When a Woman Comes…

Here’s where i learned something invaluable about Chinese women. Or maybe women in general. it’s difficult to know because most of the women I know are Chinese. If you really want to see them, tell them you’re busy, and there is no way you can possibly rearrange your schedule. They’ll turn up on your doorstep the next day fully expecting you to drop everything to accommodate them.

Her name was Celia. At 30, she was slightly older than most of the women I dated. We’d known each other for a couple of years, but only online. We had lots of mutual friends, but had never met face-to-face before. When she arrived I was teaching a class, so she had to wait at the school gate for me for over an hour.

When I first saw her, as well as being relieved she wasn’t a catfish, I was surprised. She was much slimmer and prettier than her photos suggested. They didn’t really do her justice. She wore a white dress with red shoes and had long, black hair, which all made her look a bit like a ghost from a Japanese horror film. Her demeanour just added to that image. There was something alluring and mysterious about her. I can’t lie, it was a weird set-up. I’d already arranged to meet Lily, a girl I met on Facebook, the following week, which was a public holiday in China, so I made it clear from the outset that Celia could only stay with me for four days. And so began perhaps the weirdest four days of my life.

She asked endless questions, to the extent that for much of the time it was like being in a psychiatrist’s chair. She would ask me something, then say, in an accusatory tone, “I asked you that question a year ago and you gave me a different answer!”

No matter how often I tried to explain that people’s views evolve and change over time so both my answers could be true. Plus, I couldn’t remember what I did last week, nevermind last year, it wouldn’t wash. It didn’t help that her questions were the kind that rarely even have a definitive answer; what makes you happy? How important do you think money is? Do you believe in love?

Her lines of enquiry were barbed with thorns and stumbling blocks. Intentionally, I think. I’m not self-important to think it was all geared toward tripping me up. I think it was more she just had a tendency to over-analyse everything.

She was a deep girl, and that was okay. In moderation. I can talk about UFOs, life after death, or the struggle for equality in modern society all night. But I also like to discuss less weighty topics like football and stand-up comedy. She seemed deeply wary of me, and rightly so you might think. But having someone I barely knew in my apartment scrutinising my every move and second-guessing me 24-hours a day made me uncomfortable. If she was that unsure about me, she could just leave.

On night three, the inevitable happened and I dry humped her to within an inch of her life. We didn’t have full sex because she was on her period and I once fainted after a particularly gruesome bout of period sex. Celia wasn’t very experienced. In fact, she told me she’d only ever had sex with one guy, and I had no reason to disbelieve her. The funny part is that the next morning I woke up to find her sitting on the edge of the bed, sobbing.

“What’s wrong, Celia?”

“I am so regret what we did last night,” she said in a weak, trembling voice.

“What do you mean?”

“The sex,” she said, bowing her head in shame.

This confused me. Had I missed something? “But we didn’t have sex…”

“Almost.”

“Almost means it didn’t happen,” I reasoned. “It’s like ‘almost’ getting struck by lightning. It’s only really worth worrying about if it actually happens. We just kissed and hugged.”

“Sex hug.”

“But still just a hug.”

I’ve known for a long time that Chinese girls have a tendency to be drama queens, but this was next level.

As the end of the four day nightmare approached, Celia made it clear she didn’t want to leave. I didn’t tell her I was going to meet someone else. I didn’t see the need to do that, so I just told her I was going to the train station. She kept asking me about ticket prices and train times, probably to try to ascertain where I was going, and would then do that thing where she asked me the same question two hours later to see if I would give the same answer as if it were some kind of police interrogation. It was exhausting. I don’t know what she expected me to do. You can’t just show up on someone’s doorstep without an invitation and expect them to cancel plans that had been in place for months on your behalf.

Eventually, she said she was making other arrangements, too. That was fine with me. By that point I just wanted her out of my hair. She came with me/followed me all the way to Guangzhou South Railway Station, where I made an excuse and escaped into the crowd before she could question me any more. I was free at last.

This is an edited extract from the book This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 4 – The Return, out now on paperback and ebook.

Break-ups and Break-downs

As you may have gathered from my books, for a large chunk of my life, it felt as if I was permanently recovering from a nasty break-up. Let’s face it, break-ups are never fun. They can be debilitating, soul-destroying, and can rob you of your confidence and self-esteem. You’re forced into intense periods of uncomfortable introspection, you question everything, and often have to confront things you never wanted to confront. We’ve all been there, and it ain’t a fun place to be.

