Expat Abroad: Bridget Pikes takes China

Bridget Pike is a Mozambican-born South African personality who decided to spread her wings. Since moving to China, Bridget has also expanded her career to the Arts.

Read more about her journey below.

BJ: Briefly explain how you ended up in China
BP: I needed a change, I was tired of the same things, the hopes and ideas I lived with daily. I felt like opportunities in South Africa were not in my favour and it was time to completely turn it around. I enrolled with an agency, had a skype interview which I passed and so I sold most of my valuables and headed to China to teach English.

BJ: How long have you lived there?
BP: I have been here for 7 months.

BJ: What was your biggest cultural/political adjustment?
BP: Language plays a huge role in how one adjusts to a new country, this has been my most difficult challenge yet.

BJ: What do you miss most about South Africa?
BP: The vibrancy of our people, the sun, blue skies and smiles. The variety of flavours. I miss my friends and those closest to me.

BJ: Was China always on your bucketlist?
BP: No it was never initially part of the plan. It was the last place I imagined myself being.

BJ: What is your favourite holiday destination in China?
BP: To be honest I have not traveled outside of the Sichuan Province as yet but I would like to explore it more this year.

BJ: Favourite place to eat and favourite food?
BP: The street food in China is really good and is also very affordable, but here in Sichuan the cuisine is known for its spicy flavours and of course the world famous Hotpot! I would be lying if I knew any names, but as long as you’re on a busy street you’re sure to find a street vendor cooking up something delish! I’d recommend the BBQ – this way you can select what you would like and they will pop it on the grill and serve it right up!

BJ: What do you love most about the Chinese?
BP: That they eat together, that they have family values and are always active.
I love how they remain true to their culture and heritage. They religiously drink hot water, I’ve been told it cures all aliments, I’m still experimenting with this theory. I drink a lot of hot water.

BJ: Share your list of must-see places for any Chinese visitor travelling
to South Africa?
BP: I would definitely say for wildlife, The Kruger National Park, Knysna and the Garden Route. Coffee Bay is a personal favourite, it the perfect place to get away and unwind. I would say hire a vehicle and roadtrip your way along the coast, stopping along the way. I won’t be specific because anywhere you travel to in South Africa is beautiful.

BJ: What in your opinion, is the biggest misconception about Chinese people?
BP: That they live like prisoners and are controlled by their government. The Chinese live a fairly free life and are not as stiff as everyone assumes they are. It is an efficient country where things work. They are curious and open to understanding the rest of the world.

Expat Abroad: Sfiso Sokhela makes Shanghai his home away from home

Meet Sfiso Sokhela, the 28-year old English teacher from Vryheid in KwaZulu Natal who has made Shanghai in China his second home.

Why did you move to China?
I moved to China because it was a chance for me to explore a bit more of the world and it was not as expensive as I thought it would be. I moved as well to learn and develop as a teacher. I am based in Shanghai.

How many years have you been in the country?
I have been in the country now for a year and 2 months but it feels like I just landed yesterday.

What was the most challenging adjustment for you?
I have to admit that the culture and the pace at which life goes here was a big adjustment. People are always on the move and if they get an opportunity they take it, doesn’t matter where it leads them. I was surprised by the culture as there are some similarities and vast differences. I know at home grandparents, if they are close enough, take care of the children, take them to school and bring them home until their parents come home. Here in China if you look when the school bus comes to drop off the kids or pick them up its the grandparents and a few housewives with the grandparents. I thought this was strange at first but I learnt that most parents work such difficult hours that the grandparents have to do this and they love doing it.

How China different from South Africa?
I have to also say the public transport,  taxis, the subway and even the busses are very well run. The trains and bus run on time but during rush hour you see that there are really a lot of people in the city. Add the fact that there is free WiFi and that data is cheap. It is so easy to do things and spend hours and hours on your phone streaming shows and movies.

The other major difference is the work ethic. Public services and security is incredible. The police are very efficient and response time is very quick and the public services are a lot cheaper than I expected. However, the pollution levels are pretty bad but I have to admit that they are improving.

What is the fashion, food and weather like, compared to SA?
The fashion is on point here. You get people who really know how to go all out, wearing big brands. You’ll also find few people who wear questionable clothing.

