China-isms

This is my second stint at living and working in China. This time is only a short run of a few months but I have been reacquainted with a lot of the little “China” things; peculiarities and quirks that are part of life here, things I’ve lived with for years and things that still cause me to smile and say: “Well… it’s China.”
Here are a few for your consideration.

“Chinglish”
Sure this is overdone, there are dozens of websites all over the internet devoted to this phenomenon, but it never gets old. The label on my shower urges me to “Defend the electricity wall”, I like “welcome to take Beijing Taxi” and the high-rise windows that helpfully caution you to “beware of falling”.

“Hello”.
It’s been noted that “hello” in China often doesn’t actually mean hello in the traditional greeting sense of the word. In fact, “hello” in China usually means: “I’ve seen a Foreigner”. It doesn’t happen so much in Beijing anymore, given the locals are accustomed to Foreigners, but down here in Tengzhou it’s called out all the time when I walk down the street. If you say “hello” in return you would swear you were Billy Connelly at a sell out comedy gig, seriously, it is apparently the funniest thing you can do.

“OH&S”
In the house and work, on the street and everywhere else. Safety standards are interesting to say the least. My shower has an open power point on the wall at right about shin height, it gets liberally drenched when I wash. However the power point behind the bathroom door at head height is helpfully covered with a plastic safety guard. The passenger door in a local taxi didn’t close, but that’s ok, it’s easy enough to just hold the door closed as we go along.
Why would you need goggles when you’re welding?
Oh and you can fit a hell of a lot of stuff onto a scooter or bicycle if you really want to.

“Car Horns”
Actually mean “I’m here” when used, and they are used often, and I mean often.

“Your Chinese Is Really Good”
I seriously love this about Chinese people in China. You speak the smallest amount of Chinese and don’t completely screw up the pronunciation and praise will be heaped upon you. My Chinese isn’t really good, it’s functional at best and pretty bad considering how much time ive been here and studied the language. But it’s nice to have the effort recognized.

“Food”
Chinese people love food, seriously love it, (and why wouldn’t they? Their food is fantastic). But they will happily have a conversation about the subtle differences in dishes from city to city and engage you at length about the food you like, why you like it and happily give you recommendations. As I also love Chinese food, the relationship works well.

“The Upstairs Builder Guy.”
OK, maybe this is just me, but in every single place ive lived in China there has been some kind of upstairs builder guy, or guys plural. Hammering and drilling in a way that drives you insane at all odd hours of the day. And it’s weird hammering, hammering in a way that nothing is ever hammered: “Painting the walls with hammers” as a friend of mine described it. I’m beginning to think it’s the same guy who’s just been following me from apartment to apartment, some bizarre form of foreigner psy-ops. I wont crack, dammit, you won’t win.

“Are you married and how much do you earn per Year”?
These are conversational topics in China. The taboo about speaking about personal income prevalent in many Western counties is not observed here, though I still cringe when I’m asked. The sheer incredulity that im met with when I tell people my age and the fact that im not married however, is completely worth it.

“The Chinese Internet.”
What works one day, might not the next, and what you can read now, you might not be able to read later, or vice versa. There is no censorship however, just blissful harmony.
What’s a YouTube?

“Crossing the Road”
If you don’t just walk out into the traffic and play Frogger, you simply aren’t crossing the road, it’s that simple. There are lights at major intersections, where strict flag waving helpers will chastise you loudly if you try to cross before a green light. But usually you (and everyone else) just wander in and out of gaps in the traffic until you get to the other side.

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~ by benephobia on April 19, 2012.

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