Friday’s foreigner: Alberto
Today is our third post in a series I hope we’ll do every Friday, but I make no promises. I can promise at least some Fridays I’ll post an interview with a foreigner here in Hohhot.
Check back each week to “meet” the other expats!
Today, we’d like to introduce you to Alberto.
What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?
I’m Alberto. I was born in Cuba, but when I was 2 years old our family went back to Spain so my nationality is Spanish, and since 12 years ago we are living in a small town in Illinois, US. I wanted to study Chinese since I was a child, after I finish my bachelor in Applied Mathematics, I decided to come, one of my best Chinese friends back home is Chinese ethnic Mongolian, so he recommended Hohhot as a nice place to study.
Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.
During the time I was in college, I did some part time work as a freelancer software designer and programmer, because the intensity of our academic program we didn’t have too much spare time, but my friends and I used to go swimming, play football, parties, etc. like most of the people of my age.
Favorite local food and where you like to get it:
My favorite local food is ShouPaRou 手扒肉, I like to get it at my friend’s.
If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?
Is probably time for the subway, the traffic gets really bad sometimes.
What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?
Before Hohhot, I lived two months in Beijing and in Sichuan, when I came here, I was surprised how kind and nice are people here. I have never had a problem with locals here. They always say “halou” to me on the street, they try to talk with me, offer me food or water, It’s very nice.
What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?
My first day in Hohhot I lost my bag in a taxi with my bank cards, laptop, passport, cash, and other valuables inside. I talked to the receptionist in the hotel where I spent the night, she call the police, and made them help to find the taxi driver, after 3 hours of calling people, she finally got the driver’s phone and the guy brought my bag to the hotel, I was so grateful to her, I only wish my Chinese in that time were better to express how grateful I was that day.
What’s the most culturally awkward situation you’ve been in here?
There is one time my Chinese friends took me out for dinner, then when the bill came, two of my friends wanted to pay the bill. They started arguing about who should pay, both of them wanted to pay, I thought they were going to fight, so I took my friend apart to avoid the fight. After that he got really angry, because in China it’s very impolite not to offer to pay yourself. That was funny, I could never forget that day.
What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?
Learn Chinese and don’t complain.
Where do you go to “escape?”
I think Hohhot is a very quiet and nice city, when I travel is mostly to see my friends in other cities, after one week I start missing Hohhot. After all these years living in big cities I find Hohhot a nice place to stay.
When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?
Besides a lot of good memories, probably my girlfriend. 😉