中国人の父にオランダで育てられました。 日本語を勉強しながら、ベトナム人の彼氏と一緒に暮らしています。

Friday, 20 November 2015

❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ Weird fashion trends in China ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ Beansprouts, square dogs and more

I know what you're thinking; Japan is supposed to number one on unusual fashion trends and yes, I agree. That doesn't mean we can easily ignore all the other not-so-common-looking fashion trends happening around the world. It would be a shame to not enjoy them since some of them are so much fun. What actually triggered me to write this post is my auntie. It was when we skyped recently that I discovered one of these unusual fashion trends since she told me about it. It all started with my auntie saying; Mei Mei there are people around walking with leaves on their heads!!

Sprout hairpin 
Uh, excuse me? You're probably wondering about my auntie's well being now and if she needs any help with her mental issues. However, a new trend has risen in China; the sprouting flower hairpins. Or floral hairpins, grass pins or whatever you like to call them. This fashion trend focuses on little hairpins which you can hide in your hair creating the 'i'm growing a plant out of my head' look. I'm not kidding. According to my auntie it's starting with the up rise of a cartoon character which has a little pea shoot growing out of is head. Now since they gained popularity they are seen everywhere! Women, men and kids are wearing them on a daily basis to add some cuteness into their lives. At first I thought it was funny as well, but the more I see them the cuter they look! If you do a quick search on Taobao (the Chinese equivalent of Ebay) or Aliexpress you can find them for really cheap prices as low as $0.09 (depending if you want just the sprout or the whole flower included). Even famous Kpop star Gdragon was captured by this cute antenna sprout while doing a tour in China with his group Big Bang. He recently posted a picture of him wearing the hair clips with a caption saying; you like? After this I think it won't take long for the trend to spread to Korea. At least you have to admit they are much more original than those overrated bohemian flower crowns.

Pet grooming
Not only humans can enjoy China's weirdest trends, pets too! If you think washing your dog and taking him for a simple grooming session is good enough think again! Girls (and guys too!) are taking pet grooming to the next level by making them look like wild animals such as tigers, panda's and lions. If you want to go a little less extreme I would suggest the 'round cut' this particular cut is very popular with toy poodles and other fluffy dogs making sure every body part (especially the head) of the animal is cut in a round shape making the dogs look insanely cute. After the round look, the square look popped up. Giving dogs (you guessed it) a square looking haircut. If you want to try this look on your dog it will probably gain you a lot of likes on Instagram according to the pet owners. However it does take a lot of maintenance. If you're wondering what's next? Triangular cut? I'm not sure, maybe the Chinese will take the wild animal cut to next level.

These are just two crazy examples. How about doing a quick Google search on the Face-kini, bagel heads or anti-rape hair stockings. I wish I was kidding but I'm not. If you are in for a laugh try searching them! Tell me if you found anything funny~!

~ mei mei

Monday, 26 October 2015

Happy Halloween! - Creepy Japanese folktales and legends

Since it's almost Halloween I couldn't post this next month. In this post I will share three creepy Japanese urban legends with you so you can entertain your guests on your Halloween party. Please decide for yourself if they are suitable for your audience. If you guys are interested I'll make another post with my top 3 (or top 5, or 10) Asian movies to watch this Halloween. If you would like me to post this just send me a message. Now let's turn the lights off!

Teke Teke
Japan is famous for many good things but unfortunately also for it's high suicide rates. Although you have many possibilities to commit suicide, it is said that Teke Teke san jumped in front of a oncoming subway leaving her body cut in half. I'm not entirely sure if she was upset because her suicide attempt didn't really work out or because she looked kind of unappealing the way she ended up. Anyways she became very angry. Now she is roaming the nights of Japan by dragging her upper body around with her claws which simulates a teke-teke sound. She will hunt you down if you are wandering the streets at nighttime and if she catches you, you will be cut in half as well.
This legend is told mostly by mothers to their children to prevent them from going out in the evening or staying up to late.

