The Two-Body Problem

A few months ago, I had lunch in Shanghai with a very pregnant American friend preparing to give birth in China (and she has since had a baby girl). As I sat listening to her hilarious stories of body shaming—a regular occurrence at her doctor’s office—I realized that I could not recall ever seeing a…

Chasing Windmills at Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve

This time last spring, I went looking for cranes. Hooded cranes to be exact. The idea was to write a post contrasting Shanghai’s overwintering hooded cranes with the other kind of cranes found in Shanghai—tower cranes. I read up on Chinese cranes in folklore. . . blah blah. It was a nice idea, but the…

Test and Arrest: Pot in Shanghai

Imagine: You’re an expat living in Shanghai. Your semi-retired, California dreamin’ parents have been taking the edge off their aches and pains with a little pot, and now they’ve arrived in Shanghai for a visit. You take them out to a hip local bar for a drink (isn’t Shanghai trendy). Suddenly, the police arrive and shut…

Death To the iPhone

In China, if you really want to know what’s happening, ask your driver. Xiao Lin assured me, a mere 15 minutes into the drive from the airport, that the iPhone is dying in China; Huawei phones are booming. He had some pointed questions for me, too. Did Americans use Huawei phones? Was Huawei popular in the…

The Contract

Taking stock today of contracts—social, personal, and professional. Since this is a blog about China, I’ll stick with Chinese contracts or at least the ones that have to do with China. Forbes offers good advice to foreigners about verifying a Chinese contract—check the official ‘chops’ and look up business licenses—that sort of thing. If you’re a foreigner signing a contract in…

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’ is a general human principle, hardly unique to Chinese culture. We all think we know what it…

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, and 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…

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 great…

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…