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A few things to avoid in Fuzhou

By Manil Francois ( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2015-10-22

As a foreigner in Fuzhou, I learned that there are a few things I should avoid here. I am not talking about specific venues or areas, since the province is very safe and accommodating overall. Likewise, I am not referring to mistakes foreigners often make in China because of their misunderstanding of local culture and habits. These can be learned from any good guide book. Rather, I want to share some real life advice that I got from the inhabitants of Fuzhou themselves. Here is what they told me:

Don't assume that Fuzhou's history is just Sanfang ---

Sanfang Qixiang is definitely the cultural heart of Fuzhou. It is naturally the place where I never fail to take my customers or visitors from abroad. Not only can you snack on local flavors and buy souvenirs. but also, you always bump into someone you know. The place is really pleasant and boasts a nice atmosphere from the dynasties period. But locals always insist that this is not the best place to learn historical or current culture. Temples, pagodas and ancient mansions have more to tell. I had the chance to live near the “Old Fuzhou” district, another location where architecture from the Qing dynasty can still be seen. Some friends also took me to Mawei and helped me discover another period of Fujian's past.

Don't learn Fuzhou Hua ---

A few things to avoid in Fuzhou

Fuzhou's dialect is a very active one. Despite the fast development and the tireless migrations from other provinces, it is still widely used. I learned a few greetings in Fuzhou Hua, in order to impress crowds or break the ice, but that's it. My friends told me that it is a very hard dialect to learn and speak. They said that I should not try to master it, not only because everybody speaks mandarin anyways, but also because I would simply never succeed. The dialect has seven different tones as well as unique sounds. If it is hard for the Chinese, it is probably a ‘no go' for foreigners.

Don't eat a banana before 10 AM ---

A few things to avoid in Fuzhou

There are many things one is supposed to know when it comes to eating in Fuzhou. Tofu is good for the skin, fish eyes can make your own eyes healthy and green papaya can give women better curves… Really? For foreigners, it is difficult to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Among the classic beliefs, there is what the traditional Chinese medicine calls the excess of internal heat which typically happens when you eat too much fried or greasy food. Therefore, whenever a pimple appears on my face or when my eye is not as bright as usual, the barbecue I had the day before is seen as the culprit.

One day, my foreign colleague was eating a banana during a work break and our Chinese colleague asked him to stop. He said that eating fruit in the morning is not good for the stomach and that we should at least wait for after 10 AM. Should I trade my freedom of eating for some Chinese common sense? Not sure yet.

Don't guess the age of a stranger ---

A few things to avoid in Fuzhou

Foreigners usually have a hard time telling how old a Chinese person is. And that can be problematic as Fuzhounese like to have us guessing their age.

I often perceive people I meet as younger than they really are, but it sometimes goes the other way. One day, for example, an acquaintance of mine asked me to estimate her age. In my view, she had the appearance of a forty year old so I said that she looked thirty five in order to preserve her ‘face'. She turned out to be even younger than that and got angry at me. My friend told me that I should avoid guessing ages as it is easy to upset someone. Many want to look young but on the other hand, a Chinese proverb says that someone who looks older than their age will be successful. You never know. And after all, we should look beyond the numbers.

Don't marry a woman from Fuzhou too quickly ---

This may sound like the weirdest piece of advice, but it was actually said in a humorous tone. As legend goes, women from Fuzhou have a particular character and may be perceived as dominant by their boyfriend or husband. My friend told me half-laughing: “Be careful with Fuzhou women if you like to keep control! If you are submissive, then that is fine!” He laughed again.

The truth is - of course - that everybody is different; and whether or not I found Fuzhou women to be up to their reputation is a good question. I did meet a few of them with a pretty strong temper, which is great. People with character are hard to forget.

A few things to avoid in Fuzhou

About the author

Manil Francois is an engineer in the electrical power industry. He shares his life between USA, Europe and China.

After studying in Taiwan, he spent over two years in Fuzhou working at an Cangshan-based American company: Emerson.

He traveled throughout China and Asia but considers Fuzhou as one of his 'hometowns'.

His hobbies include traveling, trying things that he never tried and meeting people from all walks of life. He is passionate of sociology and philosophy and likes to record his experiences on video.

Francois is also creating a non-profit organization to support education in Haiti.

 

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