In many ways the process you go through after a relationship ends is comparable with the seven stages of grief. The last really bad one I had was in 2011, when I found out my live-in girlfriend of two years, a Chinese teacher, was having it away behind my back with a short order chef from Romania.

I’ve had quite a few lesser break-ups since then. One friend recently asked me why I keep hooking up with shitty women. I said that was unfair. couldn’t be sure if they were always shitty, or if being with me was making them that way. The jury’s still out on that one.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but I’ve learned to cope, and now I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you. It all boils down to the old maxim, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

If it goes tits-up, which, statistics show us, all relationships eventually do one way or another, try not to lose your shit. Retain control, and some modicum of dignity. The aim should be to not do anything you might regret later, so refrain from losing your temper and punching walls (the walls always win), name-calling, and plastering those nudes you have of them all over the internet.

A good coping strategy I’ve found in the immediate aftermath is to focus on their bad points, because God knows none of us are perfect. So don’t think about how gorgeous they were, or how they made you laugh or brought meaning to your life. Instead, think about the morning breath, that annoying habit they had of picking their toenails, their incomprehensible appreciation of Made in Chelsea. In extreme cases, get that fugly picture you have on your phone of them yawning or having a shit and make it your screensaver. Yeah, bitch.

It might also help if you delete them from your social media. Cancel them. That way, you remove any lingering temptation to go begging for forgiveness even though you might not have done anything worth being forgiven for. Constantly remind yourself that they would hate to see you going about your business without them apparently not giving a fuck. It devalues them and the whole relationship. Even if you’re falling apart inside, keep that shit to yourself and put on a brave face. Nobody wants to see you wallowing in self-pity except them, so don’t give them the satisfaction.

By the way, the absolute best break-up song ever is Bowling For Soup’s Life After Lisa.

If the aforementioned methods don’t work and this person really was perfection personified, you can still find the bright side by reminding yourself how lucky you were to be with them, even if they ended up dropping you like a hot coal when they realized how bang average you were. At least you’re one of the few who got to see them naked. Unless, of course, you really did put those nudes you have of them on the internet in which case everyone has seen them naked and it’s your fault.

It might be difficult, but try not to play the blame game. We’d all like to imagine it’s the other person’s fault, but the truth is nobody is perfect. In all likelihood, you were probably at least partly responsible. Or maybe you just weren’t compatible, in which case it’s nobody’s fault. Not even yours. Think of a relationship as a journey, and all journeys come to an end. You both arrive at your destination ready for a new and exciting adventure. Getting there is half the fun, as they say.

Everything happens for a reason. We are all on this twisty, turny path and none of us is ever quite sure what’s going to happen next. If you love someone, try to treat every moment you have together as if it’s your last. That doesn’t mean going out paragliding every day and shit. Stay in and watch a movie if you want. Just enjoy doing it.

So, speaking as a guy who’s had more broken relationships than he’s had hangovers, my advice is to cherish the moments and make some memories while you can. In the end memories are all any of us will be left with, so they might as well be good ones.

TIC 4 – OUT NOW!

Previous instalments of This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom took a forensic look at the author’s initial move to China back in 2007, his early struggles to overcome culture shock whilst trying to survive the brutal north-Chinese winter and navigate his way through various inter-personal relationships, his wild three-year stint in the entertainment hub of Changsha, and his long-awaited move to London to fulfil his dream of becoming a magazine journalist. There, along with the glamorous, celebrity-schmoozing lifestyle, came gambling addiction, a relapse into substance abuse, and some memorable run-ins with corporate duplicity. Soon, burned out, depressed and disillusioned, he stood at another of life’s crossroads.

After a considerable amount of soul searching he decides on a return to China where he feels he has unfinished business and takes up a teaching position in the booming southern metropolis of Guangzhou. The plan was to be a model professional, keep his head down, live a quiet life and save some money. But as most of us know, things rarely go to plan. The moment he arrives he is faced with a string of situations far more dangerous, depraved, and debauched than he has ever experienced.

And that’s before the entire world is plunged into chaos.

He used to wonder what would happen if dreams came true. Now he wonders what you do when your worst nightmares becomes reality.

This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 4- The Return is out now on ebook and paperback.

Let’s Talk About… Tantan

For those who don’t know, Tantan is a dating app, known in some circles as a Chinese Tinder. You install it on your phone, input your location, peruse the pictures and then swipe right if you like, or left if you don’t. It’s a huge platform, and in mid-2018 boasted a user base in excess of 100 million. I’ve been using it for a couple of years, and I’ve had a fair bit of success. I’ve talked to hundreds of women, made a few friends and slept with a few women. However, like most internet dating apps, or like the internet in general, not everybody is who they say they are.