What was the first thing you noticed about the Chinese that was different to South Africans?
The first thing I noticed was how brutally honest they are – they tell it like it is. The other thing I noticed was how they believe that if something is bad for you, get it out of your system. So you’ll sometimes see people spitting in
public and it was a bit of an adjustment but I have come to understand it.

How different is the work culture compared to South Africa?
The work culture here is unbelievable. People travel across the country to find jobs, irrespective of how small it is or the kind of job it is. There are so many parents who leave their children with their grandparents to find work in the cities as they develop and grow so fast. If you choose to leave a job you must know that there are at least 30 other people who will be grateful for that job you hate. The people here work hard and they try make sure that their families are taken care of.

What is your favourite place to visit in China?
I am still travelling around China but I have to mention the Great Wall and Hangzhou. These two place are so beautiful. I learnt from one of my students that people died on the wall and they are part of it. The West Lake is so beautiful words cannot describe it. This country is so beautiful and every city has something special about it.

What is your favourite local dish and drink and why?
One of my favourite dishes is Double deep fried pork with lemon and honey dressing. You would think it sounds unhealthy but its so good. Every time I go to the restaurants here I always try get that.

What are other amazing things the outside world doesn’t know about China?
I would have to say is that when they see foreigners, some of the people from the smaller villages stare at you especially if you are a person of colour.

What advice would you give someone visiting China for the first time?
Embrace everything. You are in a different country, they do things differently but if you embrace it and try to adapt you will love it. Come with an open mind.

What is your favourite meal from back home?
The meal I miss most is one of Mom’s dishes, Phutu (pap) and beans with (any kind of meat. When I come home soon, I want to have that as my first meal.

Which go-to spots would you recommend to tourists visiting South Africa?
I would have to say Natal Spa and Resort. It’s a good place to just escape and relax with the family and friends.

What is your favourite thing about South Africa?
Without a doubt, its people. Where I work there are a few South Africans and we speak to each other in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa and Afrikaans. We have a real sense of what it means to be one people as we are so far away from home. When I think of home and the parts that I miss, it’s not the buildings or food or even the nature, it’s the people.

If there is something about South Africa that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime, what would it be?
There is no one thing that I think people should do but a series of things, like going to the Western Cape and doing some winetasting, going to Clarens and going through Golden Gate and spending a week in the Drakensberg.


Diplomatic Ties


10 questions with Gabisile Nkosi, who made Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation, her home over three years ago. She’s been hard at work as First Secretary: Political at the South African Embassy

“Russia has managed to use and maintain public spaces, like parks, to preserve their history and also for the people to enjoy clean, safe environments.”

  1. How did your move to Russia come about?

I was fortunate enough to be selected by my country to serve the government and people of South Africa as a diplomat in the Russian Federation.

  1. What has been the most challenging adjustment for you?

Learning, or trying to learn, the language. But I’ve learnt that as I acquire the language, everything seems to fall into place. The next big adjustment for me has been the weather – and surviving the long winters. South Africa’s winter is a few months with temperatures well above -10 degrees, so mid-winter breaks to warm destinations are my saving grace, especially in January.

  1. Are South Africans very different from Russians?

My first impression of the Russian people was that they were very different to South Africans. Moscow is a big city and people seemed to be very busy and had no time to stop and help someone who’s lost, never mind chat to them. In South Africa people seem to have time to assist with absolutely anything everything. They often end up chatting to the point of being an instant friend, which could be too much for other people.

With time and learning the language I realised that there are plenty of similarities between South Africans and Russians. We are both family focused and characters within families remain the same. As an example, Russian babushkas (grandmothers) are just like South African gogos and will always ask: “When are you getting married or having children?” This was not rude to me because that’s what our grannies do. Another similarity is that they also always want to feed you.

The younger people speak English and they are always very happy to find someone they can practise with and very international with regards to music, movies and social media. There are many similarities among the youth in terms of challenges and experiences.

We are different in that at first sight South Africans are super warm and friendly, but Russians seem cold and scary. Expats all notice that Russians don’t smile on their first arrival in Russia. But with time they warm up, and relationships are built and nurtured over time – and you end up having friends for life.

Read more at BRICS JOURNAL…