Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Behaviour

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!

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10
Oct
12

Add oil

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese spectators were urged to encourage the competitors from all nations by chanting jiāyóu jiāyóu (lit. Add Oil = refuel, make more effort, come on!, go, go GO!).

I have had my very own encourager on my last few morning runs as one of the gardeners has taking to yelling jiāyóu jiāyóu every time I jog past the patch of garden where he is working!

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.]

22
Jul
12

Navigating Shanghai Library and its rules to locate and check out gems in English — Shanghai Daily

Now I know why I haven’t become No. 1 loyal subscriber to the “local” library. Here’s my secret….pay careful attention to the secions on p. 2 about how to check out a book!

Navigating Shanghai Library and its rules to locate and check out gems in English — Shanghai Daily | 上海日报 — English Window to China New.

Anyone want to meet me at the library next week – looks like we might be there for a few days…..

26
May
12

Pretty nuisance

One of the local “thrills” (aka stress tests) that I like our overseas guests to experience while visiting us, is to gauge their reaction to the local traffic customs and driving traditions.

One of the highlights of most visits has been the somewhat challenging, stomach-twisting, eye-opening U-turn across Wuning Lu after a visit to our nearest branch of Carrefour. Because the actual store is located down a side-road, to return to the mainstream traffic after shopping, one has to pass underneath Wuning Lu Bridge, resulting in the taxi pointing in the opposite direction to our apartment. After coming up from under the bridge, the taxi is always in the far-right lane, which means one can only accomplish a U-turn by using the pedestrian crossing if the traffic lights are red for the 5 other lanes. This is quite an impressive feat, but you have to get the timing with the traffic lights right.

Up until recently, if one had the misfortune of a green light, you could travel about 80 metres across the intersection, changing lanes along the way and then do a pretty neat U-turn directly into the oncoming traffic: aforementioned challenging, stomach-twisting, eye-opening, breath-stopping “local” experience for the uninitiated. So cool for the seasoned veteran of Shanghai traffic – yeah! A glorious “we beat the system once again” moment.

Now it appears that some joy-killer in the traffic department has decided to eliminate this tourism opportunity by pretty-fying the road – for about 2km’s! No more U-turns, unless you have the fortune to encounter a red light and an uber-gung ho taxi-driver willing to take on the pedestrian crossing version.

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Maybe when spring is over and the flowers die, we can re-instate this part of our guest itinerary again!

24
May
12

The risks of chivalry

a. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.
b. A manifestation of any of these qualities.

My husband is always chivalrous – and I really appreciate it – it makes me feel special and cared for.

Some of the small acts of chivalry that I have come to love and accept on a daily basis are things like him opening the car door for me; standing aside to let me exit the elevator or the room first; standing up when I return to the restaurant table; and walking on the side of the pavement nearest to the road to protect me from encountering a possible misfortune from any wayward/straying vehicles.

Only problem is – some of these precious moments of love and care and protection may have some unforeseen consequences as they are acted upon here in Shanghai.

Picture the following scenes:

  • A lovely dinner, I go to the wash-room and return to the table, he stands up politely to welcome me back: ….and then… the waitresses descend upon the table to clear it for the next set of hungry diners that are queuing up outside the restaurant.
  • The elevator/metro doors open and he stands aside, arm behind me to usher me through the door: ….and then… I get run over and trampled on by the mob of people trying to get on board the lift/train who don’t wait for anyone to exit before they storm inside.
  • We walk along the pavement, he walks on the side next to the road, watching out for any danger from the road: ….and then… I get taken out from behind by a motorcyclist travelling against the traffic flow who is using the pavement as a short-cut to avoid the traffic jam on the road.
  • The taxi pulls up, he rushes over to open the door for me: ….and then… I get knocked over by a bicycle coming up on the inside of the taxi.
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?



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