Posts Tagged ‘Chinese culture

01
Jan
13

Xinnian kuaile – Happy new Year!

新年快乐!

Thank you for reading and following!

Here’s a little glimpse of our world….

China Time Lapse

08
Nov
12

Who dunnit?

After hearing about my “accident” last week,  one of our staff sent me an email saying:

“I’m so sorry to hear what happened on you, and I hope you can get better soon, and don’t forget your rights and claim for compensation against the troublemaker!”

Compensation is a very Chinese concept – the alleged perpetrator must compensate the alleged victim for any alleged damages or injuries. On the street a minor traffic accident can be settled within minutes without involving the police: on condition that someone is willing to pay enough to make the problem go away. It cuts out the need for insurers and middle-men and is a very lucrative money-making opportunity if you can get in somebody’s way and convince them and the police that the other person is at fault and needs to cough up. It has also led to an intense unwillingness for anyone to help a stranger in need in case they get accused of causing the problem in the first place.

So, after my close encounter with the cement pathway and grass verge – who is the “trouble-maker” that I can tap for compensation?

  • The spiky plastic mats in the grass verge? [Aside – they don’t look dangerous, do they, but take it from me – these little swine are not face-friendly]

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  • The gardeners who put the spiky mats into the grass?
  • The management who told the gardeners to put the spiky mats in the grass?
  • Asics – it was their running shoes that didn’t keep me upright?
  • The cleaner pushing his cart towards us that I might have seen out of my peripheral vision and caused me to subconsciously step out of the path to get out of his way?
  • Apple – because I was looking at a running app on my iPhone when I wiped out?
  • The makers of Runkeeper – the running app that I was looking at?

I guess I will write it off to experience and hope that any further exercise will be less harmful to my nerves and my general well-being and to our financial state [We are covered by travel medical insurance and so far it seems that they will be willing to settle most of the medical bills for my endangering my own self].

I had my last visit with the plastic surgeon on Sunday to remove the stitches – much less painful experience all round – except that my lip was not impressed at being attacked again. Most of the injured areas are healing nicely, just one cut above my lip that was deeper than others will take a few more days to sort itself out (M called it a star-shape because the skin was flapping in more than one direction).

Eating and talking are no longer a problem – now that’s a relief! – and the doc/prof has given me some ointment to deal with potential scarring. So hopefully I am on the way to recover…

Running commences next week – I will attempt to remain injury free!

06
Sep
12

Morning traffic

The traffic I am referring to here is mostly not the four-wheeled kind that we encounter on a daily basis as we rush, crawl, swerve, hoot our way to work in the mornings. This is about the traffic we encounter in our daily jog around the park – in the interests of health and exercise!

Traffic varies from day to day, depending on the weather and what time we stagger out of our 12th floor apartment to lope around the track in our complex. Weekends also bring out different groups of people.

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The regular traffic consists of:

  1. The walkers – a group of three – two men and one lady that stride around with intent and purpose. We greet each other and they are always obliging and step out of the way to let us run past.
  2. Old man walker No. 1 – he keeps to himself and follows an interesting route, swinging his arms enthusiastically. He never says much: head down, don’t talk to strangers.
  3. Old man walker No. 2 – another chap that wanders around on his own, but seems to be less focussed than Old man walker No. 1. Sometimes he joins the group of 3.
  4. Tai Qi lady – she dresses the part and performs her moves, even brandishing a “tai qi” sword on occasion.
  5. Tai Qi gent – he’s a new addition to the morning traffic – he picks a spot on one of the wooden decks next to the central pond and does his stuff overlooking the water.
  6. Various other joggers – some more fit than others – the man in the orange vest pounds past us when he is not do stretching exercises against one of the low walls alongside the pond. I can outrun the gent in grey tracksuit pants and white vest (or no vest on a hot day), but he gets a bit irritated with me and so he speeds up to overtake me and then heads for home!
  7. American strider man – he’s always walking against the rest of the traffic.
  8. Young couple trying to get fit – they walk at a fairly leisurely pace.
  9. Bird and cat lady – she brings a black bird in a cage to get fresh air and then feeds the stray cats and kittens that live around the property – not sure if they come for the bird or the food – probably both! The other day one of the kittens thought that she was late or not coming and it tried to waylay me with cute purrs and “pick me, pick me” manoeuvres in the middle of the path.
  10. Mom/granny with baby in pram no’s 1 through 10, and mom/gran with toddlers on baby bikes no’s 1 through 5 – on the days that they are all out in force comparing and bragging about baby development stages, trying to stay on course becomes a major problem – one has to dodge and dive around prams, babies, ranks of mothers and other obstacles. A few months ago, M was sent sprawling into the pebbles and lawn next to the path as one of them stuck her leg out and tripped him as she bent over to rearrange the blankets in the pram. Oh – so sorry….
  11. Tall foreigner lady with tiny baby – sometime she joins the other mothers, at other times she seems to prefer her own space.
  12. Dog people: mostly poodles, one or two labradors, some mixed breeds, chihuahuas; some on leads, some wandering freely; some with diligent owners with poop scoops, others with less socially-aware minders. Occasionally a dog fight threatens to break out and then everyone scurries to replace leads and reign in the delinquent children dogs.
  13. The gardeners: weeding, cleaning the ponds, clipping the trees and shrubs, picking up other people’s rubbish
  14. The ayi’s on their way to clean other people’s homes
  15. Since the new school term has started we see children off to school. Sometimes the older ones head off on their own, sometimes they are accompanied by a parent that carries their bags for them.

