold and getting colder. This is not what I signed up for and if it doesn’t stop soon I will demand a refund.

Within 24 hours, Shenzheners have gone from chuckling smugly at our Northern cousins buried in snow, smog and icy rain while we gadded about in long sleeves and the occasional light jacket, to fully paid-up members of the teeth-chattering, bones freezing, fingertips dropping off, multiple-layer wearing tribe.

Serves us right, I suppose.


Snow in South China's Tropics
Ice on Tai Mo Mountain in Hong Kong photo credit: Dickson Lee, South China Morning Post

Could be Warmer Outside?

With totally un-perfect timing the heater in my apartment decided to retire itself from active service. I walked around my neighbourhood looking for a cheap one. The walk did warm me up a little (just a little), but everyone else had beaten me to it and taken all of the heaters long before I got there.

So I hopped onto the non-heated bus and headed for the supermarket, where I was able to purchase one for twice the price of my old one. As you can probably guess I grumbled about my misfortune all the way home loud enough for others to hear, because you know misery loves company.

Cuddling Up Close

This new but not particularly improved heater and I have become good friends during this cold spell, both of us staring in disbelief at the TV weather lady’s announcement that the Chinese met office had even issued a ‘cold weather warning.’

Tell us something we don’t know.

My New Outfit

This is what I’m currently wearing;

1 pair of over the knee socks, cream coloured if you’re interested. One pair of ankle socks (purple and orange), two pairs of leggings, (one black, one blue), four assorted tops consisting of t-shirts and jumpers, one black woolly hat, one very long bright red scarf wrapped around my head and body several times, oh and furry slippers.


The shiver that’s been running through me all day is gradually diminishing but I’m really not happy, I so hate being cold. I truly believe that human beings, just like birds, should head south for the winter which is what I did, but for now it seems the winter has followed me.

This cold snap is expected to last for the rest of the week, about four more days or so. By then I’ll probably be wearing every item of clothing I have simultaneously.

Winter in Northern China photo credit: scoopnest.com

Final Thoughts

Is the phrase, ‘Cold weather in the tropics’ an oxymoron? It must be.

If this is supposed to make me appreciate the sun more than I already do, it’s not working. I think I’ll take that refund now please.


China’s Dancing Damas


I heard them before I saw them.

The rhythmic drum of their music guided me along the street and around the corner. I allowed my ears to lead my body, drawn by the sweet but compelling melody brought to me on the gentle morning breeze.

Usually they were out early in the morning, or conversely in the evenings a little before dusk, so I hadn’t expected to enounter them at just after after 9am.

The paved concrete square which greeted me at the turn of the street was a foot above street level, twenty feet long by twenty feet wide. Shade from the tropical rich yellow sun was provided by luscious, age old trees, thick with scented foliage.

A small, ugly black speaker was placed unobtrusively to one side where it could be heard and not seen as it pumped out a steady beat.


Graceful Elegance

Women danced with men. Women danced with women. Grandchildren and toddlers newly discovering how their legs worked, teetered in and out of the swaying couples. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the young or the old.

I wandered who had taught these senior citizens to hold their backs so straight and their necks so elegant? Shoulders and upper arms in a perfect square.

Who whispered to them that this was the best way to move spines, hips and legs in perfect form in order to sway in graceful harmony?


Women perform square dance in an open space in Ruichen, Shanxi province, on Jun. 30, 2012. (China Foto Press)

Origins of the Dancing Damas

Apparently these ladies, aged from 60 upwards, began meeting in communal outdoor spaces in their youth during the time of China’s Cultural Revolution. They’d been previously displaced by the upheavals at the time which had split families and disrupted communities. Following the rule of thought at that time, they embraced the idea of collectivism over individualism,substituting self-interest with a larger concern for others.

The square dancing activity re-inforces, or maybe brings back, that long time sense of community safety and tribalism.

However, it seems that all is not well these days,

Some residents feel that the Dancing Damas are taking over their communities with too many people, too many beats and well, just too much noise for twice a day, seven days a week. As a result police in some local areas have taken measures to restrict the duration of their dances as well as the number of participants allowed.

