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Chinese Culture

So one of those things I‘ve been wondering about for 5 months now is the system of the date of expiry in China. Not that I would‘ve actually asked a Chinese person because 1)keep forgetting to ask when I‘m in a store, 2) not ready to invest at least 30 min talking about this topic till both sides understand what the other one means, yet and 3) can keep making crazy assumptions 😉

So the thing is that so far I‘ve bought only twice (!) milk here that hasn‘t already expired, only once it was actually supposed to last for three more days. All the other times it had already expired for a month or two. I‘m not sure how it works in other countries but at least in Germany it‘s illegal to sell expired stuff. I mean, sure, you can buy it, let it expire, and it‘s still gonna be drinkable but you wouldn‘t find those products in German supermarkets.

So I figured by now that this works differently in China, apparently. I suppose you‘re taking that risk upon yourself the moment you buy the milk because I‘ve also seen specific milk sellers who would offer you fresh milk – emphasis on fresh which usually means it expires that day or has only expired for a day or so. Weird concept since you‘d be getting a discount for products like that in Germany but in comparison to 2 months old milk a good deal, I suppose.

Expired Milk

So if I‘m so sureabout everything, why writing about it? Well, even I noticed that Chinese supermarkets would be restocking either everyday or every week, depending on their size. So it still leaves me in awe to see that they‘re basically restocking their products ONLY with expired stuff – I checked the whole selection! Now while I do get that sometimes you‘re gonna have left-overs and it‘s actually a quite ecological concept to sell it anyways I do not get why they wouldn‘t give Chinese customers the opportunity to get fresh milk in the first place. Especially the milk in this picture you can‘t find in the fresh milk department so I‘m wondering by now if they‘re deliberately waiting for those products to expire and put them there. I‘d really like to hear that reasoning but TiC…

We‘re getting closer – the much anticipated Chinese New Year is moving closer and everybody is gettin ready – for example by buying as many fireworks as they can possibly get. It‘s actually one of the few events that are supposed to be really exiting in China – and the one I‘m gonna miss out on.

So to make up for that I wanna show you a pic of one of the stores which is selling fireworks. And as large as it looks – yesterday it wasn‘t even there, yet!

Selling Fireworks

Illegal street selling is a really popular thing in China. You could watch those guys building their things (usually only a blanket, trailer or bike) up in the morning and leaving in the evening – and they do that everyday! Usually of course with much simpler goods and less preparation. Some of the most favored goods to sell are very simple foods like apples, mandarines, shelled peanuts, nuts in general, grilled sweet potatoes, roots (no idea which kind but I think you can eat them) or strawberries. But sometimes they‘d get all fancy and also sell pots, clothing or music.

Now I do have to admit while most of the things you can also get in normal stores at least in Taiyuan sweet potatoes (红薯)are exclusively street food – and when the craving hits you you gotta hunt down one of those sweet (potato) guys. But how you‘re supposed to do that?

Well, here‘re some simple rules to stick to if you wanna find one:

  1. Go to a very public place – best a huge street crossing – and start looking around. If you can see one there, lucky you.
  2. But usually (since it‘s illegal) they‘d not directly stand there. But they know you‘ll be searching for them there so they‘ll be somewhere close. Start looking for side-alleys, walk down the street or watch other people with your desired good magically in their hands even though no official store is close.
  3. Use your nose in case of cooked goods. For real, sometimes I‘d run around sniffing in order to find them. Only works for a certain distance, though, but in order to find people who have already purchased your desired good (see point 2) this might also work.
  4. Advanced: Know their moving patterns and favorite places. By know I know approximately 3 places close to my house where I‘d always find at least one seller. But this requires you to live there, as a tourist the effort might not be worth it.

Oh, and for the illegal: I‘ve only seen the police once acting on this and that was in Beijng with about 20 sellers gathering at one place so feel safe to get you some street goods 🙂

I know I cannot possibly be objective here since I‘m neither Chinese nor in a relationship with a Chinese person. However, I do feel I should share some things I‘ve seen here, maybe simply because they appeared strange to me.

Recently I‘ve seen a post in the internet why Chinese girls would prefer 老外 instead of their own kind on chinaSMACK (http://www.chinasmack.com/2013/stories/differences-between-chinese-men-and-laowai-foreign-men.html). One of the claims (aside from all foreign men being into tricking Chinese girl, but I‘ll not comment on that) was that foreigners tend to treat women better. I would have disagreed on that until recently since I know some people in a relationship here and it‘s wonderful but I also met this guy I wanted to do language exchange with.

So when I went to meet him his girlfriend went with him (apparently because she didn‘t trust him to stay alone with a woman for that long) and yes, she was very shy but also a very pretty and sweet girl. However, whenever he spoke to me about her (in English, and she understood that, hell, he even translated it for her sometimes) he either called her troublemaker, dumb or fat. And that several times. Now again, just for the record, she was NOT either of those. But he kept ranting off about that.

