Archive for August, 2011


Mooncake Tax

September 12 is Mid-Autumn Festival here in China. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos under the moon together.

Mooncakes are round pastries, with a very rich and dense filling traditionally of lotus seed paste. Nowadays, many companies hand out mooncakes to their business associates and staff. Many restaurants and eateries have created their own distinctive mooncake specialties and there appears to be much demand for high-end style mooncakes in a variety of flavours. Prices vary from00 RMB for 16 mooncakes up to 10 times as much, depending on the contents and the packaging.

Yesterday we read about the mooncake tax which in which the mooncakes given by a company to its staff members – usually as a gesture of goodwill – will now be considered a non-cash benefit and subject to income tax.

Needless to say this has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Chinese workers in the run up to Mid-Autumn Festival.


Typhoon…. or not?

Last weekend and the days prior to it the weather bureau issued dire threats about the approach of Typhoon Muifa and the potentially disasterous consequences of its arrival in either Shanghai or anywhere along the east coast of China within a 1500 km range.

Beach concerts and other outdoor activities were cancelled. Saturday was the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day (Qixi), and wanna-be romantic couples were told to stay indoors and not plan picnics or romantic strolls in case they were blown/washed away in the process.

So we battened down all hatches and waited to experience the “worst typhoon” for many years…..and then Muifa (downgraded to a tropical storm) whimpered passed Shanghai bringing a few rain showers and a couple of gusts of wind and decided to strike the Northern coast of China and South Korea instead.

[Please don’t get me wrong: I am relieved that it didn’t fulfill the predictions of the weather bureau – a lots of people would have been wet and hurt and probably got themselves killed by falling trees and buildings.]

The rest of the week consisted of ongoing hot, humid weather with a few blasts of rain and thunderstorms, but not nearly as much as predicted by the “do we ever manage to get it right?” weather bureau.

On Friday morning, we awoke as usual and went for our morning jog around the park. It was very cloudy with a smattering of rain – making running quite pleasant for a change – and a nice breeze: not fresh, but nice.

15 minutes later, at about 8.00, while recovering from the run, I wondered if we had experienced an unprecedented solar eclipse. Within minutes the apartment was pitch black.

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And a few minutes later the heavens opened and threw down enough rain to make Muifa (from Shanghai’s perspective at any rate) look like the sprinkle of water from a watering can. Visibility on the roads dropped to about 3 metres, traffic ground (or sloshed to a halt) and we decided to work from home to avoid the inevitable total immersion experience of heading out into the rain and the 100% predictable disappointment of not finding an empty taxi!


Language Scores (or wars)

I continue with my weekly language lessons, but don’t tend to speak much in the office context – there is enough miscommunication without adding the additional chaos that my poor Mandarin would throw into the mix. Then there are weeks where I have to cancel my lesson because of work commitments, etc, so I still feel that my progress is a bit snail like. It doesn’t help that I have taken up painting so some of the hours that I might have spent on language study have been re-allocated to a more enjoyable use of my free time!

Some language scores…

  • having a 5 minute conversation with the neighbour – and understanding about 90% of what she had to say…… + 10 points
  • accusing the taxi driver of ripping me off because I thought he had charged me 36 ¥ when he was actually making small talk about the weather being 36 degrees C….. – 15 points
  • managing to buy art supplies using only Mandarin & hand gestures….  + 10 points
  • having to resort to using my cellphone dictionary in the aforementioned art shop to look up the correct word for “pencil”, finding the correct word, using it, and having the shop assistant throw back at me – Ah! PENCIL!….. – 5 points
  • phoning my “Dining Secretary” from the side of the road to find out what had happened to our dinner reservation; getting hold of a non-English speaking operator and managing to communicate well enough for an sms confirmation to arrive a few minutes later…. + 20 points [I find trying to speak Mandarin over the phone incredibly stressful – probably because I can’t “speak with my hands” to assist my verbal stutterings!]
  • being able to correctly identify and type the Chinese bank account details that my husband has to enter for online payments – the form is in English, but the recipient names and bank account details have to be in Chinese characters….. + 10 points
  • having a long conversation with a taxi-driver on the way to the SA consulate – discussing the difference between Westerners and Chinese…. + 10 points
  • being worried that I might have agreed with things that he said that I would have very different opinions about if the discussion took place in English…. – 15 points

Shanghai like a teenager tottering on high-heeled shoes

Shanghai like a teenager tottering on high-heeled shoes — Shanghai Daily | 上海日报 — English Window to China New.

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August 2011
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