Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese culture’

Chinese Haircut- WTF

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 5, 2010

I live in China, or I guess you have figured that out, and here is some more information so that you can ‘feel me’ or have a context in which to wrap around the contents of  this blog. Ok, I won’t give my real name, the chicoms sniff around my blog too much so I guess I dont want to make it to easy for them to find me…but I digress.
So I am lying in bed considering my latest hair cut. I am , like I said, living in China, but am an American . A white American male at that, and being a white American male, I have typical white American hair. It’s pretty wavy or curly and when its humid and balloons up and makes me look like Foster Brooks or a bum, a whino. Naturally  I dont really like my hair looking like a coconut, so I cut it when it gets too long.

Being relatively normal, remember , I said normal male…
I cut my hair when it gets to long and curly and makes me look like an NBA hoopster from the 70’s, this week it was time and so I decided to cut the ol locks.
I went to a new barber, I will explain why in another blog post, but went to one nearby so it was convenient. After telling the snake oil salesman/barber what style I wanted, he told me that I needed a special hair treatment, being adventurous, I accepted and the man proceeded to shellack my hair with some globular gelatiny substance. After hours of inhaling noxious fumes from some stuff that was probably extracted from the bowels of a diesel engine the man announced that he was done. He proudly showed me my appearance in the mirror, told me I looked smashing and wished me well. I forked over about 20U$ mumbled and took off.
I am now looking in the mirror and pondering my decisions for the day and how I look. To describe my hair is impossible, I definitely do not look like foster brooks now, my hair is pretty much flat and quite subdued.  But But I look like something, I just cannot put my finger on just what it is….  I cannot quite pin down just what it is that I now look like.
Ahh wait a moment, I got it, yes, I definitely know what it is that I know appear to be.
I now look like a middle-aged lesbian… I am a white man in China.

Posted in Cultural oddities, Let me educate you..., Product Quality, Ranting in general, Working and Living in China | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Crazy Kow Tow- Bowing in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on March 24, 2010

Crazy China, I guess kow towing is different in China than we like to think of. To us, it is more like doing something that you may not wish to do or following someone. But I guess historically in China it mean literally kneeling in front of the emperor and beating your head on the ground- they actually taught it too. Well the practice was outlawed 100 years ago, but apparently they are starting it back up.


In ancient China, the ultimate respect to one’s superior is demonstrated by the protocol of Kowtow (磕头), whereupon one kneels down in front of the superior so that his feet, knees, and hands are all on the ground. He then touches his forehead to the ground multiple times. In extreme cases, how loud one can make the noise by smashing his forehead to the ground is a measurement of his respect, leading to many injuries. The practice was rigorously carried out by generations when men meet the emperors, parents/grandparents, and teachers.

Thankfully, this notorious protocol, along with many others, were abolished during the 1911 revolution and the subsequent modernization of China.

But things are changing these days and not all is for the better. Last Fall, hundreds of students practicing the “Crazy English” staged a public kowtow demonstration to thank their teacher.

Posted in Cultural oddities, Let me educate you... | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Taboos During Chinese New Year

Posted by w_thames_the_d on March 20, 2010

We just had the Chinese New Year, DAmn! I wish I had seen this first. Here is a post from the chinapost.com which speaks to the do’s and dont’s.

“TAIPEI, Taiwan — While ringing in Chinese New Year this year, a litany of traditions are respected — as well as taboos — during the Spring Festival (officially running from Feb. 4 through Feb. 21). There is a particular emphasis on the most important days of New Year’s Eve (Feb. 6) through the first five days of the new year, until Feb. 11.

According to folklore, one’s actions during the New Year set the tone of the year as a whole, so breaking these taboos in attitude, dress, behavior or customs is believed to bear negative consequences on yourself and others — and continue haunting you until the next Spring Festival.

With regard to the five days of rest at the very beginning of the new year, each day requires the accompanying behavior and customs, for example:

No one should wear clothing representing negativity (black) or death (white), or anything at all out of place with the festive atmosphere.

Crying is strictly taboo.

Likewise, negative words, topics or stories should not be brought up. Ghost stories and the word “Four,” or any other words in the Chinese language sounding similar to the word “death” should be avoided like a sickness.

Mentioning the past year should likewise be avoided, instead turning attention and discussion toward the new year ahead.

Trash is treated like treasure, and horded; it should not be taken out of the house and must be swept into the center of the room before placing it in the corners without trampling on it until the fifth day of rest, when it is turned back into waste, and thrown out.

New Year’s Eve, Feb. 6:

All brooms, brushes, dusters and dustpans must be put away.

Everything must be cleaned by this day, including the entire household, animals, the elderly, young etc. This represents a fresh start, to usher in good luck.

All debts must be paid.

The New Year’s feast must not run out of food.

Bedrooms must be brightly lit.

If you happen to break any bowls, glass or anything, utter the words “Suisui Ping’an” (“Peace visit you through the ages”).

Don’t greet anyone in their bedroom. Even the sick and lame should make an attempt to get out of bed and sit in the living room.

In order to fully let the old out and the new in, all windows and doors should be opened before the stroke of midnight.