So maybe the reason Chinese women don‘t wanna stay with their men is because they‘re downward rude. I mean seriously, no matter which country you‘re from, this shouldn‘t be a cultural thing but one of mere dignity. Don‘t treat your women like shit or they‘ll leave you. So I have no idea why some people would behave like that, however if that‘s the way many men do it then I might have found the source of their problem. I might add that he told me on the other hand the whole time how smart and beautiful I was. If I was in his girlfriend‘s shoes I‘d have killed him.

One other thing I‘m wondering about (again, not claiming to be objective here out of a lack of samples) is if Chinese people in relationships just tend to be ruder to each other in general. I heard roommate and her boyfriend fighting nearly every evening ever since I started living here. Just this time it would be the girl starting the fights (least she‘s always screaming at him first, I do not claim to understand their Chinese) and going on about stuff for hours until she gets him mad as well. Aside from the fact that they would drag this on till 11pm and pissing me off, they‘d piss each other off so much that at least twice a week she‘d leave the house crying (which is for me the better solution, sometimes he leaves and then I‘d have to listen to the crying till 2am). Like I said, I have no idea if that‘s the way it works in general in China but if it is then maybe a lot of relationships don‘t work out because of one simple factor:

Respect.

I would never treat the people I love in any of those ways above. I know there‘re people just as bad in the West but if it‘s really a cultural phenomenon then this should get fixed. Or Chinese girls will just search for somebody who treats them better and since 老外 are famous for that…

You get it.

Aww, it‘s been a while, but never mind. Found some new TiC stuff I gotta write about^^

So we are all aware that Chinese people are some of the most pragmatic folks you‘ll ever meet. Trust a Chinese person to find the most pragmatic solution to any given problem, even if it‘s friggin ridiculous.

So I went to this firm event of a friend  of mine where they celebrated their achievements of the past year (with looong diashows, Chinese just love that and many companies are like family to them) and of the next year. Because of  Gangnam Style performances, theater sketches, belly dancing and many emotional speeches (always introduced by some epic movie soundtrack like PotC) they had to do a whole lot of clapping. That‘s tiring after 3 hours. So with which kind of solution would the come up? Right, clapping devices. Literally. Small plastic hands that make clapping sounds when you shake them. Yep, for real. And you know what‘s the weirdest part about it? Call me 老外 but personally I found it easier to just use my hands since you need a whole different muscle group to use those and it gets tiring as well. But TiC.

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Second thing I discovered when we went shopping. So you know those moments when you gotta appear professional when you gotta tuck you shirt in and it just keeps getting back out? Well, lucky us, the Chinese folks found a solution for that. However, I‘d rather keep dealing with the problem itself than this inner voice that keeps telling me last time I opted for this solution was 20 years ago…

Baby Style;)

Well, as China-crazy as I am I do realize that many people think very badly – especially in environmental terms – of China. Which is partly true (remember, I‘m in the 3rd to 5th most polluted city of China) but as so often there‘s more to it than just meets the eye.

So let me tell you a bit about an aspect of China where Germany isn‘t nearly as good: bike sharing. I know Germany has it as well but only in very few places while it represents here a larger trend. Admittedly it‘s also way more dangerous (should do a post about Chinese driving in the future) but I think a really nice way of getting people to not use cars. The way it works here is that you can purchase an IC card (with which you can also ride the bus) where you put money on and it automatically charges the money from there. The stations are quite frequent and you get around pretty easily. Only reason I‘m not using it is that I have a problem with riding bikes on icy surfaces in combination with crazy drivers but maybe I‘ll get around;) But in general genius idea.

Bike Sharing

The bus service here is….well, different. Generally it‘s way cheaper than in Germany (figures), you pay 1 kuai (like 0,10€) normally or 5 mao (0,5€) for one ride, no matter the amount of stations. Depending on the line the busses are quite old and the bus drivers are crazy (well, TiC, never met a normal driver in China in the first place). It‘s rather unfortunate that the stations are only displayed in Chinese without a map which makes it harder to figure out where you‘re going. But with a little bit of help from Chinese friends it‘s fine and for 1 kuai the risk of taking the wrong bus is a worthy one^^

Cabs are also really cheap. You pay for the first 10 minutes in Taiyuan 8 kuai (0,97€) and then for every minute or so. I pay for example for a 15 min ride to the train station 14 kuai (1,70€) which is nearly ridiculously cheap. Actually cab riding is one of the most common forms of transportation, even more in Beijing. Seriously lowers the attractiveness of getting your own car cause you don‘t even have to be sober OR deal with the traffic anymore^^

Trains are also genius. It costs me from Taiyuan to Beijing about 150 kuai (18,25€) but since it‘s a 4,5h ride this is pretty reasonable. Especially if you choose the night train option – then it takes you 10-12 hours but with a nice bed. Love them and always sleep really well in them. Can only recommend it.

Even though it‘s still under development the train network is really good in China. A new line was opened from Beijing to Guangzhou (far south) and is supposed to be incredibly fast. I was also happy to hear that from Taiyuan there‘s even a direct line to Shanghai since I‘m gonna be using that.

