Friday, November 7, 2008

The New World

According to many the future is Chinese. If this is the case we have the following idiosyncracies to look forward to:

Warm drinking water. The failure of mineral water machines to cool drinking water to beneath room temperature is apparently not a lazy oversight. It is deliberate policy reflecting medicinal folk wisdom.

No bars, except for western outposts. Alcohol is available and presumably drunk by the locals. But don’t expect much evidence. One or two beers might be stretched to.

Cinemas without schedules. You can find out what’s showing, and at what time, only on the day in question, so you won’t be able to plan ahead. If you don't have the phonenumber or can't speak Chinese you might just have to turn up and hope for the best. It worked out alright for Bond, but luckily I had the whole afternoon off. Oh, and there's no salted popcorn.

Doting waitresses. In restaurants, waitresses stand to attention beside you waiting for you to make up your mind. Try not to feel pressurized. They would think it rude to leave. That said, more than once I felt their impatience and wondered if they might have better things to do.

Paranoid taxi drivers. Some companies must have had some very bad experiences. Their drivers sit behind fortified barriers, insulating them even from the front passenger seat. Taxis are also more expensive in China if you call for them than if you risk death trying to hail them down.

Ultra keen builders. Thankfully, they don’t work through the night, but fear not; the onward march of culturally destructive, growth fuelled construction will wake you up if your alarm clock fails.

Ebikes. No doubt these will take off in the West but they’re already raging here, albeit silently. According to a female Chinese friend, however, they are not for men and would make me look ‘unattractive’. I might consider getting a car only none of the other expats drive, which perhaps says something. You have to pass a written test too (in English?)

No salt. I’m told this lack of the vital table condiment is a regional variation not reflected in all provinces. Anyway, it’s best to learn what the word for salt is (yan, but not pronounced like that ). If you mime the action of salt sprinkling or shaking over your dish, which you might reasonably think would do the trick, don’t hold your breath. It may bring you only giggles, bewilderment, or possibly panic from the waiting staff; and no salt.


Bob said...

So Jonathan, do you know any Chinese stocks that you recommend putting money on? Builders sound good.

Anonymous said...

Fascinated to read your list of things to look forward to in the new world order, Jon. Tell me, how is the wholesale destruction of China's ancient and magnificent heritage coming along? Last time I checked out Beijing, the destruction appeared to be almost complete. I take it we might also look forward to the proliferation of flimsy nondescript tower blocks? And the year-round use of electric fan heating in window-ventilated air-conditioned factories? And turtle blood and Shih Tzu's foot medicine? Ivory aphrodisiacs, perhaps? How about arbitrary detention? Violation of women's rights? Torture? Restrictions of freedom of expression? The death penalty? Tell us, Jonathan, what are the bounteous joys we may look forward to?