French woman shares her story in China in new book
Cultural journey
Published: Sep 14, 2021 06:43 PM
Alice Roche
Top: A group photo of Alice Roche (left) and her friends
Photos: Courtesy of Alice Roche

A group photo of Alice Roche (right) and her friends Photo: Courtesy of Alice Roche

Alice Roche
Top: A group photo of Alice Roche (left) and her friends
Photos: Courtesy of Alice Roche

Alice Roche Photo: Courtesy of Alice Roche

Have you ever tried to sing the traditional Chinese opera Kunqu, or Kunqu Opera, in another language while still keeping its original flavor and spirit? Well, that's exactly what 26-year-old French woman Alice Roche has been doing. 

With a passion for learning Chinese and singing, Roche, who lives in Shanghai, has shared many videos of her singing Chinese songs that she has translated into French as well as directly in Chinese. She has become a very popular internet influencer in China, with 190,000 followers and over billions of views on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. 

In early July, Roche co-published a book with her friends, the title of which can be translated as "I'm good in China: The fate of 22 foreigners and China." In the book, she narrates her experiences in the country she loves.  

Different cultures

Born in Paris, France, Roche's attachment to Chinese culture began when she first saw square-shaped Chinese characters in some books.

She started to learn Chinese in high school and joined a tour to China, during which she visited Beijing, Shanghai, Luoyang in Central China's Henan Province and Xi'an, capital city of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

"I remembered the trip was very expensive, but I was so desperate to go to this mysterious country," Roche told the Global Times, adding that she became hooked on China when visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an. 

"It's so gorgeous and impressive, and I could tell that Chinese culture and art are very different from French culture." 

In order to explore the Eastern nation further, Roche went to National Cheng Kung University on the island of Taiwan and Yancheng Normal University in East China's Jiangsu Province for some exchange programs, and finished her master's degree in Chinese language and media in Paris. 

In 2019, she settled down in Shanghai as a brand ambassador for a French wine company, and later jumped jobs to media operations for a French luxury company.

"French luxury bands are very popular in China, but I want to let more Chinese customers know about the culture and history behind the products when they purchase these luxury goods," said Roche.

An unforgettable experience

2020 was a special year for Roche. After spending her Christmas holiday in France in 2019, Roche returned to China in March 2020, just when the COVID-19 outbreak was very serious in China. 

"My mom worried about me a lot, and I was a bit of afraid, too. But when I arrived at the airport in Shanghai and saw everything was so well-organized, I felt relieved," she said,

"The staff asked me a lot of questions including where I was going and if I felt uncomfortable, and they gave us passenger stickers with different colors - green, yellow and red - according to our response. After a long registration process, two doctors wearing protective suits drove me home. They told me how to disinfect my dustbin and that I could only put out my trash bag at 2 to 3 pm. A nurse came to take my temperature twice a day and I think they were very polite," Roche said, recalling the unforgettable memory. 

Roche quarantined for two weeks at home, which she found was a relaxing time for her. 

"I cooked for myself and exercised at home to keep me fit."

Due to the pandemic, the global sales of the company where Roche worked have suffered a sharp decline, except in the Chinese market where Roche and her team sell the products online.

"We planned and held many livestreaming activities during the pandemic, making the sales in our Chinese market rank at the top in our global market," Roche said with a sense of pride. 

She explained that in France, stores don't do livestreaming, and mainly sell their goods in bricks and mortar stores, but in China, "the e-commerce business is so prosperous and is very mature." 

Becoming a bridge

"Many French like [Alibaba founder] Jack Ma. They think he is a very smart guy. But in fact, French people know little about China and think China is not attractive because most French media often report negative news about China," said Roche, suggesting that "old-fashioned" French media needs to change the way they report, such as showing how people live in China and introducing Chinese culture. 

She also pointed out that French people have a lot of stereotypes about Chinese. 

"For example, they think all Chinese are good at math and shy, which is not true." 

Roche said she is very interested in the differences between China and France and wants to become a "bridge" for cultural exchanges.

"Chinese think all French are 'romantic,' but I think Chinese have their own style of romance, too, " Roche said, revealing that she is planning to open a YouTube account to share her life in China.