So you see at least in public transportation there‘s a lot we can learn from China. Just because we‘re fewer people doesn‘t mean we should have more cars because they still all fit the streets. Especially the price policy needs to be reconsidered. If it‘s more expensive to go by train somewhere than going by car something is not right.

But we‘ll hopefully get there;)

You know before I came to China I‘d have expected Apple and iPhones to be something reserved for the few wealthy ones. Like maybe 5-10% of the smartphone users would actually own an iPhone. You know, cause it‘s rather expensive, especially in a country where a large part of the people kinda have to survive with 300-400 €/month.

However, I was wrong. Like big time. I‘d say especially in Beijing the iPhone user rate is around 70-80%. This remained a mystery to me for the longest time. I mean, of course Chinese people care less about privacy rights or Apple controlling them, with that kind of behavior the company just fits the political system,.

But still, why investing such a large amount of money???

Well, here‘s my theory:

So it‘s kinda hard in a 20 million people city to have the classical status symbols: car, big house, w/e all make either no sense (ever driven a car in China? Especially Beijing? During rush hour? Yep, let the cab drivers deal with that, you‘re not gonna survive it.) or are multiple times as expensive as a phone. And China is after all all about status and ways you could display it. And Apple is THE status symbol, even more than in Germany (in Germany it‘s rather cool to say you‘re an Android user because you care so much about your freedom). Furthermore you can get stolen ones here pretty cheaply but I don‘t know how much that actually contributes to the total amount of iPhones I‘ve seen so far.

So we have this huge amount of iPhones and everybody is using it. Consequently the next problem Chinese people encountered was that now all of the sudden it wasn‘t that special anymore. But switching to a less valuable and popular brand wouldn‘t solve the problem (for people would be thinking you only have the other brand because you couldn‘t afford a real iPhone).

So what do you do? You pimp your iPhone China-style.

Believe me, the kind of cases and accessories you can find in China top anything and everything you‘ll most probably be able to find anywhere in the west. For onebecause they‘d sell those cases anywhere: normal accessory store (see picture), street, electronic store and any Chinese market you can find. Second because they don‘t have that natural restriction of wanting their phones to kinda look elegant or whatever Apple is trying to represent. It‘s already enough to be the brand. Apple with Hello Kitty is not destroying the image, it‘s adding to your own personality, readily displaying it for the world.

IMG_2299

Well, that results in a whole lot of new, (im)possible choices (and I will try to post more crazy case pics in the future): Blinky-blinky cases, plush toy cases (literally!), stickers for iPhone with all kinds of crazy motives, stupid pictures, embarrassing pictures, fairies, … I think you get the point (and I get the point that I need to post pics because a written description doesn‘t even come close to the visual proof).

I think this shows again how very different the Chinese mentality is from the Western one. But I love it. I resisted joining this weird movement for months now but during New Year‘s shopping they got me: I really bought stickers to put on my phone. Though I would say it‘s still the European elegant version of the Chinese possibilities I have to admit I have been pimped;)

Bildschirmfoto 2013-01-06 um 12.27.55

Maybe we all need to go a little bit more crazy sometimes 😉

Ok…so here it comes. Chinese New Year. A post I didn‘t really wanna do but kinda feel obligated to. You might wonder why – well, it just – at least compared to the western world – wasn‘t that interesting or special. At least in Taiyuan.

So I‘m not sure if this only applies to my experience but doing countdown in China doesn‘t seem to be that important – at least nobody I knew was really doing it. Instead there was a Danwei (company kinda) celebration where they did a whole bunch of songs, sketches and dances (look at the video) which was really fun – or could have been if I‘d understood the jokes. Kinda requires you to understand Chinese well, though. So jokes on me.

IMG_2268

(Chinese dance, pay also attention to the foods)

Also had to chant a German song, since they surprised me with this request the only thing I couldcome up with was „Winterwind“ from „Frühlingserwachen“ – you guessed it, a musical. Not very traditional or German but at least good to sing acapella.

Funny about it was especially my thank-you gift – a salad bouquet! Literally! And a huge box of cleaning whatever (I‘m most probably never gonna use because I have to idea what it‘s really for).

One thing I really like about China is the kind of snacks they put up on such events: In our case mandarins, shelled peanuts, bananas, sunflower seeds and candy. So you can always make a decent choice. Try finding those things in Germany on a normal festival!

New Year‘s day (the 1st) I celebrated with a colleagues family. Apparently the only special custom is going shopping on New Year – which we did. But aside from that it‘s really nothing special. Typical Chinese family gathering: getting food, talking (or listening in my case), shopping, dinner. Though the did make the 饺子 (Jiaozi, Chinese dumplings) themselves which was really neat.

饺子 (Chinese dumplings)

So thiswas my absolutely unspectacular (but I suppose pretty typical Taiyuanese) New Year. Yeeeehaaa^^