China Text-e-marketing

As I’ve mentioned before, there are often times that I really wish I could read Chinese.

In China, the phone company sends out advertisements via text message. It’s a little annoying as I get several of these a day. And I can’t read them at all, obviously.

But recently I’ve made a game out of it…


What do you think a fortune telling doggie could be advertising?

Here is an example…


Sometimes I pop it into Google Translate app to see what it says. Usually it’s such Chinglish I still can’t understand.

Here’s another one:


This one makes a little more sense. A group playing a game of mahjong. A favorite pastime of many Chinese people.

But this one…


A matchbox car?

Or this…


A new kind of restaurant? I think I’ll pass, thank you very much.

What do you think it’s advertising?

If you can read Chinese and would like to enlighten us, I’d be very interested in what this is trying to illustrate.


Trick to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit

Living overseas as an American has it’s great points but sometimes it has a lot of challenges that you don’t think about. For instance, most of the rest of the world uses the Metric system. Which makes a lot of sense as the Metric system is much simpler and easier to remember.

That said, if you grew up in America, you likely don’t have the foggiest idea how hot or cold it is when someone gives you a temperature in Celsius. Stay with me here and we’re going to have a quick math lesson so that you can do a basic conversion in your head. Then you won’t look silly having to ask if it is hot or cold the next time someone gives you a forecast.

Double the temperature in Celsius and add 30.
That’s all.

If someone says it was 30 degrees Celsius then you simply double it (to 60) and add another 30 to get 90. 30 degrees Celsius is pretty hot.

If it’s only 10 degrees Celsius then double it (to 20) and add another 30 to get 50. A bit chilly.

If you’re like us and live in the frigid North and someone tells you it’s going to be -30 degrees this weekend, double it (-60) and add 30 to find out it’s…really stinkin’ cold outside.

Incidentally the further you get from freezing the less accurate this is so don’t use this rule for cooking unless you want some unpleasant surprises.

Of course, the reverse is also true. To go from Fahrenheit to Celsius, simply subtract 30 and then divide the remaining value by two. [Corrected thanks to Tim D.]

For those wondering, the real formula is:
Degrees in Fahrenheit = 32 + Degrees in Celsius * ( 9 / 5 )


My tricks for hearing and speaking Madarin Tones

I had a hard time when I first started Chinese like most people in speaking and understanding tones. It’s such a different way than how we speak.
Or so I thought.

But then I realized… in English, we do speak in “tones”. We just use them in a different way.

Think about saying these two phrases. (Saying them out loud would probably make it clearer.)

I am going to the store.

I am going to the store?

Likely, when you asked the question, your voice raised a little at the end of the sentence. Anyone (native English speaker, that is) who heard you speak it knew you were asking a question, even though you said the exact same words as before. I’m sure you’ve never thought about it because it’s just built in to the way we speak. We do it without thinking. Just like a native Chinese can hear the nuances in tone without even thinking. But when they speak English, they sound very flat. With no “feeling” in their speech. That’s because Chinese doesn’t use intonation for “feeling”.

In Chinese, the tones are used to differentiate between words instead of punctuation. They have words that speak pronunciation. {ma} for example added to the end of the sentence says I just asked a question. Just like speaking the question mark. {ba} added to the end makes a suggestion. And the tones are used to make different words

Take shì (是) & shí(十).

Make the statement “Shi.” And be very clear you are making a statement… You just said the word “is”.

Now ask “Shi?” Be sure it sounds like a question. You just said the word “ten”.

Same syllables. Different intonation. You just learned how to say the 2nd and 4th tones of Mandarin.

The first and third don’t translate quite as easily but most people find them the easiest to hear. They both sound a little like singing to me. The first tone sounds like you are singing a high flat note at the top of your range. Hard to explain but pretty to easy to hear.

Third tone is a low dip with your voice. Very low and deep.

And now you’ve learned my little trick for speaking tones in Chinese. Anytime, I need to say a word with 4th tone, I just make it a question. Second tone is a statement. The other tones you just have to hear someone say and learn to be a mockingbird.

Here is another site with more detail and some audio clips on Mandarin tones if you want to get more technical about it.

You might also like my post on the Top 12 words you should learn in Mandarin.

What is your best trick for learning and speaking Chinese?


Get Ready… it’s almost here.


Just a quick reminder for those of you who are about to experience your first Chinese New Year in China… Make sure you stock up on all the food and TP you’ll need for the next week because most of the stores and restaurants will be closed! (Ask me how I know this.) Think “Christmas Day” in America. Get ready to settle in and make sure you have some dumplings!

