Miànzi: Face

Perhaps no other aspect of Chinese culture gets as much attention or is as difficult for foreigners to understand, as face. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like such a complicated subject. After all, the concept of ‘saving face’ seems like a general human principle, hardly unique to Chinese culture. We all think we know what…

Dumpling World

It’s an understatement to say that the Chinese love to eat. Food, and sharing it family style across a table, is central to the way people live in Shanghai and all over China. Since I share this trait—I also love to eat—Chinese food (the real deal) has become one of my favorite parts of life…

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

To die, to sleep— No more—and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to—‘tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished! All Shanghai expats have a favorite (and a less-than-favorite) cultural practice they can endlessly discuss – public pajama wearing, street food stalls, and bustling…

Three-Point Turn, Chinese Style

This is a photo celebration of the Chinese three-point turn. There’s no other driving  strategy as predictable on Shanghai’s streets as this particular maneuver. A turn missed? (Why not just turn at the next block?) Evading congestion at the upcoming intersection? (There was congestion at the preceding intersection, too.) Left your oven on? (The ayi…

Life Elevated

Landing in Salt Lake City after a long flight from Shanghai is always breathtaking. The valley is wide open, the white salt flats make a striking contrast to the lake, with its hues of brown, blue, green, and red. The mountain ranges lining the valley are snow covered more often than not. Driving away from…

Pirates, DVDs and Moral Decline

“Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters or take any from you.” — Blackbeard A few years ago, I dropped off a Christmas gift – a small jar of Vermont maple syrup – to a friend in the States. A day or two later I received a thank you note via email. “What a…

Dear Japan

I don’t know how else to say this: I’m in love. China pales in comparison to you, (not that I expected it to shine). Don’t feel bad; I’ve always had issues with China. I know you and China have had your differences too, (don’t forget, you’ve had differences with America as well), but you’ve come…

Little Soldiers: Big Questions

The education of children can be a controversial and emotional topic, especially for parents of children in the K-12 system. As a parent and teacher, I’ve been on both sides of the equation in the U.S. and China. For Westerners, teaching and parenting in a predominantly Chinese environment can intensify these emotions in disconcerting ways….

The Tyranny of Chinese Taxis

Ask any Westerner in China about hailing a taxi, and you will be regaled with a story. Everyone in China has a taxi story, and the narratives can veer precipitously (like cars) between hilarious and terrifying. The most common tale is one of passive woe. Hailing a cab can be frustrating for foreign nationals who…

Medical Incidentals

I’ve been sidelined from thinking about China Incidentals after a brutal battle with jet lag, back spasm, and (surprise!) a kidney infection that required an emergency room visit in Shanghai. I’m finally writing from Vietnam where I began our trip with an eye infection. By began I mean, the very beginning; the infection went full-blown on…