Kuchisake onna 口裂け女
Also this one is a popular among mothers to tell their children and has the same idea; don't go anywhere by yourself when it's dark outside! Kuchisake onna means 'split mouth woman' and though there are different opinions on how she looks most of the stories have all these things in common; she has long black hair, wears some kind of long dark cloak or coat and wears a surgical mask (yes, the one that all the Japanese wear when they have the flu). She will approach you when you are walking alone and will ask you a question; am I pretty? You might think; oh, this is easy, my girlfriend / wife asks me all the time, just say yes and she will stop blabbering. Think again! Because if you say yes, she will pull down her mask and show you her monster like smile which covers her face from ear to ear. She will ask you again if you think she's pretty, if you say yes, you get the same creepy smile and if you say no she will cut you in half. After reading this you might think; well I just say no the first time she asks me. Unfortunately she will cut you in half immediately. Oh, and before I forget to tell you, this all happens with a monster size pair of scissors.
So how can I get away from her? Well it's said that if you answer her question with something else than 'yes' or 'no' like 'average', you will confuse her giving you the opportunity to run away. Or, if you listened to your mother in the first place and didn't go out late it wouldn't happen at all.
For those of you who are interested, there is a movie about kuchisake onna called 'Carved'. I didn't see it for myself yet but you can check the IMDB review here.

Hitobashira 人柱
Hitobashira are 'human pillars'. It is said that in feudal Japan they would seal bodies into pillars while building dams, castles, bridges and temples to make them stronger and last longer. Back in the day, Samurai or other important people would sacrifice them self as hitobashira and commit suicide. Their bodies would be encased in the building to 'fend off evil spirits' and as an offering to the gods to prevent them from natural disasters. Some other stories say that they actually encased the humans alive and that they preferred to use kids. When an important building was about to be build, parents would pay extra attention on keeping an eye on their kids to prevent them from being kidnapped and never seeing them again. Other theories suggests that workers who had fallen working under harsh conditions were the ones who were buried inside the pillars. Whatever the truth is we will never now today. But how creepy it is thinking the souls of many humans can lie under such beautiful buildings..

I told my dad about the Hitobashira and he said these kind of stories were also quite commonly told in China. If you wonder how to celebrate Halloween a.k.a 'Hungry Ghost Festival' the Chinese way don't forget to read my post Chinese Halloween 鬼节 I'm sure you will enjoy it!
There were so many Japanese urban legends to choose from so I hope you didn't mind if your favorite is not included. I chose the one which I am the most familiar with.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and that you are not to creeped out. Let me know if you watched the movie 'Carved' or if you have any other spooky movie suggestions for Halloween.

 ~ mei mei

Monday, 19 October 2015

Making sense of Japanese verbs - the three verb groups

Hello all! So today I want to talk about verbs in the Japanese language. Not only in Japanese, but in any language verbs have a very important role in a sentence. So understanding them, learning how they work and conjugating them is key to making your own sentences. When you know how to make your own sentences you can focus on learning vocabulary instead. Even though they might seem difficult, they are actually quite easy when you learn how they work. So let's get into it!

First of all, Japanese verbs are divided into three groups. I will start with the last group first and you'll understand why as you continue reading. Group three are all the exceptions and it has only two verbs you need to know which are; する(suru to do) and くる (kuru to come). Group two is includes every verb that ends with いる(iru) or える (eru) this group is also called 'dictionary form'. Simply because this is the form you will find for all the verbs in the dictionaries. Now the final group which is group one and includes; everything else! It's as simple as that! Knowing which verb belongs to which group is the beginning of starting to conjugate them. If you don't know which group the verb belongs to it's impossible to make sense of conjugation so make sure to study these thoroughly.

You can figure out which group a verb belongs to in three easy steps;

  First check if the verbs ends with る(ru) - if not, it automatically belongs to group 1.

  If it ends with る, make sure it's not する(suru) or くる(kuru) and check the syllable before the る.

If there's a い(i) or え(e) before the る(ru) it's group 2, if not it's group 1.

How about these verbs? Can you tell which group they belong to?
1.  たべる (taberu to eat)
2. いく (iku to go)
3. りょうりする (ryori suru to cook)

Let's start with number 1. It does end with る but it's not する or くる, so we must check the syllable before る. The syllable before the る is an えso that means it's group 2.
 Are you getting the hang of it already? Next one is; いく. Does it end with る? No! So that means it's group 1. That was easy right?
Final practice verb is; りょうりする. It does end with る but wait a minute, this is one ends with する which means it's group 3!

