The Nanfang / Blog

PRD People: Medical Trainer and Online Celebrity Winston Sterzel

Posted: 06/5/2014 11:00 am

Mark Rowswell, better known as Dashan, once remarked that the statement “Westerners don’t understand China” is easier to take when you realize that Chinese people don’t understand China either. Sometimes however, a Westerner comes along who tries to make sense of the Middle Kingdom and wins recognition from his host country for his efforts in doing so.

Winston Sterzel, 33, a British-South African medical training manager who has been in Shenzhen for eight years, has been praised by plenty of Chinese netizens for the astuteness of his online videos which give an introduction to the “real China.” His motorcycle tours have taken him to dozens of cities and small towns, but the portal through which he understands the Middle Kingdom is Shenzhen, a city he fell in love with during a business trip and came to despite having no contacts here.

Winston Sterzel

Sterzel has a large following on YouTube, Facebook, and Youku and has been featured in Shenzhen-based media eleven times. He has kindly taken the time to talk to The Nanfang about road trips, cold beer, internet celebrity and Chinese nationalism.

Living in Shenzhen

After moving to Shenzhen eight years ago, he immersed himself in the local Chinese community while learning the language. “Shenzhen is a migrant city, you meet people from every corner of China in Shenzhen, and as a result are exposed to the many dialects, customs and foods from all over China,” Sterzel told The Nanfang.

He works for a medical training company, training doctors in international hospital rules, etiquette, medical terminology and other things related to internships in Australia and Germany. Another one of his main activities is taking motorcycle trips around China. Either through business trips or lone adventures he has biked his way to Dalian, Inner Mongolia, Shanghai and many other far flung places. His videos about riding to Guilin gained 10,000 hits per episode, almost 80,000 in total.

Despite all this travelling, it is Buji that he calls home. “I tend to stay away from the mainstream expat hangouts and prefer to hang out in the urban villages at small local restaurants,” said Sterzel. “I am the only foreigner in the community,” he added.

He is fond of almost all of the things that make Shenzhen what it is. “Although I do occasionally enjoy visiting a posh restaurant in a posh area (Near the MixC or Coastal city etc) my work and daily travels take me trough all the different districts in Shenzhen,” Sterzel told The Nanfang.

“I know the city very well and still my favourite places are the urban villages such as Shui wei cun, Xia Sha cun, Sha zui cun, Buji Zhen etc etc, basically anywhere with a vibrant night life, cold beers and all night BBQ,” he added.

Internet videos

Sterzel’s biggest claim to fame is his online videos that give outsiders an introduction to what he calls “the real China.” The series include “China, How It Is,” “Mandarin on Demand,” and “Village Crawls.”

As well as having over 26,000 subscribers on his YouTube page, his videos – which strive to inform other foreigners about China, have become an unexpected success with Chinese audiences.

A Chinese website picked up his videos, added subtitles and put them on Youku and Tudou. Shenzhen Daily reported in 2012 that his videos were popular both because Chinese appreciated seeing how outsiders see their country and to help teach themselves English:

“It is very interesting to see how foreigners think about China and us. He knows so much and is very objective. I particularly like one of his most popular episodes, ‘Are Chinese girls easy?’ It is so fun and so true,” one of the netizens, identified as “Nulixuexi,” said.

Here is part 1 of that episode:

His videos touching on more prosaic matters such as transportation, the cost of living and food have also proved a hit. “I like to show people what China is really like and dispel all the nonsense ideas that people have,” said Sterzel.

Ups and downs

Sterzel’s best experiences in Shenzhen have come as a result of breaking through the foreign bubble and getting to know the locals. “I work side by side with motorcycle mechanics in my area and have pretty much been accepted as part of their family,” said Sterzel.

However, in both real life and in the comments sections of his videos there is one major negative that he has to deal with. “The absolutely ridiculous, irrational and overblown ultra nationalism that can rear its ugly head at any given moment can turn even the nicest of local people into the worst sort of lynch mob imaginable,” said Sterzel.

“As a foreigner it is always very important to avoid treading on anyone’s national pride,” he told The Nanfang. If you sift through the comments sections of his videos you will see the odd Chinese netizen take issue with some of his less rosy observations.

In spite of this, his insights into his adopted country have made him a recognisable figure in the local media establishment. Shenzhen television interviewed him just a few weeks ago. Some netizens have even said that watching his stuff is better than reading any travel guide, and there are plenty of Chinese netizens who would back up Sterzel’s claims.


Corpses of HK Man’s 2nd Family Hidden in Shenzhen Apt for 14 Years

Posted: 06/4/2014 8:00 am

For 14 years, a Hong Kong man surnamed Jian has managed to keep the bodies of his mistress and his two-year-old son hidden in a rented Shenzhen apartment without raising any suspicion.

Jian’s apartment in Shenzhen where the bodies were discovered after 14 years.

