My Colorful Life in China

Source: Michel Cristian Thorup (Miko)

Before I came to China (in the summer of 2009) I lived in Denmark, where I worked as a full-time teacher in a primary school. Apart from work, I occasionally played the drums and was also the lead singer in a cover band. My life was satisfactory, but I was craving something more.

You may turn this song on while reading... 

One day, I met a woman through the internet, WHO worked as a foreign-language teacher in Shanghai. We became friends, and enjoyed sharing our common interests. After some time, she suddenly suggested; Why dont you come to teach in China? You can send your application to my boss.

Without much hesitation, I did as she suggested, and very quickly after, was accepted for the position, This was the beginning of my amazing journey to China.


I arrived during early July, it was pouring non-stop. As I was going to be meeting my new boss at the airport, I came well-prepared - wearing a dark suit and tie. After having met and talked for a while, I headed to my new headquarter by taxi, still in heavy rain.

The very first thing to catch my eye were the familiar letters MAERSK written on a shipping container on top of a huge truck floating by my foggy taxi window A welcome-greeting from my little country I thought happily to myself.

Upon arrival, I stepped out into the flooded street, with water almost up to my knees. I took a minute more in the taxi to take off my shoes and socks, and to roll up my suit pants before stepping out again. And so, there I was, walking barefoot through the flooded streets of Shanghai carrying my suitcase on top of my head, humming a little tune to myself, and thinking:Wow! Welcome to China! 

Change of Plan

I spent my first 4 weeks taking a 120-hour intensive TEFL Course, and living on the university campus. I found myself a nice ground-floor apartment, bought myself a bicycle and became settled in my new life with new friends.

Shortly after, my new boss called me up, and asked if I could go up North to a city called Changchun. At the time, I had never even heard of this place, and was surprised by his suggestion as I had just begun getting used to life in Shanghai. Instead of saying "NO", I politely asked if I could think about it. A few days later during a school meeting, my boss brought up the issue of Changchun to me again.

If I were you, I would just go my boss said, it might be an adventure. And, itll only be for 3-4 weeks until they find another teacher. I thought to myself Its probably not going to be for such a short time, because when they start to like me, why would they bother looking for another teacher?

Then I thought to myself: I have already taken such a huge step of coming to China, and since I do not even know Shanghai that well, I might as well just take what comes my way. After all, Im still in China, and who knows what may happen?

Okay, I will go!


The blue autumn skies of the Northeast with their sparkling sunshine and cool refreshing September air told me that I had arrived to a completely different part of China. I got situated on the campus of a College of Technology, and a new chapter of my life in China had begun.

I couldnt speak the language apart from a few basic words. However, I kept to my busy schedule and managed to get through thanks to the warm and welcoming feeling I received from my lovely students. During lunch breaks and after school, they would often invite me to participate in various activities, and were all-around very friendly.

One evening, my best student Alex, told me that the school is holding a party. Knowing that I could play the guitar, they invited me to perform a song. With clever effort, Alex managed to teach me how to sing an old Chinese love song The Moon Represents My Heart, which I sang in Chinese in front of 600 astonished audience members. Although I only understood a few words of the song lyrics, as I had learned it all by reciting the sounds only a skill that would serve me well in years to follow.

After a successful year teaching at the college, my growing need for a new adventure directed me to move nearer to the center of Changchun city, where I shared an apartment with an American friend, who was also working as an English teacher. His friends had a band, and I joined them in my free time as a singer. 

Soon I found myself a new teaching job working for a local agency who provided me with a working visa, and shortly afterwards sent me to teach English at JiDaFuZhong one of top middle schools in Changchun. I worked there for a year, with a schedule of 30 lessons per week, with more than 70 students in each classroom. It was a truly amazing experience, as I was used to teaching less than half of that back in Denmark. 

After some time, I met a local man whose brother owned a school. He had recently started an entertainment company and he was looking for foreigners with musical talent. As I have always dreamed of being either a singer or an actor, I decided to meet him. We worked out a deal to allow me to perform in my free time for his family and friends. I had the chance to sing and play various instruments. I was invited to perform at weddings and birthdays and I would sing a combination of both English and Chinese songs and always went back to the first Chinese song I learned - The Moon Represents My Heart. I was not paid for these performances, but rather was given food, and more importantly the opportunity to make new friends.

The wedding singer    


One evening, I went to a bar for a drink, and there I met a group of foreigners. Many of them have been living in Changchun for quite long, some even over a decade. It was there that I met my good friend and mentor Martin, from Scotland. We connected immediately, and spent time together after work sharing our creative passion for music and songwriting. Martin, who was renowned for his excellent teaching skills, had his own English training school in Changchun. One evening after dinner he asked me: Why dont you come work for me?

At first, I turned down his offer, because I was content with where I was. Martin did not give up easily, however, and kept bringing the suggestion up. I was suddenly reminded of the decision to move to Changchun from Shanghai, and how I was hesitant at first, but ended up in a very good place because of it. I began to notice the familiar feeling of fate knocking at my door again. 

Happy years

And so, I started working for Martin. I learned so much more from him through his teaching style, and began to improve my teaching skills. After two years of hard work, Martin promoted me to be the branch manager as well as Director of Studies at a new branch. Throughout the time, we never allowed the increasingly busy workload to disrupt our creative passion of creating music. We had another shared-interest; charity events, where we performed with autistic children, another thing that has been a passion of mine for years.

With Martin

In 2015, while working for Martin, I had made the acquaintance of the leader of the Changchun Bureau of Foreign Experts affairs' Director Mr. Ma. took interest in my ideas for business projects. He invited me to attend the Changchun Business Fair, where I was given my own booth and met interesting business people. At the end of the fair, I was awarded as Senior Business Consultant for Changchun City.

With Mr. Ma JinHeng, (former) Director of the Foreign Experts in Changchun city


I met Mrs. Shao Wei, the cultural leader of The Foreign Cultural Exchange Service, which opened many doors in my path. Mrs. Shao is a fantastic leader with passion and charisma, and so I couldnt refuse her invitation to participate in the annual festival for the cultural leaders of Changchun and Jilin. I received two awards for best performer for singing Chinese songs.

Performing with the Changchun Foreign Cultural Exchange Service Base

Soon I was offered unexpected opportunities; A group of around 60 talented foreign was originally started by an Italian friend, Alex, in 2009 and later handed down to Vincent, who was French. When Vincent decided to leave to France, I was invited to take over the leadership of this great social group. I accepted without hesitation, and was told to come up with a new name for the community. Since the group was heavily involved in musical parties, I came up with the name The Changtunes.

With the "Changtues"