As all languages, even here there are exceptions. There are verbs that end with -iru or -eru but still belong to group 1. The only thing you can do about these, except for getting upset, is simply memorizing them. There are quite a few out there but let me just tell you three for today. They are;  はしる, かえる and きる. Even though they end with -eru or -iru they are some examples of verbs who actually belong to group 1.
Now don't be intimidated these. Make sure you practice categorizing these verbs because in my next post we'll put them to action! What is your favorite thing to do? One of my favorites is; よむ.

Have a good day!
~ mei mei

Monday, 5 October 2015

The best free apps for learning Korean on Android

Happy Monday to you! let's spend our time wisely by learning some Korean! And is there possibly an easier way to study a language by using your smartphone? I don't think so, it's that thing that's always in your hand nowadays so why not use it efficiently in your language studies!
If you are interested in learning Korean but have an Iphone. Don't worry, I made this post especially for you. And for those of you who are interested in learning Japanese as well you can read my Learning Japanese on Iphone and Android post.
Now let's get started!

PopPopping Korean;
The first app I tested is called; PopPopping Korean, sounds promising right? When installing the app it does requires you to have Adobe Air. If you don't have Adobe Air you can download it for free in the Playstore as well. If you don't have Adobe installed on your phone the app can't run. The app runs in landscape mode and focuses on learning Hangeul. The app is divided into two sections; Hangeul pronunciation and Rhythm Hangeul. In the Hangeul pronunciation section you find all the Hangeul characters pronounced for you. The cool thing is; there is even a picture in the background on how you should place your tongue and teeth while pronouncing the character. Especially with Korean I found it extremely helpful when my teacher told me how to place my tongue etc. for the perfect pronunciation, so it's really a good feature of the app!
Then comes 'Rhythm Hangeul' which is a game where you can spell out words and sentences with the Hangeul you just learned to pronounce. From standard words such as 사랑 해요 ( I love you)  to 빅뱅 (Big bang, especially for the Kpop fans among us). The app has cute illustrations of funny monsters which guide you trough the app.
Overall I think it's not an app you can enjoy for more than a couple weeks or months. It's convenient and easy for learning Hangeul but since the app doesn't have more features that's about as far as it goes.

Overall rating PopPopping Korean;
visual / layout; 5/5
Information; 3/5

- Perfect for Hangeul pronunciation
- Fun layout
- Also good for kids

- Not suitable for long term use
- Need to install Adobe Air additonally

Learn Korean with Eggbun;
You might think; ugh another app with a cute name, but the Eggbun app is way more than that! It's quite different than any other language app I've seen! It does use mostly Hangeul so make sure you've got that down before starting with Eggbun. Eggbun focuses on learning Korean trough interactive conversations. Your screen looks like a chat screen and you can read the conversation while a native speaker pronounces everything for you. This sound easy, but it's not a sit back, relax and listen kind of app. You need to respond and actively participate in the conversation by choosing responses and typing things yourself. The conversations are quick and convenient and don't last longer than 5 minutes or so. Which gives you no excuse to slack on your Korean learning :) After conversation mode you can choose either review or quiz to check if you really understood everything. Just like PopPopping Korean Eggbun uses really cute illustrations of (you can't guess) a little egg bun-like character and other cute drawings. Overall the app is really easy to use and even though you do need to know Hangeul the app does start off with really basic conversations so it's perfect for beginners as well.

Overall rating Eggbun Convo;
visual / layout; 5/5
Information; 4/5

- Unique layout and setup
- Detailed interactive conversations
- Fun quiz mode

- I know it's a first but I don't have any cons!

I hope this post was helpful! As usual I was not sponsored or asked by these companies to review their apps. If you want me to test and review any particular app please send me a message!

~mei mei

Monday, 31 August 2015

The best free apps for learning Korean on your Iphone

Hello there! One of my most popular posts was The two best apps for learning Japanese. Since many people thought it was helpful I even made a part two! After covering apps for Japanese, I had to find the best out there for Korean as well. So I did a little research and found these two apps. Since I will be making a part two for sure I thought I will split it into Iphone and Android rather then mixing them up. If you have a device running on Android please be patient, I will make an Adroid version soon. Now let's get reading and I'll show you the apps I found!

