George Brown

Source:eBeijing.gov.cn

Font Size:   A   A   A

I didn' t have to look very far for a place that advertised 20 yuan ( £2 ) for a haircut, though I can' t imagine they go much cheaper than that. I was intrigued at just what service could be offered for so little, and made the visit just before our week - long holiday in October so I had a buffer in case of any trimming disaster. It turned out that it included a pleasant head - wash both before and after the cut, so that' s surely only about 10 yuan going toward the haircut itself. The friendly barber took a very laissez - faire approach, a bit of razor and comb here, some scissors there. He had good intentions but the final result could only be described as patchy. Having cut my own hair for much of last year with the help of my questioning housemates, I can safely say that at the Peth barbers we did a better job. I mustn' t dwell on these thoughts though, I promised myself I would move on from those days...

Worth it for the head massage

The range of prices for general daily goods in Beijing can be confusing at times. The likes of haircuts and taxis are almost absurdly cheap, but I come out of a supermarket feeling like the equivalent bag would be cheaper in the UK. Vegetables can be bought for tuppence, but for some reason fruit cannot; I accidentally bought a single apple for almost 80p the other day. Granted that was the luxury variety but the average price of 35p for one seems a little extortionate. Maybe we just need to scout around some more.

 

At least they have great variety

Such prices for fruit prove especially frustrating when encountering the inevitable loose rear - end at times, where you feel that gorging on fruit is the only thing you can do to get some more fibre in your system. I will try not to dwell on this topic for too long, but I should make it known for those unaware that even in such developed cities as Beijing, the standard public toilet in China is still just a hole in the ground. This adds an extra dimension of stress when suffering from the difficulties mentioned above, when you are perhaps in a rush to make the trip. It also became evident that the required squat actually demands a fair bit of leg exertion. This year is undoubtedly deliberate punishment for me skipping almost every leg day in my previous gym experience. I was beginning to fear that everyday could be leg day, but thankfully, after some thorough hunting on campus, we have not only found Western toilets but even the hallowed heated - seat Japanese ones, fully equipped with all jet features.

 

Moving on, other products that are somehow much pricier than in the West are breads and dairy, which obviously form the basis of a fairly staple British diet and have been a sacrifice to go without. The one time I did treat myself to a pack of 6 yoghurts, I returned home the next day after class to find Jason ( the boy ) splayed out over the sofa watching TV, having consumed all 6 yoghurts in one sitting. As my flatmates will testify, one does not simply eat my yoghurt. As the rage enveloped I was fearing the worst for the boy myself when, thankfully for him, the mum came home at that exact moment and was able to give him a good drubbing. He was sent immediately to buy another pack for me so the crisis was diffused, though he still ended up eating half of that pack. I have since taken to hiding any appealing foodstuffs in the fruit compartment of the fridge where I know they are safe - there is little hope of survival for anything left in plain sight.

The supermarkets are a fairly wild place, often more like hyper - markets where you can find clothes, appliances and health products, besides all sorts of strange foods. The meat and fish sections in particular are sights to behold. I feel like you could conduct an informative biology class here on the different parts of animals on display, and most of the fish are still crammed in a tank behind the counter.

 

One thing I was particularly looking forward to upon coming to China was seeing the endless supply of amusing direct translations into English, which anyone who has studied the language will know, can almost never be done accurately. It is even funnier when these are for example, engraved in stone outside a school, or in places like the subway. Here are a few I have gathered so far.

Senior children cream

' The palace secret sweet and delicious genuine '