Obviously, we all use our best, probably filtered pictures. We might also say we are a few inches taller, or a few years younger than we really are. This is the dating game. However, some people present a whole fake persona in a bid to lure you into some potentially damaging situation.

In my experience, there are two kinds of fake Tantan user; the scammer and the gay, and I’m going to tell you how to spot them.

The Scammer

The pictures are usually of ‘model’ quality, making you think you’ve struck gold when you match. They are unusually chatty and friendly, asking questions about your job and where you’re from. A red flag is if they claim to own their own company or be self-employed. They are especially keen to migrate to other apps, usually WeChat or Whatsapp. I assume this is a way to harvest your contact details. They see talking to you as ‘work,’ so they rarely respond to your messages on the weekends, when you would expect ‘normal’ people to have more free time. Most of them also have VIP membership, which you have to pay for. One of the perks is that you automatically match with anyone who swipes right on your profile, meaning you save time by never having to do any swiping of your own.

Sooner or later, usually sooner, they steer the conversation towards Bitcoin or other vague ‘investments’ and when they feel they have built enough confidence, they’ll hit you with their spiel:

“Do u know Bitcoin?”

“Have u ever invested in gold?”

“I’m looking at the currency exchange. What about u?”

It’s a scammer. Run.

The gay men pretending to be girls

These people also use fake pictures, but tend to steal them from real profiles so as to appear more realistic. The big giveaway here is they will turn the conversation toward sex at the earliest available opportunity. Most women, especially Chinese women, are rarely so open. They will also want you to send them a photo of your junk.

This approach mystifies me, because surely gay guys would have more luck propositioning other gay guys rather than going to the effort of pretending to be someone else and trying to hoodwink people. Unless, of course that’s that part they like.

The easiest way to identify the secret gays, or have a legit woman go some way to proving she is legit, is simply to ask them to send you a voice message. A man’s voice is usually easily recognizable. If they protest, it’s probably because they have something to hide.

Like I said, there are some genuine people on Tantan, and I hope this advice helps you find them.

Be smart, and be safe.

Check out my books for more tips, advice, and adventures!

OUT NOW…

After spending over five years in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hunan Province, Part 3 of the acclaimed This is China series sees the author leaves China to pursue his dream of writing for a famous magazine in London. At first it’s everything he expected it to be; glamorous, eventful and fun-packed, and aside from rubbing shoulders with celebs and living the high life in England’s capital, he enjoys decadent sojourns in Magaluf, Bordeaux and several other European hotspots.

However, along with the celebrity-chasing lifestyle came gambling addiction, a relapse into substance abuse, and more heartbreak. He experiences a succession of personal and professional ups and downs, falls foul of office politics and industrial duplicity, and through it all endures the pain of broken connections and a constant yearning for a return to the Middle Kingdom to seek yet more misadventure.

Eventually, the pull proves irresistible.

If you have any interest in China, teaching English abroad, or the dynamics of cross-cultural relationships, these books are for you because…

This is China.

This is China Part 3: The Wilderness Years is out now on paperback and ebook from Red Dawn publishing.

What People are Saying…

When Alex Coverdale’s first book was published in 2018 it was an immediate sensation, quickly attaining Amazon #1 Bestseller status.

Here are the views of some of the customers.

“The writing felt very personal and real. At the end of the book I felt like l had lived another life…an interesting one to boot. Good job.”

“The author was the forbidden fruit to Chinese girls and in describing his experiences he gives some insights into the Chinese remake mindset. And this is the most valuable part of his book.”

“Highly recommended for those interested in the expat teacher lifestyle in China.”

“A great insight to how another part of the world works.”

A new, updated version of the book is available in serialized form on paperback and ebook now.

See here for more information.

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This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 2 – Hunan Province (Extract)

After fleeing recession-hit Britain in September 2007, I spent a year living and working as an English teacher in Beijing before meeting a girl and moving to Tianjin, northern China, which is very much like a Chinese Middlesbrough. If you’ve never heard of Middlesbrough, then you get my point. Needless to say, the girl promptly dumped me for another guy leaving me in a strange city in a foreign country with no friends and a job I hated. I taught in a primary school, and though they were sweet and adorable on the outside, on the inside those kids were the embodiment of evil. They almost broke me. I spiralled into a life of booze, solitude and borderline depression, punctuated only by the occasional bout of meaningless sex. I didn’t think I would survive another Tianjin winter, and overall the place didn’t leave a good impression on me, so I decided to run down my contract at my school and move somewhere else in China. Hopefully, somewhere warmer.