Accelastudy Learn Korean FREE Essentials;
This is a simple flashcards app. In the menu you are able to select from three main options; prepare, learn and test. Each option has it's own sub-options, I will explain them briefly for you. First there is 'PREPARE' in prepare you have three sub-options; my focus, my study sets and my progress. In 'my focus' you can select words from seven categories or select all the words you want to study. In 'my study sets' you can create your own set of flashcards and in 'my progress' you can see the percentage of the words you have mastered for each category.
For the 'LEARN' section you have four sub-options which are; study, spaced repetition, flashcards and hands free. The LEARN section is where you will actually be practicing your flashcards. Every option gives you a different style of learning, for example hands free where they will say the words out loud in both English and Korean.
In the last menu option you find TEST which has two sub-options; quiz and audio quiz. The English word will be in the screen and you need to select the correct answer from the four options in Hangul. The only difference between the audio option and the normal option is that the audio options pronounces the word for you.. in English... not sure if that's very helpful though.

Overall rating Essentials;
Visual / layout; 4/5
Information; 2/5

- Clean layout
- Adjustable study options

- Not many words / categories to study
- Audio quiz is not helpful

iStart Korean;
As you might know from my Japanese app post I kind of raved about iStart Japanese so I had to try the Korean version as well. Although only the first four lessons are free I really recommend this app because it is extremely helpful! It teaches you trough lessons which give you that classroom feeling in your own comfort at home. Mirai apps work with three basic principles. First- language should be fun stimulating and enjoyable. Second- language instruction should be logical, well-paced and consistent. Third- language instruction and learning should be goal-oriented, with the objective of making you, the learner functionally proficient in actually speaking and understanding the Korean language. And don't tell me that's not exactly what you want! The Lite or 'free' version comes with four lessons; introduction, politeness, simple vowels and saying goodbye. At the beginning of each lessons they explain you what you will learn in this lesson. Then you will go through the session with your 'tutor'. This is a fun interactive lesson which in the end takes you to the summary where you recap what you have just learned. There is also a vocab section where you can review all your new words and a quiz section to make sure you really understand the information from the lesson.
I really liked the Japanese version and the Korean version is just as amazing. So far this is really my number one app for Korean!

Overall rating Essentials;
Visual / layout; 5/5
Information; 5/5

- Clean layout
- Amazingly detailed lessons

- Free version has only four lessons
- Full version available at 4,99

I'm not in any way sponsored by these companies to review their apps.

Thank you for reading. If there is an app you would like me to try on either Iphone or Android devices let me know!

~ mei mei

Monday, 27 July 2015

Green tea culture in Japan + benefits of drinking green tea + easy Matcha recipe

Anyone who knows me knows that I love my daily doses of green tea. Coming home from work and sipping on a huge cup of green tea is what gives me that ultimate moment of relaxation. Not only do I enjoy drinking green tea, I love snacking on matcha KitKat, biscuits, matcha caramels... wait.. don't tell me your only drinking green tea? If so, your missing out! Let's talk about Japanese green tea culture and keep reading till the end for a little bonus.

Japanese green tea culture
Japanese green tea, or matcha 抹茶 is specifically grown and picked tea leaves ground to a fine powder. These are then processed to flavor wagashi, ice cream, noodles, mochi and a other varieties of food. (look at my wagashi post to get an idea of Japanese sweets flavored with matcha) Just name a dish and there's a huge possibility there's a matcha version of it. That is how popular matcha is in Japan.
What made matcha so popular is the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This is a widely practiced ceremony which focuses on the preparation and presentation of matcha.  These ceremonies can vary from a highly formal tea event to less formal tea gathering. Not only for me, but for many people around the world matcha helps them to relax and calm their mind. It is said that many monks drank matcha to remain calm during their meditation sessions.

Benefits of green tea
according to matchasource.com powdered matcha has 137 times more antioxidants than regular brewed green tea this is because when you consume matcha, you ingest the whole leaf and receive 100% of nutrients from the leaf. One cup of matcha equals to 10 cups of regular green tea!
Not only does it contain antioxidants called polyphenols which aid in protection against cancer and heart disease, it also has many more health benefits such as;

✿ It boosts your metabolism and burns calories

✿ It detoxifies your body in a natural way

✿ It's rich in vitamins, fiber and chlorophyll (a green pigment which you find in all kinds of veggies)

✿ It lowers cholesterol and blood sugar

✿ It has anti-aging properties 

this is only a small collection of all the benefits matcha has. If you want to know more about the benefits, I suggest looking at the matcha source website which gives you a lot of information and also comparisons between matcha and regular green tea.

