Welcome to Nanjing - 南京欢迎你! - Alvinology

Welcome to Nanjing – 南京欢迎你!

Me (Right) and my colleague, Rodolphe Destombes (Left) from Canada
Me (Right) and my colleague, Rodolphe Destombes (Left) from Canada

I arrived in Nanjing two months ago in June. Although this is not my first time in China, it was my first time visiting the city of Nanjing as well as residing and working here.

Together with me are a group of foreigners (lao wai) from different countries like France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary and the United Kingdom. We are all working for the Nanjing Youth Olympic Organising Committee (NYOGOC). All of the foreigners I hang out with are non-Asians. I am the only Chinese in the group who can pass off as a local, by virtue of my race and also because my spoken Chinese is fairly decent, having been brought up in a bilingual environment in Singapore.

At an Indian restaurant in Nanjing with the lao wais
At an Indian restaurant in Nanjing with the lao wais

Some of the lao wais have been in China previously, having worked on the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, while most of the others are here for the first time. Nonetheless, all of them are equally curious about living and working in Nanjing, discovering something new each day, much like playful children.

Chinese strangers taking pictures with the lao wais
Chinese strangers taking pictures with the lao wais

On our off-days and after work hours, we visited various attractions in Nanjing like the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum and the shopping belt at Xinjiekou. There are not many lao wais in Nanjing. When you are traveling in a large group of eight or more lao wais, it is hard not to stick out like a sore thumb.

Chines strangers toasting to the lao wais at a Chinese restaurant at Hunan Road
Chines strangers toasting to the lao wais at a Chinese restaurant at Hunan Road

Nonetheless, I am pleasantly surprised at the lack of tourist touts or scammers at attractions in Nanjing, commonplace in most tourist spots, including in other cities in China. Thus far, we have not encountered any and the locals have been more than accommodating, friendly and helpful when dealing with my foreign friends.

Rodolphe getting the celebrity treatment from Chinese kids during a press event
Rodolphe getting the celebrity treatment from Chinese kids during a press event

Once, I queued for freshly baked duck oil biscuits together with a few lao wais. We were attracted to the stall by the aroma and the long snaking queue. An elderly Chinese couple ahead of us in the queue started a conversation with us out of curiosity. With me as the translator, the couple gave us an introduction to some must-try snacks and delicacies in Nanjing, including the duck oil biscuits. When it came to their turn in the queue, there were just a few biscuits left that were fresh out of the oven. The next batch will only be ready in another 15 to 20 minutes. Graciously, the couple invited us to order first. They insisted it was only right as they are the hosts while we are the guests in Nanjing. My friends and I were really touched.

Bérangère Chevallier from France enjoying her duck oil biscuit
Bérangère Chevallier from France enjoying her duck oil biscuit

When we ask for directions, even if the locals do not speak English, they will often try their best to help us out. On public transport like the metro trains and buses, I observed that locals are quick to offer their seats to the elderly.

The city feels safe and when my wife visited me a few weeks back, she was able to tour the city on her own. A local colleague shared with me that Nanjing is one of the safest city in China with one of the lowest crime rate.

Thus far, all of us have been very much overwhelmed by the hospitality showered on us by our local colleagues and the common folks in Nanjing.

Logan Zheng and Fiona Fang, our local counterparts for French and English respectively
Logan Zheng and Fiona Fang, our local counterparts for French and English respectively

Granted there are still pockets of rough behaviours like the ubiquitous loud clearing of throat and loud talking, overall, the experience is still pretty pleasant for me.

The Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games opened on Saturday, August 16. Over 60,000 spectators attended the opening ceremony at the Nanjing Olympic Stadium, including Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission and Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. Athletes, sports officials and spectators from over 205 nations flew into Nanjing to participate in the Games.

I hope all the foreigners will enjoy Nanjing as much as I did.

Welcome to Nanjing – 南京欢迎你!

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