Added to this, are increasing media reports about the Dancing Damas gathering together during holidays overseas to do their routines, potentially embarrassing their nation. The locals abroad, however, don’t seem to mind.


Final Thoughts

I wonder if this tradition will continue when today’s 30 year olds reach a similar age. When I ask my friends and colleagues of both sexes, they reply that it’s just an activity which keeps their grandparents happy.

Communal square dancing, like Tai Chi, Badminton and Physical Exercise routines is a normal part of outdoor life in China.

For the elderly who grew up in a different era and have faced constant, fast-moving change, it’s a unique and effective way of keeping active and holding onto ties from the past whilst silencing the threatening breaths of possible loneliness.

All that’s required is a shared love of classical Chinese music and a willingness to express this love through movement.

Oh and you can bring the grandchild along too, if you wish


Foodie Fame! No-where to run or hide.

Cake, Chinese style!

These days I’m more often recognized for my eating habits as I am for being the local English teacher. It’s been going on for a few weeks to the point where I’m seriously starting to wonder if I should make some changes.

CostaCoffeeAccosted at Costa

The young, welcoming staff of the Costa Coffee across the square from my workplace used to greet me with a bright, ‘hallo!’ Lately that cheery ‘hallo!’ has become, ‘medium hot chocolate and raspberry sponge cake?’

My ‘usual’ order is verbally tossed across the café towards me whilst I’m still on the threshold, informing all present of my preference for the cocoa bean over the coffee bean and my penchant for light sponge-cake with a gooey berry in the centre.

Luxurious Food for Sophisticated People

My favourite supermarket for expensive Western-ish food has an appealing cake counter which I resisted for at least six months before succumbing to the inevitable and, sure enough, it’s proved to be my downfall. The kindly customer service assistants can now clock me from ten feet away. Eager to please, they shout, ‘apple pie!’ while smiling at me (and only me) like we’re old friends.

Sometimes I don’t even want any, as wonderful as it is, but unless I skulk past trying hard to be invisible, they assume that as I’m in the vicinity…..

Sizzling Sichuan Fish

Fish hotpot

After only two visits, my not so local restaurant doesn’t even offer me a menu anymore. The waitress gestures as a table while casually calling out my order towards an open kitchen hatch, where I assume the Chef is already frying or chopping or sizzling something. ‘Golden Sichuan fish in sweet and sour sauce with greens and boiled rice!’  Unsurprisingly she gets it right every time.


Final Thoughts

Am I so predictable? How did this happen? Should I be worried? Will it get worse with age?

I’d find new places to patronize but why bother? I like my familiar haunts which offer me my own Ground Hog Day.

If you look it at another way, China is developing at a crazy pace with changes being the order of the day across swathes of the country. Maybe this foreigner can give a teeny tiny bit of consistency, even if it is only in my food choices.

The Difficulties Chinese Students Have With Western Style Education


photo courtesy of; www.chungchenghighmain.moe.edu.sg

A New Student

Recently I was asked to spend two hours coaching a 14 year old girl who was a few days away from flying to England for an interview at a music school.

She’d had very little previous contact with foreigners and while her English skills in reading and writing were competent, her active listening and speaking skills were lacking.

This is a common occurence in China.

English speaking skills are left to languish as they represent only a small part of testing. The emphasis is on reading and grammar, thought there have been recent reports that this could change in the near future.


Mimi’s Goals

At fourteen she’d excelled in  both piano and bassoon and was now aiming to study at a good music school in England where she’d be interviewed face to face in less than a week’s time. In addition she’d play pieces on her instrument and tour the school facilities. Her parents, of course, would be with her every step of the way.

How Could I Help?
Mimi walked into my room five minutes early wearing a big smile but as soon as I asked her how she was, her smile faded away and I didn’t see it again until it was time to leave.

Obviously she was understandably nervous so I took my time with her, spoke to her gently in short sentences and gave her time to think through her responses.

However, it wasn’t long before I realised that I had encountered a younger, less surer version of Grace.

Do you remember Grace?

She was a brilliant young woman, aged about 18, who I’d coached for several weeks. She was hoping to attend a prestigious private German college and, on academic results alone she would have passed with flying colours, but that just wasn’t enough.