I didn’t want to teach kids anymore, so I found a job as a writing instructor at HMMC (Hunan Mass Media College) in Changsha, Hunan Province, which was about as close to journalism as I could get at the time. I didn’t know anything about Changsha. But by this time I’d learned not to jump into anything blind, so I did some research. Located on the Xiang River, Changsha is described as a ‘culturally important’ city, though not internationally recognized in the same way Beijing and Shanghai are, and has over 3,000 years of history. It was occupied by the Japanese for a short time during the Japanese-Sino war of 1937-45, and is the place where Mao Zedong (Chairman Mao, the revolutionary founding father of the PRC) went to school and converted to communism. These days, it is better known as both a commercial center and an entertainment hub, and is home of Hunan TV, one of the biggest channels in the country which pumps out endless variety and talent shows which the Chinese lap up.

Juliet, a girl I’d met whilst travelling in Shanghai two years earlier, came to meet me the day I arrived and brought a suitcase with her meaning, I assumed, she planned on staying for a while. That was fine by me. I hadn’t seen her for ages, and we had a lot of catching up to do. The very first night, things started getting hot and steamy. While we were kissing and fumbling on the sofa, she asked if I had a condom. I didn’t. But I remembered my contact from the college telling me there was a twenty four -hour supermarket nearby. I didn’t remember exactly where, but how hard could it be to find?

I grabbed a handful of money, ran out the door, down three flights of stairs, out of the apartment block and down the road. It took a while, but I eventually found the supermarket and stocked up on condoms and soft drinks. As I left, I was hit with a realization. I didn’t actually know where I lived. I was completely lost. I’d been so excited about the prospect of finally bedding Juliet that I’d left the apartment without my phone. I didn’t even know the name of my street. I’d only got off the plane about six hours earlier.

So I stumbled around for most of the night clutching a pack of unopened condoms and whimpering softly to myself. I tried to retrace my steps, but found that almost every building looked the same, especially in the dark. I eventually found my apartment again a few hours later but by then, Juliet was sound asleep and the moment had passed. I figured having waited over two years already, another day or two wouldn’t matter too much.

This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 2 – Hunan Province is available now on paperback and ebook

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Amazon UK

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OMG it’s Chinese Valentine’s Day!

Most things in China are the same, but different. Therefore, they have the equivalent of Valentines Day, but it doesn’t come around on February 14th like its Western counterpart. Known as the Qixi Festival, it occurs instead on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which makes it especially tricky to remember as the date keeps changing. This year it falls on August 25th, while in 2019 it fell on August 7th.

This shouldn’t be confused with either ‘Single’s Day’ on November 11th (11/11, geddit?) May 20th (an ‘unofficial’ Valentine’s Day known as 520 because the numbers sound like ‘I love you’ in Mandarin) which are both comparatively new festivals. The Chinese are crazy about festivals. An increasing number are celebrating February 14th, too. Personally, I feel most of these romantic festivals are spearheaded by Chinese girls, who do like to be spoiled.

Qixi, originally known as Qiqiao Festival, originated from the Han Dynasty. There are many variations, but the general tale tale is a love story between Zhinü a weaver girl,  and Niulang, the cowherd. Their love was forbidden, so they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way). Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge allowing the lovers to reunite the for one day. A more thorough telling can be found here

If you want to find out more about the nuances of Chinese culture, check out the author’s books.

This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 2 – Hunan Province

British journalist Alex Coverdale has spent over a decade working as an English teacher in China. During that time he has travelled the length and breadth of the country, seeing things he never thought he would see and doing things he never thought he would do, from digging for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert to eating snakes in Hunan Province, and finding himself in a succession of awkward, often hilarious situations along the way.

He soon developed a deep affinity with China and its people, falling in love with the country’s unique culture, colourful history, and vibrant, infectious energy. Being in such a unique position, he wrote about his experiences in a book which quickly became a Number One Amazon Bestseller, but he never told the full story.

Until now.

This second instalment of This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom, covers the three-plus years the author spent in Hunan Province, central China, where he travelled in search of love and settled in the provincial capital of Changsha, known for its nightlife and entertainment industry. He found it, and lot’s more besides.

If you have any interest in China, teaching English abroad, or the dynamics of cross-cultural relationships, these books are for you because…

This is China.

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This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom part 2 – Hunan Province is available now on paperback and ebook.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Go here to see a complete list of the author’s books.