Ah, to be young and living in a developing country is mind-blowingly similar to being reborn.
You walk around starry-eyed, trying to grasp onto every passing moment as if it holds great significance.
You’re hearing a different language, inhaling intoxicating aromas, tasting tongue-numbing Sichuan peppers, feeling what the locals feel – you’re in China.
After two years, I feel like I know everything and have seen everything that the Middle Kingdom can offer. Then, I take my dog for a walk. What’s that clinking sound? It must be the recycling guy collecting glass. No? Oh,ok. It’s just a man in his 50’s using two empty beer bottles as his pillow for that “traditional” afternoon snooze.
So I’ll admit it, I haven’t seen everything. Nevertheless, since I made the move to China, I constantly experience something new that is somewhere in between jaw-dropping and hilarious.
Who’s that fly girl?
My first week in China, my boyfriend had been quite the social butterfly and introduced me to his new found friends, which was a big group of foreigners. These people came from everywhere; England, Hungary, Ireland, Togo, Poland. Everywhere. We did as the locals did. Sat outside, ate barbecue, and got wasted.
We had groups of people walking up to us just to take photos, buy us a drink, even offer to foot the bill. My head was spinning. Why would anyone ever buy me, or let alone a group of me’s, anything just because we don’t look like the local people?
At this time I was very naive. I thought it was the large group of foreigners that attracted them to us, or the fact that the city I live in is relatively small. Assuming this would never happen again, I got over it.
A week later I took a flight to Harbin to complete my TESOL course. This is a big, beautiful, semi-modernized city with a lot of Russian influence. I’d be living there the next 30 days without my better half to guide me around. I had been there at a maximum of three days and decided that if I was going to really make the move to China, I need to do it right, by myself.
I wandered around maybe 10 minutes before getting approached by what appeared to be a new mother. She said something in Mandarin, didn’t understand it, I shrugged, and before I knew it I’m holding a baby and taking a picture with it. Me. Baby. Picture. Why?
Saying you know, work with, met, or even just saw a foreigner gives you face. The Chinese assume we are all leading this luxurious lifestyle back home, so when we are actually spotted, it’s like seeing a unicorn. Yes, we’re real people. No, I don’t know Justin Bieber. Yes, I will accept this drink on your behalf.
If you’re going to move to China, get used to it.
Take a picture. It’ll last longer.
You ever get that feeling someone is watching you? Me too. All day. Everyday. I’ll keep this short and sweet. You’re going to get stared at. No ladies, it’s not like a guy checking out your milkshake while you’re poppin’ bottles in the club. I’m talking about triple, quadruple, and even quintuple takes.
You can literally see the domino effect taking place right before your eyes. One person looks. Then they look again. Then one more time just to make sure they actually did see what they think they just saw. Then they point. Next, their friend catches on. After that, the old lady walking with her granddaughter stops to see what all the commotion is about.
Now she’s staring too. So is her granddaughter. Before you know it, you’re the talk of the town. If you’re going to move to China, do your best not to give them anything to actually stare at, though. Which brings me to my next point.
Báijiǔ and Báijiǔ and Báijiǔ and Báijiǔ 白酒
Every country has its own national spirit. Mexico has tequila, Japan has sake, Russia has vodka, and Ireland has whiskey. In China, we have baijiu(白酒). So beautiful, clear, flowing like the rapids in the Rockies, and most importantly – it’s cheap.
I can recall my first baijiu experience like it was yesterday. Okay. You caught me. I don’t remember anything. At all. Not even a little bit. However, I vividly remember how I felt the next day. I remember why we started drinking it in the first place. I remember I told myself that I’d never drink it again. I remember hearing my friends making that same promise.
As foreigners, we usually choose to mix our baijiu with something sugary and carbonated. However, when a Chinese person offers you baijiu, there is no mixer. The answer “no” is unheard of. And if you think lacking testosterone will get you out of this bucket of syrup, you’re wrong. If you’re planning to move to China, Baijiu determines your strengths and weaknesses.
You will drink until you can’t drink no more. You will fall asleep at the dinner table. You will get in a fight with your closest family and friends. You will start screaming at the server for more food and more drink. You will fall down. You will get carried out. But hey, at least you’re a man.
Learn your numbers, kid.
If you’re going to survive your big move to China, learning numbers is crucial. Just based off our looks, we can easily be scammed. Luckily, numbers in Chinese are a piece of cake. If you can remember one through ten, then you can count your way up to 100. Once you get to 100, 1,000 is right around the corner and so on.
Why is learning numbers so important? Because nearly every shop you go into is a haggling opportunity waiting to happen. I’ve never been much of a smooth talker, but around China, I’m basically a silver-tongued prince when it comes to getting a lower price. I’ll even shed tears if the occasion calls for it.
China AKA The Mexican Mother
We all have a Mexican friend. Usually, I’m that Mexican friend, so I feel you more than anyone in this sense. If you’ve ever been to your Mexican friend’s house for a meal, you should know by now that not eating is not an option and that being full is no excuse to stop eating.
Some people in China lose weight. Some people gain it. Like me, my boyfriend, our friends, their friends, and so on. No, we’re not eating egg rolls and chow mein. However, we are eating everything else from provinces all over China.
When dining with the Chinese, it is common for them to order five times the amount of food necessary. In America, we order something and it’s ours. When you move to China, you eat around a lazy Susan. Everything is shared.
Picture this; there are four people and six dishes on the table. Maybe two meat plates, two veg, and two starch, all while everyone has their own bowl of rice. You’re eating, loving it, thinking this is more than enough. Then the door to your private room opens and it’s a server with four more mouth-watering dishes.
The kind souls who have invited you have already stopped eating at this point (how else do they maintain those itty bitty figures?). You’re feeling more than satisfied, but you can’t decline. You’re being told each dishes history and how it compliments the other nine dishes you’ve tried. So you dive in.
Remember that Mexican mother I mentioned earlier? She’s back and still won’t take “no” for an answer.