After a lovely six week holiday in mountainous Utah, I am back in Shanghai. There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but I could only come up with forty ways to know you are back in China. Here’s something a little less thinky than the dog meat post.
- Your yoga class is on the 39th floor
- You think an AQI of 150 is a pretty good day
- You’re willing to pay $18 for a container of Greek yogurt
- People are singing aloud to themselves on bikes and scooters
- Elderly men are walking down the sidewalk in their pajamas
- Water frequently drips on your head, but the sources can never be found *
- Your security guard is napping**
- The street sweeper is napping
- Your doorman is napping
- Your driver is napping***
- Your meal includes every part of the chicken
- Strangers ask to take photos with you
- Women you don’t know ask you to be in photos with their boyfriends
- The sound of flutes permeates the evening^
- You’re at a bird song competition (see Landscape of China’s Urban Parks)
- Bicyclers aggressively ring their bells
- Drivers aggressively honk their horns
- You expect a piece of candy to be hard, but it is actually gelatinous
- Elderly men and women are dancing in the park (refer to #15)
- Store names are terribly literal, such as: Green and Safe or The Great Daily Shop
- The smell of durian, cooking oil, and fish saturate the air (this is referred to, affectionately, as smelling like China)
- Your elevator floor numbers jump from 3 to 5^^
- Everyone is slow walking while texting (see The Constant Struggle)
- Taxis refuse to pick you up
- Raucous public arguments attract large, interested audiences
- You pay extra to live on the 8th floor^^^
- Donkey meat is on the menu
- An elderly lady shares her umbrella with you (it’s happened)
- Someone just spit on your foot (it’s happened)
- People rarely queue for anything
- When you do find a queue, you cut in line and don’t feel guilty
- All western food products taste like China (refer back to #21)
- You no longer notice the sound of jackhammers
- Women also leave the toilet seats up (see Squatting in Zion)
- Drivers make U-turns in the middle of the road or at busy intersections (future blog post on this one)
- Men are walking around on a hot day with their shirts rolled up (Bang ye, also known as the Shanghai or Beijing Bikini, depending on your location)
- You’re dying from second hand smoke inside your apartment even though no one in your family smokes
- You’re nearly killed by moving vehicles on sidewalks
- You’re grossed out that you wore sandals on a rainy day
- You can’t believe you forgot to bring toilet paper with you (see Squatting in Zion)
*Once, a drop of water (from an air conditioner??) landed on my lips. I spent the rest of the day worrying about contracting Legionnaires disease.
**This happens so frequently, I wonder why anyone bothers with security at all.
*** Just because a lot of people nap doesn’t mean I’m implying they are lazy. Our driver, in particular, works very long hours, from before 6:00 a.m. to well after 10:00 p.m. on many days. He needs a nap or he wouldn’t get any sleep at all.
^ This occurs regularly on Anfu Lu and is one of my favorite evening sounds.
^^ The number four in Chinese sounds like death so it’s unlucky. Since I struggle pronouncing the number four, “si” (it’s not quite an s or a z, and the “i” is not similar to a long or short “i” in English– it sounds more like the noise you make from your throat when you’re about to scrub a dirty toilet– a cross between ugh and ewwww). I’m pretty positive I actually say death (or worse, I’ll have death) when I’m pointing to apples in the market.
^^^ Eight is a lucky number because the word for eight, ‘Ba,’ supposedly sounds like the word for fortune, ‘Fa’. I find it hard to believe that even in Chinese the B and F sounds are that similar. . . Have you ever confused Bart with Fart? Buck with F- – -? Bat with Fat? But we do, in fact, live on the 8th floor, and I’m pretty sure it costs more than the 7th.
POSTSCRIPT: None of these observations should be assumed to give form to the diversity and complexity of China.