The bodies were only discovered after Jian requested his landlord send a helper to clean his two-bedroom apartment located on the top floor of an 8-storey building on Lianhua North Road in Buji during his absence. On May 3, the helper detected a foul smell coming from a bag underneath the bed. When she opened the bag, she found decomposed human bones, Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

Jian allegedly killed his mistress and his own son in May 2000. At that time, Jian’s gambling debts finally caught up with him, and they competed against the monthly RMB 2,000 allowance his Shenzhen family required. Jian needed to choose between them because the third responsibility Jian was not able to evade was his family in Hong Kong, which included two children.

One day after lunch, Jian strangled his mistress and son to death while they were taking an afternoon nap and wrapped their bodies in a nylon bag. After the murders, Jian moved out of the apartment. He stuffed the corpses into a large home appliance shipping crate without raising any suspicion from home movers, the report said.

No one from the mistress’ family ever reported her as a missing person throughout the past 14 years. She had long lost contact with rural family members, and the landlord did not bother to check his tenant since the rent was always paid on time, according to the report.

Jian, described by his mother as “timid”, was arrested in Shenzhen in May shortly after the landlord called the police.

The area of Buji, often referred to as “Little Hong Kong” and located in the north end of Shenzhen, was dubbed a “mistress village” during the 1980s and 90s. Many cross-border drivers and office clerks from Hong Kong led a different life with their mistress there, according to South China Morning Post.

Home page and content page image: Southern Metropolis Daily 


Shenzhen’s Dameisha beach deemed too filthy for foreign guests

Posted: 07/19/2013 7:00 am

The Shenzhen Special Zone Daily has published a report on the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of Yantian District’s Dameisha Beach after a local businessman complained that the beach was too filthy for his foreign guests.

On the evening of Friday July 5, Mr He and his two clients, an American and Canadian, decided it was too hot to stay inside, so went to Binhai Park on Dameisha beach. However, they only lasted 10 minutes in the water as they were sick of plastic bags and candy wrappers getting stuck to their bodies as they waded.

Binhai Park during better days, courtesy of Google Images

Having heard He’s complaint, a reporter went to Binhai Park on July 13 to see for himself what the fuss was about. He arrived there before lunchtime when there were already almost 10,000 people on the beach. The water was nowhere near as crowded as it would be a few hours later but the sand was already covered in bottles, candy wrappers, and the shells and cores of eaten pieces of fruit.

There were also plastic bags blowing around, and to top it all off, the reporter saw trash cans that were half empty.

A man at the beach named Mr Wang who lives in Buji told the paper that the problem was a lack of suzhi or character among some beach goers. But he also said that, considering the number of people who swim there, it is unrealistic to expect the water to be clean by international standards.

A Mr Qin who had come from Luohu District with his family described littering on the beach as “immoral as well as disgusting.”

Big things have small beginnings, courtesy of Sina Weibo

In other news about people lacking suzhi, a woman in Shenzhen’s Baoan District has drawn complaints from neighbours after gaining a reputation for regularly throwing garbage and even feces off the roof and directly onto the ground in her residential complex. You can see the news report, including footage of her in the act here.

But it’s not all bad news on the suzhi front. In recent days, the image on the right of a migrant worker cleaning up after himself on the subway has gone big on Sina Weibo.

The worker was overcome by some mild nausea, and when a stranger gave him a tissue to wipe his mouth, he first got down and cleaned the floor, a respected Panyu-based microblog has claimed.


97 year-old woman locked up by her son

Posted: 06/19/2012 7:00 am

Filial piety is the fundamental basis of Chinese morality, according to scholar Joseph S Wu. But taking care of an aging population is one of society’s most pressing issues. Pension reform is being widely discussed, and People’s Daily recently published a survey as to whether the retirement age should be extended. There is also a shortage of nursing homes, creating a dilemma for many families as to how to balance busy working lives with raising children, and continuing to support elderly family members.

One extreme example of how not to treat an elderly family member was seen in Shenzhen recently.

A 97 year-old woman accused her son of locking her in a small room, giving her no access to a shower, and feeding her only a steamed bun that was too hard for her to chew. The son admitted his wrongdoing to the police and promised to treat her better in the future, according to The Southern Metropolis Daily. The woman, Cai Xueying, also said her son, surnamed Xue, pointed at her and yelled: “You don’t know shit!” When she told him she would report him to a newspaper.

Cai tearfully told the newspaper that after coming out of a retirement home in Buji, Longgang District on June 8, she was kept in the room for 6 days. When a reporter from the newspaper brought her a bowl of porridge, she was so hungry that she finished it in seconds. Photographs show the woman’s living quarters to be very basic with just a bed, a table and a lamp.

In a phone interview, Xue explained that he was on a business trip in Guangxi Province. When told that his mother was hungry, Xue said, “It’s natural to be hungry. If she’s hungry then give her something to eat,” before hanging up the phone, according to the newspaper. Xue has refused to speak to the media since.

A lawyer surnamed Huang said Xue’s behaviour amounted to maltreatment, but there is little legislation to deal with the neglectful treatment of the elderly.

Cai was born shortly after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty. She had 10 children, 5 of whom survived infancy, according to the newspaper. But for various reasons, her other children are unable to take care of her.

The story has become popular on the Internet. One Sina Weibo user said she should have disposed of him at birth. Another said the man should be punished for not appreciating how lucky he is to have a mother who lived so long.

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