Easy matcha recipe
If all the benefits made you excited to start consuming matcha please try out this easy recipe. Matcha is very easy to include in your daily recipes as it can be combined with both sweet and savory dishes. If you are just tried matcha and aren't really accustomed to the flavour, try adding it gradually in some of your dishes. You can add it to your yoghurt, breakfast bowl, mix it in with your smoothies, add it to some milk and more endless options. You may want to invest in a traditional matcha whisk which is called a chasen (shown on the picture below). This enhances the flavor of the matcha and makes sure it's perfectly mixed. Also don't add your matcha to any boiling liquid, wait a couple of minutes after the liquid has boiled and then add your matcha to prevent it from getting a little bitter.
This recipe is perfect for those of you who love the matcha taste or want to try something different. Matcha goes perfectly with the sweet coconut flavor!

Matcha coconut latte
This recipe requires only two ingredients; powdered matcha and coconut milk.
1. Heat up the coconut milk until it comes just two a boil.
2.Transfer it to a bowl and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
3. Add a little bit of hot water and 2 tablespoons of matcha.
4. Whisk it with your chasen (or a small kitchen whisk) until it becomes frothy.
5. Serve in a tall glass and add toppings if you like. I like to add just a little bit of honey and desiccated coconut on top.

Please try out this recipe and include some matcha in your healthy lifestyle!
I hope you enjoyed reading.
~ mei mei

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

10 reasons to start learning Vietnamese

Ever thought of learning one of those amazing sounding Asian languages? What pops into the mind of most people at the beginning (including myself) is of course Chinese, Japanese and Korean. But how about one of those beautiful languages which are not thought of frequently? Such as Tagalog, Thai or Vietnamese? Imagine studying one of these languages and blowing people away by doing something totally different. Surprising them with your newly achieved skills and introducing them to a language which is so unique.

Vietnam is an amazing country and Vietnamese is an amazing language. For both beginning and advanced language learners, Vietnamese is a perfect language to study. According to the graphic below its difficulty is rated as 'medium' meaning it's significantly different from English but can be learned with some devoted studying. Since Vietnamese is not a common language being studied it's also perfect for the aspiring polyglots among us.
Now let's get to my 10 reasons to convince you even more!

1 - Vietnamese is spoken by 75 million people. which means they have more speakers worldwide than Korean!

2 -  There are large communities of Vietnamese speakers in Australia, the United States and other countries. In the US it's even the sixth most spoken language and in France it's the most spoken Asian language.

3 - Vietnamese is heavily influenced by other languages. Major influences in the early days from Chinese, later by French (through colonialism) and English (trough globalization).
Which makes it easier for you learning Vietnamese if you already speak one of these languages.

4 -  Vietnamese uses a Latin alphabet with accent markings
So that means no difficult memorizing like Chinese or Japanese.

5 - Vietnamese is a challenging language for (aspiring) polyglots, since it's probably something completely different than you're used to. However perfectly doable for beginners since it's a language of medium difficulty.

6 - There are only three accents in Vietnamese language (Northern, Southern & Central)
unlike for example Chinese which has a different accent for almost every part of the country (Yue, Wu, Min, Hakka etc.)

7 - There are only six tones in Northern Vietnamese and even fewer in the other dialects.

8 - Vietnamese, like many other Asian languages is an isolating language, which means it does not use different marking for tense, gender, number and so on.

9 - Also like many other languages (such as Japanese) it uses the SVO (subject-verb-object) word order for their sentences.

10 - And last but not least; Vietnam is a beautiful country, with great history, delicious food, and kind people who will be impressed by you speaking or even trying to speak Vietnamese.

I hoped this sparked your interest for this beautiful language.
If you want to start with Vietnamese I suggest reading my post learning Vietnamese Northern or Southern accent.

Thank you for reading!

~ mei mei