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Beijing for Beginners: An Irishman in the People's Republic [Paperback]

Gary Finnegan
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.49
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Book Description

Jun 2008
I hand over my entrance form to a young but tough-looking official. 'First time in China?' 'Yes.' 'Push green button.' The front of the desk has four buttons lighting up. Two green, two red. The first green one says 'very satisfied' and has a picture of a very happy face. The second says 'satisfied' with a slightly less ecstatic, but still moderately content smiley face. The third button is red. It reads 'not satisfied' and the face looks somewhat downbeat. The last option is a miserable-looking 'very dissatisfied'. Above the range of smileys is a question: 'How satisfied are you with the welcome you received in Beijing?' 'Eh...I'll be teaching at a...' 'Push green button!'I push the green button, the one with the smiliest face of all. And that's that. I'm in. No doubt there'll be a news story at the end of the year claiming 99 per cent of tourists are delighted with the reception they get in China. There is no fifth option saying 'airport is nice, but do something about the spitting...'. Faced with choking smog, chaotic traffic and locals who have a penchant for public spitting, Gary Finnegan finds himself in the world's fastest changing city. His attempts to adjust to an altogether alien culture make for an often hilarious travelogue, peppered with fascinating insights into Chinese history and its transforming society. From Chairman Mao to the recent surge in IVF and plastic surgery clinics, Finnegan attempts to understand modern China and learns a little about himself along way.However, he begins with more questions than answers: Can he survive without Western comforts? Is the new consumerist China still communist? And why are people calling him Big Nose? As the attention of the world focuses on China, "Beijing for Beginners" is ideal for anyone curious about the most populous nation on earth, and the weird and wonderful things on offer for a foreigner grappling with serious culture shock.

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Beijing for Beginners: An Irishman in the People's Republic + Lonely Planet Beijing (Travel Guide)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: The Liffey Press (Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905785445
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905785445
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 669,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Gary Finnegan is an award-winning journalist, editor and author from Dublin. He is a columnist and contributor to Irish newspapers and magazines, and has made regular appearances on radio and television. He has lived and worked in China and is currently based in Belgium. This is his first book.

Product Description


"'Beijing for Beginners is a wonderful surprise. At a time when there is so much focus on China as a growing superpower, Finnegan brings the place alive with all its strange flavours and colours - and, most importantly, tells us exactly what it's like to be a foreigner living there. Well worth reading.' - Eamon Delaney, editor of Magill magazine and author of An Accidental Diplomat 'Gary Finnegan's Irish eye catches the bizarre and the beautiful in Beijing. From eating caterpillars on a stick, to the Little Emperors of the one child policy, he explains what's old and what's new in a city changing faster than you can spit on the street.' - Carole Coleman, former Washington correspondent for RTE and author of Alleluia America: An Irish Journalist in Bush Country"

About the Author

Gary Finnegan is an award-winning journalist and former magazine editor currently living and working in Beijing. He has been a contributor and columnist to Irish newspapers and magazines, as well as making regular appearances on national and local radio and television including Newstalk, The Last Word on Today FM, TV3's Ireland AM and The Late Late Show. This is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read! 6 Aug 2008
I really enjoyed this book. It was insightfully written and provided an insiders view (often hilarious!) to a changing China. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going East? Get This. 8 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am moving out to China in five months and I was PETRIFIED, before having read this book.

Read this and join Gary Finnegan, your companionable and well-researched author as he takes you through the highlights and lowlights of his time living and working in Beijing for a year. He details his own personal experience as well as some other important information on the country's political history and fluctuating economic state.

In the latter stages of the book, Finnegan takes you into other parts of China, including Shanghai, which if you are currently arranging your trip, will open your mind up to the possibility of expanding your travel plans.

After having read The Beginners Guide to Beijing, I feel more clued up and mentally prepared for my journey. I anticipate that the inevitable culture shock will be a lot easier to endure since I now know a little bit more about what it's like to actually live in China as a foreigner. Thanks, Gary Finnegan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down! 1 May 2010
By Dennis
This book is fantastic. Very light-hearted, yet really interesting and informative at the same time. China is a country that is changing at a mind-blowing pace, and this book manages to take a vivid snapshot of the country's capital in the run up to the Summer Olympics of 2008. Humour abound, the writer manages to show us that with all the globalisation that is going on, we can still be "culture-shocked" in such a large city, but at the same time, we are not really that different to the people who live on the other side of the planet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read 4 Oct 2009
The thing that I loved about this book is that it gives you a very down-to-earth description of what it is like for a Westerner to adjust to life in China. Indeed, if you are planning to go to China (as I am), this is a book that will give you great reality check before you decide to pack your bags and leave for the Far East. There is so much useful information about the challenges that Westerners face when trying to settle down in China, such as dodging flying swirls of saliva to repeatedly turning down prostitutes at your hotel room door.

At the same time, however, Gary also helps us to appreciate China for what it is. Through his comical observations of locals queueing up to have their photos taken with a Westerner to the uniformed boys guarding over schools and supermarkets, he shows us the ways in which the Middle Kingdom can also be a very charming place to live in.

Last but not least, this book is absolutely hilarious. All the weird and quirky encounters that Gary has with the locals in his quest to become a true global citizen had me cracking with laughter. If you read this book, expect to have many laugh-out-loud moments.

So if you are planning to go to China, this book is a must- read. And if you prefer to read an amusing book within the confines of your own home.....yep, this book is still a must-read.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I suppose my nose will also be mocked 5 Jun 2009
By eehen
I see Amazon only have one of these left in stock, so you ought to order soon, whoever you are, for this is a wonderful, warm, witty and informative book - a cracking read.

As someone who's about to move his family to Beijing, I found myself swinging rapidly between states of stomach-tingling excitement and bum-tingling discomfort (or fear) as I read. It seems that's the sort of place Beijing is, and Mr Finnegan gets it all across very well. I laughed out loud a number of times too, though this didn't matter as I rarely go out.

So, yes, get this book if you've any smidge of interest in the roaring, trundling, large thing that is China. Or if you're China-neutral and just want a good time, get it too. Then read it.

(My apologies for the ****. You see I only ever give ***** to Grimble by Clement Freud. But this did only take me three days to read, while most books take me seven weeks, so that's got to be worth a virtual fifth *.)

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