Non-regulars/random people:

  1. Man looking at his cell-phone – he moved 20 metres in the time that it took me to complete 6 laps – and 15 of those metres took place between my lap 1 & 2
  2. Lady in high heels looking like she wants to get fit but forgot which shoes to put on.
  3. Dancing lady – she does pirouettes and twirls along the path
  4. Pyjama people – wandering around in your pj’s to go to the local shops or for a walk is totally acceptable here – they tried to do away with this custom when Shanghai was on show to the world during the 2010 World Expo, but local customs don’t change easily – and why should they? Pj’s for outdoor wear are generally modest
  5. Random men looking like they were kicked out of their apartments by wives to encourage them to get exercise or go outside to smoke: sometimes they just stand/sit in one place.
  6. More cellphone people

[Sorry – No recent photos – I’m too busy concentrating on running and breathing and dodging the dogs and the prams….]

[I also wrote about the morning people in the early days of my blog: there are more people now, but much is still the same as it was then.]

27
Jul
12

Let’s play Courier, Courier…

Actually, let’s rather not play this game – it can get a bit complicated. And very exhausting. The rules seem to vary from one day to the next, depending on which courier service, which courier messenger does the delivery, if his mobile is working or not, what the customs official had for breakfast and whether the sky is green!

Over the last few months we have received a few parcels from overseas – varying from online shopping, to parcels of documents sent by clients and gifts from family members overseas. This appears to have stretched the capacity of the various courier services to the nth degree, or maybe it is just my nerves that have been pulled.

Most delivery companies have 3-letter acronyms for their names, but in my thoughts their names consist of 4 letters and lots of those characters at the top of the keyboard that you need a SHIFT key to access. The most consistent behaviour has been by the government postal service: +/- 10 days delivery from the UK to Shanghai via a sorting centre in Hong Kong or Guangdong province – except for one book that went via Beijing and arrived in its own special postal sack after taking a detour through customs and ending up in a locker in the back office of the local post office – Read more here!

Courier services are another matter. Sometimes they phone ahead to check if we are at home to receive the delivery, other times they just arrive and then phone in a sort of perplexed sort of way that no one is at home during office hours. Sometimes the service centre person can speak English, sometimes not. Sometimes they leave the parcel with the management office at our apartment complex, other times they won’t. Sometimes the office sends us notification about a parcel, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are happy to deliver after 18.00, others say they only work from 11.00 – 18.00.

“So sorry for you, you will just have to leave work early, not our problem.”

“Yes, you can change the deliver address to your office address, but you need to fill in a form.”

“And you need to put the company ‘chop’ (seal) on the form.” ~ But it is a personal parcel, addressed to me, not the company – why does it need the company chop on the change of address form?

“If you want it delivered to the company, the company needs to supply the chop to say they are happy that the parcel is delivered to the company during office hours.” Whatever!

My Mandarin is passable and if all is OK, I can get by tolerably well, but I have realised that problem-solving takes foreign language acquisition to a whole new level. I don’t can’t do problems in Mandarin, especially over the phone – time to admit defeat and hand over the phone to the nearest local speaker.

Last month I ordered some paintbrushes from the UK – the parcel went via customs and collected a fee for import duty.

No phone-call. Courier arrives at apartment during office hours. No one is home. No phone call. After 10 days I am wondering what has happened to my parcel. I track parcel on internet and see that a delivery attempt was made for the previous 3 days in a row.

Phone call centre. “Do you speak English”, I ask in my best Mandarin. Helpful call-centre person puts the phone down.

Skype message to staff member still at the office and ask him to phone call centre. Yes, have tried to deliver for 3 days, no one home. Can’t deliver after 18.00. Please deliver to office tomorrow.

Need form + company chop.

Next day at office: Download form from internet – chop, scan, email.

So sorry, please put address in English and Chinese. Download, chop, scan, email.

So sorry, please sign and chop. Download, chop, sign, scan, email.

Phone call from warehouse – trying to deliver parcel, no one is home. Have you spoken to service centre? We have asked to change the delivery to the office address.

O.

No, service centre and warehouse and delivery guy are not in communication.

Phone service centre. Email hasn’t arrived yet. Please phone the warehouse, they don’t know what is going on.

So sorry, please wait a moment. Email has arrived, must contact warehouse, maybe parcel will be delivered today.

Phone call from warehouse. Cannot locate delivery guy, maybe not today.

