Heem

Here’s a Dutch word. Heem. Similar to home, referring to the town or country you grew up in. Your dad’s music, the books your mom used to read to you. The trees under which you played, the streets and bridges you cycled on, your native language — the place you come to hide, the place […]

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Teaching marketing and doing marketing

To teach marketing, and at the same time work in marketing, is something I’ve struggled with. In my marketing classes at SIVA (上海视觉艺术学院), everything I tell is simple, structured, and proven: Step A, B, C — a tidy, bullet-point reality. But when I look at what I do at my full-time job at GoEast, I’m […]

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Chinese exams

Today, while millions of students take their life-deciding college entrance exam (gaokao), I got my own experience of tests in China. The driving theory exam is provided to foreigners in English, but the absurd logic and translations are verbatim from the source material — so it’s a near requirement to memorise the specific answers to […]

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HSK4上 finished!

18 months and 200 class hours ago I remember other students carrying HSK4 and HSK5 books, and I never imagined that I could once be at that level as well. But here’s to HSK4上 finished! I think the trick for me (as someone who was always bad with languages and started learning Mandarin with low […]

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Tuning out

Here’s just a reminder that media are entirely funded by clicks, and that outrage and fear are most profitable. Many outlets simply list all the horrible things happening in the world or horrible things that could happen. And any time we calm down, the media will need to get more extreme: more dividing, more fearful. […]

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Fake pagodas

A younger more cynical me would have said it’s all fake. But these recently-built pagodas and temples are just as much part of today’s Chinese culture as the old ones are. No need to lament the original ones, now often gone. These new ones (all over China) find their way in the background of selfies […]

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Shanghai Unfolds

More than any city I’ve lived in, Shanghai unfolds the longer you stay in it — like reading the book for a second or third time. I keep returning to old spots and seeing new layers — literally — on the ground or ten floors above the streets. I now speak the language and I’m […]

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Hanzi

Like everyone I’m overexposed to screens, so to practise Chinese characters on paper is surprisingly relaxing — absorbing in writing the right strokes to form radicals and components. Colorbooks for grown-ups have a similar stress relieving purpose. I don’t believe you can learn Hanzi with your eyes alone, as they come with such crual similarities […]

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Specify. Choose. Specify. Choose. Specify.

Here are the last four months of teaching branding at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art summarized into two verbs. SPECIFY: The market isn’t homogenous. Which clusters of people do you see of people that are similar to each other, and meaningfully different to people in other clusters? Don’t segment based on age: people aged the same aren’t […]

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Chinese in Hattem

(Originally written for GoEast Mandarin.) My hometown Hattem has around 11,000 citizens, with on the north the river the Ijssel, and on the south the biggest forest of the Netherlands, the Veluwe, teeming with life and fields thick of heather. There are two bus stops, with a bus every two hours — but not on […]

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