Good luck, brace yourself, get out your ear plugs, and have a great Chun Jie!


Top 12 Chinese Phrases you should learn to speak when you move to China

The Mandarin purist police are going to get on to me for not giving the tones with the pinyin here. Technically this is not the way you would write out these phrases. (Although if you want to get really technical, to be written in Chinese they would actually be in characters. But then, that would be completely pointless for teaching pronunciation.) Every syllable has a tone with a special intonation that makes it understandable in Chinese. The truth is, if you’ve studied enough Chinese to know the tones… you already know these phrases so you could just skip this post anyway. AND if not, having me type them here won’t teach them anyway. (Ok, I admit it. The truth is, they’re just hard to type.)

Think of this as merely a crash course. For those phrases you’ll use all the time. To aid your charades when you really need the help of a word. The most basic of communication. And really, to let the Chinese know you aren’t just some stuck up foreigner who thinks the whole world should speak your language. That you really want to TRY. And no matter how bad you butcher it, you’ll get a smile. And usually an over-the-top appreciation for your efforts. Because even the Chinese know its hard. And they are, thankfully, so much more gracious than we (especially in America) are to those who don’t speak our language.

The Basics: Hello, Good-bye, and Thank you

1. Ni Hao: {nee how} Hello. The most basic greeting. Chances are, you already know this one. But if not, at least now you’ll know what’s being said when you hear this a hundred times a day.

2. Zai jian:{zI (rhymes with eye) jee-uhn} Good-bye. Another basic. Use it often.

3. Xie Xie: {“she she” or “shay shay”} Thank you. Now this one is really just for us, the foreigners. Actually, the Chinese don’t say thank you very often. And you might even get a few odd looks, but I think it still makes you sound polite, or at least friendly. I say it all the time, no matter if they don’t understand why you thanked the taxi driver for taking you home even though it’s his job.

Saying “Yes”:

First, let me say, there is no direct translation for the word “yes” in Chinese. Normally, if you want to agree you just repeat the verb. But there are a couple of phrases that get that point across. Learning when to use which can be a little tricky, but even if you guess wrong your point is made.
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Italian Ravioli using Chinese Ingredients

I’ve learned a lot since moving to China, but I think one of the best things I’ve learned is how to cook from scratch. I was a decent cook before we moved to China, but like many of my generation “cooking” for me including boxes of pasta, jars of sauce, and cans of soup.

Then I moved to China, and I had to REALLY learn to cook.

Those boxes, jars, and cans I was used to just aren’t so easily found around here. Before you get too scared let me clarify, you CAN find them. It’s just not easy. And when you do, they are NOT cheap. Plus, remember you have to carry all the groceries that you buy. Cans and jars are heavy.

At first, I think it was just the challenge. I can buy the fresh ingredients SO CHEAP here. And they are so much better for your health. And I really just wanted to learn how to use them well.

So now, when one of my favorite recipes calls for a “can of” or a “jar of”, then I just head over to and find a “from scratch” recipe for it instead. And I have to say, it really doesn’t take that long to just make it from scratch. I was amazed. I think we’ve all been sold a lie. That it’s so much easier and so much faster to use the ready-made stuff. Well, from my experience, it’s so much better and in most cases, just as quick (quicker actually, if I factor in the extra time it takes to hunt for the stuff at the grocery store) to make it from scratch. And did I mention, tastes so. much. better.

Here’s one of my recent concoctions using fresh dumpling wrappers, ground beef, and a basic bechamel sauce. It was inspired by this post at Pioneer Woman Cooks although I made my own filling recipe using what I had on hand.

At this point you can either drop them into boiling water for about 3 minutes to enjoy right away…

OR you can pop them in the freezer (still on the cutting mat) for about 2 hours until they get hard, then dump them all in a ziploc bag to save until later!

Top it off with the extra cheese sauce or just some olive oil and cracked pepper. Yum!


Learning Chinese Watercolor Painting

I’ve started a new class here in Shenyang.

I had planned to do this since we got here… it only took me a year to find one!

Chinese Watercolor Painting!

These are a very famous style of Asian painting using ink and watercolors painted on silk cloth. They are often mounted like a scroll and then “framed” with more silk.

LB got one of a tiger for his birthday. It’s big. And awesome.

The class I’m taking meets in the home of a new friend. Continue reading