Delivery guy arrives at office at 14.30. Everyone happy…..and exhausted.

Fast forward 5 weeks….

Different courier company, different parcel, different rules. Phone-call. Some English: parcel has arrived, no one is home. Problem. Hand phone to staff member. No delivery after 18.00. Tomorrow 17.00, please. No problem.

Rush home from work early. Tell taxi driver to break more road rules than usual to make it home by 17.00. 3 missed calls while in taxi.

Phone call as I arrive at the door. Some of her English, some of my Mandarin. Anyone home? Can we deliver now? Sure, here I am! I came home early and stressed out at least one taxi-driver.

Phone-call 5 minutes later. So sorry, cannot contact delivery guy – maybe tomorrow? AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!

————————————————————————————

P.S. Thanks for the parcel, Lilly!

15
Jul
12

Visit to Macau (1)

A few weeks ago we spent a weekend in Macau – part of our “need-to-get-out-of-China-every-90-days” visa restriction. We decided to visit Macau as opposed to Hong Kong as neither my husband nor I have been there before. I didn’t have much time beforehand to research the trip but found a hotel with good reviews that seemed to be located in a fairly central location. We were far more interested in the historical sites than the umpteen casinos that liberally adorn the small peninsula and related islands, but we did stroll through some of the OTT gambling venues and hotel lobbies on the way to finding a good meal!

Haven’t had a chance to download the photos from my camera yet, but here are a few that I took with my phone. The subject is a carving from what looks like a tree trunk, and is displayed in one of the casino lobbies.

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Isn’t the detail in the carving incredible? And in such contrast to the garish surrounds in which it has been displayed.

More interesting (hopefully!) snippets about Macau to follow.

15
May
12

To stare or not to stare….

I think that most Chinese people do not bother with this question – as foreigners, by default, are stare-worthy. It doesn’t really matter whether we are short/tall, fat/thin, brunette/blonde, male/female, big or small nosed… It is the right of a Chinese person to stare at a lăowài!

No, “to stare or not to stare” is it the question that I have to ask myself – usually in one of two situations…

  • when I get stared at – should I pretend that I haven’t noticed the stare, or that it doesn’t bother me in the least? Should I just ignore the totally obvious gawk in spite of the fact that the person has stopped in mid-stride, driven into a lamp-post, stopped the traffic or fallen over their dog? If it’s been a long day and I am culture-fatigued, I turn away and pretend not to notice. If I am in a more competitive frame of mind/mood, it’s game-on and I choose the “I can stare at you too” approach. This has one of two results – in a few situations my stare is met with a sheepish smile as the person feels a little embarrassed and looks away. By far the general reaction is a look of surprise and a deepening stare/glare, along the lines of “What are you looking at? Why are you staring back at me? You’re the odd one out, not me – you’re not playing by the rules, in fact, you’re not allowed to play this game!
  • The other situation happens when…I spy another fellow-lăowài…especially in an area where there aren’t too many expats around… about 5 seconds after I see them I catch myself in mid-stare and mid-thought of “Hey, look, a foreigner!” and then have to remind myself – “啊呀! Āyā! is this the right time and place and means of trying to blend in by adopting the local mannerisms?
30
Apr
12

Chinese Checkers

No, I am not referring to the board game: Chinese Checkers

Chinese Checkers

What I am talking about is more of a real-life situation played out daily on the streets of Shanghai – and it does happen to involve Chinese people (and Westerners).

Aim of the game:

Getting a taxi despite all odds, while trying to remain polite and civilised and well-mannered.

Required:

  1. Busy time of day – preferably rush hour, people leaving the office, dinner time, etc.
  2. Maximum number of people trying to hail down a taxi – especially fun when a huge crowd of wanna-be taxi passengers are gathering in the same place at the same time – outside an office park, a restaurant, etc
  3. Minimal number of taxis for hire – choose the taxi-drivers’ dinner hour for best results.
  4. Pick a rainy day with howling wind and even some sleet or snow for an extra challenge.

How to play:

  1. Stand for a moment amidst the throng of wanna-be passengers.
  2. Get frustrated that everyone else seems more adept at pushing and shoving (more practice!) and less concerned about getting up everyone else’s noses
  3. Start sidling off in the OPPOSITE direction to where you want to go – the direction is very important.
  4. Try not to attract anyone’s attention – you don’t want others to realise that the game has started.
  5. “Hop” over/around each group of players that have already moved away from the crowd and have started new gatherings further up the street
  6. If necessary, “hop” all the way to the next block, around the corner, two intersections away – strategy is very important at this point.
  7. It doesn’t matter at all if you are moving further and further away from your destination – just “hop” along until you have bypassed all the opposition.
  8. Walk in the road so that your view of the oncoming traffic is not obstructed in any way – this gives you and your future driver a better opportunity to bond before you wave him down.
  9. Eye contact and initial engagement is vital to determine right of passage.

First one to get into a cab is the WINNER!




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