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Mafia Nation- Guanxi in China; Chinese Culture

Posted by w_thames_the_d on January 7, 2010

One of the most thrilling things of being in China is that when you are in- you are in. Like that movie where De Niro makes a circle with his fingers and says "either you are in or you are out". Well, that is China. In China if you have guanxi or contacts, your esteem and ability increases exponentially, so much so that one’s worth is gauged by one’s guanxi.
What this means, in terms of good, is that a friend can open or expose a world of the best that life has to offer. One good contact is worth its weight in gold, two or more, almost imaginable. The downside is that one needs to maintain these relationships at a reciprocal level or risk being a pariah, an outcast. As for me, I still choose friends by who they are not what they have. The idea is an interesting one- though.

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Technology and Such- Traffic Chinese Style

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 31, 2009

Check out the guy on the bike. Look carefully, the large white blob is a pack of recyclable waste being toted on a bicycle by an old man. You see this a lot in China. Little old people with no social security forced into jobs like this….real high tech affair

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Jasper Schuringa Never Happen in China- Cultural Differences in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 27, 2009

Had an interesting conversation about American movies, Spiderman and such. The conversation turned to ‘western hero’ mentality in American movies and America. The idea was that in American movies one man or woman usually saves the day or the planet, oftentimes to his own detriment or death. My friend looked at me stone-faced, rolled her eyes and said" yeah that is uh typically American."

I was like yeah, we do that a lot. She said that wouldn’t fly in Asia, her friends agreed, they attribute it to some crazy help the world mentality. i probed, asked what a Chinese would do. They all just rolled their eyes, looked at me, they said. " if you had to risk death to save another, it is uhmm, well maybe not the smartest thing." So I asked for more asked what they would do, the answer apparently is that in their culture, this is not a noble task. apparently it is not bright ot risk or lose one’s life so that another can enjoy his/hers. I attribute this to the difference in Christian and non-Christian countries, but need to probe more.

Oh yeah, kick ass job by Jasper Schuringa!! Crazy thing is that the freaking terrorist is being brought up on charges of trying to blow up or harm an airplane which carries a max of 20 years-wtf??? Is this all this guy can get? If so, we are really losing the war….

Merry after Christmas Day!!

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Mama ga Bee- Chinese Taxi Ebonics

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 16, 2009

Yeah, what she said sounded like “mama ga bee” I don’t really know how to spell it in pinyin but know what it means. What had happened was that I was taking an illegal taxi to work and the lady was the driver (these are the little moto taxis that are illegal, but as plentiful as bikers here).

The lady was basically shouting expletives as we set off on my 1.2 mile drive to the subway, in English it would be something like this.

“Ni hao”- me hello

“Ni hao” – her ditto

then she erupts into what would be translated as. “Ahhh thif F***ng traffic, look at the d**N cars. What the f**K is wrong with this place. D** S**T, H*ll, Sh**ty H*ll D**MN, F**K, P*ss. ”  Something like that. She wasnt being rude, it was just her taxi ebonics, her vernacular as it were, her way to greet the day.She doesnt really get angry when she speaks, just commenting, nothing more, kind of like a dock yard poetess I think.

I have used her before and language aside, find her actually to be quite charming. She is about 4’11’, orange faced, has a lump of hair that looks like several cats  fought for its possession then gave up on the idea, teeth, several, but not many, and two big squinty eyeballs which she casts on you with utter candor.

In reality her taxi skills are pretty good, I think the women tend to be a little more careful, but this one rips along. I’ll use her again, after all, she is good and merely consider her not so gentle words a taste of local flavor.

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Family Feudin’ in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 14, 2009

Just sat down with some french toast and was treated to "Family happy disagreement" better known to us in the west as Family Feud.yeah they have resurrected this timeless classic Chinese style with cheesy mc and all. Wish I had the link I will try to find and pass it along.

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Just like Gilligan’s Island

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 14, 2009

To get a feel for what it is like to live here you merely have to access http://www.chinadaily.com.cn basically this site is to China what Fox was to GWB. Yeah, all is hunky dory, and everything is coming up roses. Earthquake-hey no problem, the government is there to help, polluted water- hey due to massive amounts of investment in greening the planet, it will all be fixed, blah blah blah…

The site here, is one of my least favorites, but will serve as a guide as to the face that China wants to present to the world. Funny thing is that it really reminds  me of that one Gilligan’s Island episode where the exiled dictator goes to Gilligans’ Island ( it can be found here). The reason for the similarity is that in this episode, the dictator comes to the island and wishes to make Gilligan the puppet dictator (unbeknownst to Gilligan) of his country.  Gilligan has a dream where this all is played out before his eyes, and in the end he wakes up and realizes the dictator’s evil plot.

The point, however is that China is like that, but specifically one scene. Remember the scene where Gilligan is in the presidential palace and someone opens the window and shows him the angry masses, looting and rioting. And then the dictator shoos that person away only to bring Gilligan to another window where all one can see is peace, harmony and happiness.

When I open the China Daily, I am reminded of this, makes you think, when I first saw this episode I was probably 7, but thought it odd, I now relive it daily.

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More people…Beijing Subway

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 12, 2009

Day in and day out…Just riding the subway in China

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