The Speaking European – Cecilie Gamst Berg

Learn to cook Sichuan food with Cecilie Credit: EWN

Cecilie Gamst Berg, a Norwegian by birth, has an enduring love for islands. After spending 30 years in Hong Kong, the tightening political climate there prompted her to seek a new island home – “You got out in time” is something she frequently hears from people in Hong Kong.

Cecilie chose Mallorca, noting that it “looked big enough and with fewer typhoons.”

Despite her Norwegian roots, it’s Hong Kong and China Cecilie misses the most, particularly the Cantonese language seminars she conducted in Southern China.  These were adventurous trips with her students, filled with engaging conversations with locals.  She also reminisces about her Cantonese radio program, a time marked by careful live broadcasts to avoid any political faux pas.

A Change in Lifestyle

The shift to Mallorca led to a significant change in lifestyle – “In Palma I feel free to move the way I want, without being hindered. There are no skyscrapers crushing me down and the air is better. I need beauty around me, and am lucky enough to live in El Terreno, the best little barrio in Palma.”

The open spaces and lack of towering skyscrapers offer Cecilie a sense of freedom she found lacking in Hong Kong’s restrictive environment – “The last few years in Hong Kong, the increasing restrictions both physical and mental were driving me mad.”

However, Cecilie finds the Spanish bureaucracy challenging compared to the efficiency she experienced in Hong Kong – “Spanish bureaucracy is so well organised, a whole industry has sprung up around it! There are lawyers and gestors and agents, all ready to tackle problems that don’t, or shouldn’t, really exist.  When I got my permanent residency in Hong Kong, I just walked into a building with my right of abode card and came out a few minutes later as a resident. Here in Mallorca I had to pay someone to get me an appointment – three months later.”

After mastering Mandarin and Cantonese, Cecilie turned her attention to Spanish.   She explains – “I must admit, after learning Mandarin and Cantonese and teaching myself the two languages’ very different Chinese characters, I find Spanish not as easy to pick up. I can speak but not well. So I thought, if you want to learn something, write a book about it!”

Plonkers Abroad: Learn Spanish Without Really Trying is Cecilie’s humorous take on language acquisition through the mistakes of foreigners.

Sichuan Cooking

Cecilie continues – “Apart from Cantonese, my great China related interest is Sichuan cooking. I have written a book about that too, sprinkled liberally with photos and anecdotes of my life in Sichuan Province.”

Cecilie offers Sichuan dining experiences and cooking classes in El Terreno, giving others the chance to experience the rich flavours of what she considers to be the best food in the world.  She also offers Cantonese classes.  Follow Cecilie’s blog or contact her on Facebook for more information.

Having made Mallorca her home, Cecilie is bridging cultural gaps by sharing her love for languages and cuisine.

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