At the present moment, more than 3.500 international students study in Perm and Perm region. Not only do they come here to study, but also learn Russian culture, in person.
Duan Jingzhi, a PSU student from China spoke to local news agency progorod59.ru about his life in Perm, Russian people, attitude to rallies, the pandemic and much more. Duan Jingzhi is 25 years old, he comes from the Chinese province of Shandong, located close to the Yellow Sea.
How did you find yourself in Russia?
I have been living and studying in Russia for 4 years. My home university in China cooperates with Perm State University, so I naturally headed to Perm. Back then, I studied Russian for several years and decided to come here to continue. It was difficult to get in, since there were many who felt the same way, and everyone was taking an exam in the Russian language, similar to your Unified State Exam. I passed it successfully, and here I am.
By the way, in Russia it is much easier to get a diploma or enroll in a master’s program than in China.
For my bachelor’s degree, I studied philology and Russian literature. Now I am studying Sociolinguistics and Intercultural Communication for my master’s here, at the Faculty of Philology, PSU.
I also run private lessons in Chinese, for children. So far, I teach 6 students.
When I arrived in Perm, it turned out, I did not know Russian quite well. Luckily, I met some Chinese friends here, they helped and explained me a lot. I didn’t see any problem with shopping or using the public transport. Yet, using taxi appeared a challenge. I mean, when the driver fails to find me and gives me a call, it is difficult for me to explain where I am, or where to go.
Studying the Russian Language
I believe my level of Russian is not quite high enough. In speech, I find stresses extremely hard. Also, you have so many grammar rules, that I can’t remember them all. And, I’m not talking about grammar cases, yet…
I try to understand proverbs, or phraseological units. Still, I can’t comprehend them all, so hard is to grasp their meaning.
Of the most difficult words, on the verge of my pronunciation, I can say ‘dostoprimechatelnost’ (sightseeing attraction). Whenever I hear any technical terms, from the professional vocabulary, I can’t pronounce them either.
I really like Russian poetry, we study it a lot in China. It does contain plentiful meanings, and they sound great, too. I love Pushkin and Lermontov.
I know Russian ‘mat’, obscenities, but I don’t use it. I don’t teach my friends in China such words, but they learn it from the Russian TV shows. There’s almost as much swearing in Chinese as in Russian. A funny fact, the Russian word ‘tipa’ (likely) sounds like a male genital organ in Chinese, in its obscene meaning.
“My Name is Ivan”
Yeah, that’s true, my name is Vanya, or Ivan. Since my home university cooperates with PSU, Perm teachers visit us often. Once, one of them brought a list of popular Russian names, during the class – like Andrey, Dima, Kostya, Vanya and so on. I chose mine, as it seemed to me the most simple one, and when I arrived to Russia, I introduced myself to everyone as Ivan. And, my girlfriend Yanhau took the name Margarita.
On Chinese Food and Local Cuisine
I cook only Chinese food – I’m not used to Russian cuisine, the spices are not the same. Although, I can occasionally eat borsch or bliny (pancakes).
There is no shop or market of Chinese food in Perm, so you have to order it from the nearest region, the city of Yekaterinburg. It is tiresome, at some point. I also go to Chinese restaurants. Before the pandemic, there were several good ones here, but now there is only one. It used to hire a chef from China, and the food was decent. Now that he has quitted, their Chinese food is getting a Russian flavor. I also often go to fast food, for some reason it tastes better in Russia than in China.
Relations with Russians
I have a very good attitude to the Perm people. I was once in Moscow, and I didn’t really like the people there. People are more kind and neat here. For 4 years, I have made two really good friends among Russians. We often see each other and play football together.
About Russian Traditions
There is a huge number of traditions both in Russia and in China. I do respect them, though I don’t understand most of them. I consider dipping into an ice-hole for Epiphany an extreme adventure. I can’t imagine how people go through this, especially children.
I know about Shrovetide, Easter, Christmas, but I never celebrate these holidays. In general, I am an atheist, like most people in China.
Life in Perm is More Expensive than in China
Here, I live in a rented one-room apartment. I pay RUB 13,000 ($170) per month plus RUB 3,000 ($40) for housing and communal services. In China, there are practically no such small apartments, mostly all of 80 sq.m (860 sq.ft). I would still pay less for the same back home, approximately around CNY 1,300 somewhere (RUB 14,690, $200).
Food is also more expensive here than in China. I am especially impressed by the prices of fruits and vegetables, as they are much cheaper in China. Rice and noodles are also expensive in Perm. In China, I would definitely spend less money on food. The ticket prices on local transportation are more than two times higher here. In China, all transport is state-owned and the fare is only CNY 1.
Apart from Perm, I had a chance to visit Moscow and Yekaterinburg, only. In Moscow – I didn’t like it. Too much fuss, noise and Chinese people, too. We were lucky to see a real Russian village, it is incredibly beautiful there, of course. There are few places like this. Very calm, and I like that.
I also want to visit St. Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi, and the Crimea, I guess.
On Having a Rest
We love to get together with our Chinese friends. Sometimes we drink alcohol. I tried Russian vodka. By the way, it is way less strong than the Chinese one. For some reason, in Russia they like to add alcohol into soft drinks, like juice or cola, while in China we drink it without any additives.
I have not been to China for 2 years, already. Now, to fly there, you need much more money than before the pandemic. The ticket costs RUB 13,500 ($170). Moreover, upon arrival you need to go for a two-week quarantine at the hotel; it’s a self-paid booking, and the daily cost goes up to CYN 500-700 (RUB 5650-7910, $75-105).
When I go home, my friends and relatives usually ask me to bring cigarettes or alcohol from Russia, just because they want to try it. I also bring cosmetics and make-up there, because they are much more expensive in China, so I sell them there.
I know that people all over the world find it difficult to ‘get’ us, they say that we are all alike. In Perm, for some reason they confuse me with Koreans, it makes me laugh. So, take it back: you, too, look the same for us.
In Russia, I first heard about the misconception of Chinese people having mostly a small foot size. I don’t know the exact statistics, but me, for example, I have a 42nd (43,5 European, 11 US), I believe this is normal.
In China, we also have stereotypes about Russians. For example, we call you “lau mause” – an old hairy man. Because we think you have a lot of body hair and your eyes look tired and old. And, of course, there is a stereotype that all Russians are always drunk.
All people in the world think that the coronavirus came from China. I don’t think this is yet accurate. I am looking forward for truthful and accurate information, a decent investigation of the case. Not sure if it all started in China. Somewhere in the news, I saw that in France the COVID-19 appeared first.
About Russian Politics
Recently, rallies were held in Perm, as well as throughout Russia. I don’t really understand why people go to them. It seems to me that this way they will achieve nothing. It’s not good for people. In general, I have a negative attitude to this, and I believe that this is all an American conspiracy.
I have six months left to study at my masters course, and I still want to go for a post-graduate study, continuing with my Russian. It will take another 3 years. Then I plan to return to China and teach Russian at the university.
Pictures: Duan Jingzhi