You can read more about Grace’s fascinating story here https://myorientallifeblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/can-esl-teachers-really-make-a-difference/

So What Happened With Mimi?

More or less the same as what had happened with Grace.

Mimi was a sterling product of the rigid Chinese educational system of learning by absorbing and repeating. If she’d already been taught the answer to the question being asked she was fine. Her confidence level shot up and her response was clear and audible. But, if you took her left-field with an extension question, and I mean only a little bit left-field, not a lot, she’d literally dry up.

She’d break eye-contact, her shoulders hunched in and for the next minute or two she’d offer a total of three or four words, unconnected and with no structure.

Do you know how long a minute feels when someone is waiting for you to speak and you can’t get the words to go from your brain to your mouth?

Here’s an example of an extension question I used:

Initial question (which she’d already learnt and practiced)

‘Mimi, tell me about your family?’ 

Her response was immediate and fluent. Three to four good sentences with no grammar or pronounciation errors.


Now here’s the extension question (left-field and unexpected).

What kind of games do you like to play with your younger sister? 

She gave little or no response without heavy prompting from me.

A great place to think
Futian Greenway in Shenzhen, China. Where I went for a walk to think about Mimi and Grace

And So….?

I never got to hear her play her bassoon, but I bet she’s great. I never got to see her chatting with her friends and family in her native language, relaxed and at ease, but I bet she’s good company.

I did the best I could which was try to prepare her for unexpected questions which she already had the answers for; ie ‘what do you like best about China?’  but felt that she didn’t because she hadn’t consciously pre-learnt and practiced them.

In short they were outside of her box.

I felt sad because I know she will be asked extension questions in England by people she doesn’t know, who’s accents may sound too strange or too fast or too scary for her. I wish I’d had more of an opportunity to try to get her to speak from her heart, but maybe that will come as she gets older.

In the meantime, Mimi, jaiyou! Good luck for your  interview and play beautifully.









Interesting ways to add life to your ESL class

Have fun with your students as they learn English

Any type of teaching can become monotonous sooner or later, if you let it.

If you’re heading in that direction in your ESL career, or even if you’re new to teaching English as a Foreign Language and want to keep your students engaged and coming back for more here are 6 tips which could help.


Don’t Wake Me Up, China

Smiles when I’ve had a good night’s sleep

Today China woke me up before I was good and ready and it’s put me in a bad mood.

I can’t work it out; is it the walls of my apartment building that are paper thin or just the windows? I’m beginning to believe that the brick and concrete is just a veneer (faux concrete? Could happen), hiding and holding up nothing more than papier mache.

Grumps Are Us

I don’t mean to sound curmudgeonly. I KNOW people have to communicate, I just don’t understand why they have to do it outside of my building at 4am, nor why it has to be SO LOUD when the person they are talking to is standing right next to them.

Is there a Chinese belief that states the louder you talk (especially when others are sleeping), the more intelligent you sound?

Perhaps there is some obscure Chinese folklore written on a piece of even more obscure Chinese scroll which mandates that all villagers shall inherit the task of plague-ing their sleeping neighbours with unnecessary dialogue, cats that howl and meow and the frequent barking of a dog.


Smiles when I’ve had a good night’s sleep

Just a Little Moan

I’m a bit upset because I had such great hopes for today. I want to make every waking hour in China count, but some of those hours have to be allocated to sleeping and how can I do that if YOU, persons passing by on the lane, TALK SO LOUDLY!

Thanks to you and your ridiculously volume enhanced friends, I’ve woken up in a funk and two hours later am still wondering around in a haze.

Can’t focus.

I look at my planned projects and think, ‘uggggghh’. And it’s all your fault.

Lost Opportunity

Today could have been the day I write my masterpiece, but the way things stand right now, this blog of complaints is about all I can manage. I just have to hope that the muse comes back tomorrow.

You should hope that too.

Smiles when I’ve had a good night’s sleep


Final Thoughts

In the meantime, while I work out how to get my day started when my brain doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, I’d like to leave you with this;

Stop it.

It’s not the first time you’ve woken me up at an unnecessary hour in this manner. Please, be a little Western occasionally and consider others.

Or, just give me your address and I’ll come around to your house at 4am and return the favour. I’ll even pay the taxi fare myself.