Thursday, December 24, 2009

Going Native - guest blog by Nick

Since I'm stateside right now, Nick will be guest writing the next few posts. 

So the biggest thing that people ask me about China is the food situation. The emergence of the food network and shows like Fear Factor have made people think that the majority of Chinese people are feasting on pig intestines and eating scorpions for lunch. Generally, I have been ok with food. Shanghai is pretty westernized so you can always find western food if you want. KFC has been here for about 20 years and Lori and I even had Pappa John’s one night. (It wasn’t very good).

I am sure if I was living in a different city, then it would not be so easy, but generally when I am picking food, it is pretty safe. However, when I am on group dinners with my colleagues – it is a whole other story. This last weekend, we went on a team building exercise where we travelled about 1.5 hours out of Shanghai to go to some city on a big lake. The “team building” things that happened will be saved for another posting, but it was interesting how important food played in this weekend. I guess if you are a country with a history of famines and starvation that food can be very critical. In fact, the traditional greeting for Chinese people is actually directly translated as “Have you eaten today?” They also consider lunch the most important meal of the day. They don’t think it is healthy to have a big meal and then go to sleep. Actually makes sense.

I told myself before I came to China that I was going to try everything. It is ok to not like something, as long as you have tried it to gain the experience. So this weekend I was treated to river snails, hairy crab, fungus soup, rice wine (nasty with a ton of ginger – but I needed booze to get through the night) and not one but two kinds of stomach. Duck stomach and cow stomach.

It is funny because I tend to not eat much at these events with my colleagues and they are so concerned, but frankly, the food is so challenging, that I can’t eat much of it. I always will try everything, but you can’t really fill yourself up when you don’t like the food. I admit, I have snuck off later and gotten a hamburger or there is a Chinese version of LaBamba here called Taco Loco that I like.

They also tend to only drink hot drinks when they are at meals. The tea flows but I always have to ask a few times to not get a room temperature coke. Coffee is also somewhat of a recent trend here. Starbucks tends to dominate and so everyone thinks that Starbucks is how coffee is supposed to taste. Now DD and other locals have started to enter the market so we are broadening our coffee horizons – but it is still expensive. A large coffee at Starbucks costs me 34 RMB a day – which is about $5 US. Not cheap. But since I have been unable to find Coffee Mate creamer and the local cream here is kind of nasty – I have been a regular at Starbucks.

So just a few interesting facts that I wanted to share. Chinese phone numbers have 8 digits. You never see bumper stickers in China. And the final one that was related to me – If you are a man, never, ever wear a green hat. It means that your wife is sleeping with another guy! All those John Deere guys are spending too much time in the fields and not enough time home if you get my drift.

Zaijian and Merry Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. Ok - totally hurt that of my two guest postings, only one person other than me has commented :(

    I have passed the food threshold here in China. I am to the point now where anything that is put in front of me, I at least take a bite. If it is nasty, I don't eat any more, but I at least am trying everything without being the westerner and saying, "Now, what is this?"

    I figure that the food that has been prepared isn't killing my colleagues - might as well take a bite.