Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese life’

How Much Does That Cost?- Pricing in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 20, 2009

Many developing countries do not post prices on goods, there are historical and practical reasons for this. In a country like Brazil, who battled with hyper inflation in the past, it just made no sense. The prices changed so often that it was impractical to do so. During the hyperinflation of the 80’s, prices had to updated every hour, so the consumer constantly had to ask about the price.
China is like that, no real hyperinflation, but no prices posted either. In a country like China, or Mexico, they dont price goods. The reason is to analyze you before you make a purchase- good Chinese, you probably know the score, they elevate the price maybe 50%. Shoddy Chinese- raise it 100%, no Chinese 1000%. What they do here, is ingenious, instead of calling out a quote, they merely tap it on a calculator and show you. The result is although you are surrounded by customers, they don’t know just how much you are paying.
It goes like this, foreigner comes in, charge him 20x the amount and in dollars. Lets take a ‘repilica Rolex’. The item probably cost the store 25 RMB, and sell to locals for 60 RMB. They will quote you around 450US, but they just say 450, you act surprised and say dollars, then they shoot you a distance, but have anchored the price at this elevated level ( oh yeah, most of the shops, especially in the silk market are owned by the same people so the lowest prices are relatively fixed (upper prices have no limits). You then dicker and they will stick around 400-600 RMB. The result is that although we expect this, it further instills in us, the notion that equity and justice are non existent in this country. Your best bet, tell them you live here, talk to almost all of them, in a loud voice tell them that you have a limit, and then eventually the most desperate will accept you offer (they all basically have the same goods.)

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Chinese Technology

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 19, 2009

You hear about China’s long history, here you can experience it, look at the state of the art block and tackle being used…
hahah just joking China, wo ai ni!!

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Death of a Martyr- Drinking Death Caused by Public Officials in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 15, 2009

Check this out, some guy (again I am not belittling the loss of life-but raising awareness)
Here is the story line: SHENZHEN: A traffic police officer who died after drinking too much alcohol was named a martyr who "died in the line of duty" (story here).
What happened was that this guy, Mr. Chen ( a cop) was drinking with his superiors (other cops) who in something akin to a fraternity hazing, forced him to drink until he passed away. What gets me is that it was called "dying in the line of duty", this was done so that his widow could get more cash, that makes sense. But by calling him a martyr and phrasing it as such, doesnt it lessen the severity of the actions by his superiors, didnt these guys have someting to do with it. By calling it martyrdom, it makes it as if his actions were heroic and not that the actions of his superiors nothing less than barbaric…

My condolences go out to his family…

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WTF? – Slow Down Cowboy- Another Gripping Tale from China Daily

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 15, 2009

The author of this story is a real cowboy, check out the link. basically this is an article from the China Daily ( I am a masochist so I looked for new articles), whereby the author is talking about registering ‘famous brands’ in China. My only comment is wtf… I mean I have read the article 3 times and cannot make heads or tails of it. Apparently in China you can register a ‘famous brand’ and then sue if someone infringes that. First off, we must remember where we are and suing for such an event seems to me to be somewhat humorous. But the author in all his p and v (piss and vinegar- and I do admire his spunk), seems to be taking some companies to task for allegedly setting up fake famous brands upon which to sue. Confused, I am too , so lets look at the article. Snippets of his article are in italics, my comments in bold.

He starts off:

“Since local governments have to certify “famous” trademarks, they have carved out short-cuts to becoming famous.”

comment-by not being produced here? Wait, certified famous, wtf

“Of the only two ways of being officially acknowledged as “famous”, court rulings cost less time and money than certification by industry and commerce administration authorities, so they swarm to the courts.”

-comment, ah it is clear now, rather than seeing if you sell many things (thus presumably being famous), in China, you go to the court house to be certifiably famous, that makes ummm sense?

“And thanks to some judges’ greed, some courts have been easy to be bought out.”

-comment, go get ’em tiger

“We now have to wait for the outcome … see exactly how dirty things have gotten.”

comment – I like his gritty no holds barred attitude

“Previously, we were only astonished by corporate entities fabricating non-existent “violators” to create “lawsuits” so as to get a verdict against the unreal “damage” infringed upon a “famous brand”.

comment- wtf, creating violators to show  a damage,  excuse my ignorance, but don’t you have to sue the violator, and thus if he/she doesn’t exist, from whom do you obtain retribution?

“But we dared not suspect that justices had a role in the antics, which now appears to be the sad truth.”

-comment, yeah, bribery, corruption, here, what is the world coming to

“We do not want to add fuel to the public’s disbelief in our judiciary’s claim of loyalty to justice and are willing to refrain from making negative comments until the truth is ultimately out. But let us be frank – once the suspected collusion does prove to exist, the damage to its credibility would be beyond repair. Especially if such fraudulence is not limited to Liaoning.”

-comment, I love his Geraldo hard-hitting style, you can just feel his passion, but as for content, uh, ‘once suspected collusion does prove to exits then I guess the locals will grab another beer, wont even register on their radars, they are immune

“And it further erodes popular confidence in the already notorious practice of naming “famous brands”.

comment-excuse me but confidence in local brands, uh I just threw up in my mouth

“Given that there are too many nameless “famous brands” in this country,few of us actually care who says what is “famous”.

-comment, I need a valium or librium, nameless famous brands, umm ok

“That various authorities, and fake authorities,continue to be enthusiastic about concocting “famous brands”

-comment, WAIT, are they FAKING AUTHORITIES in China too?

“…is but a race for dirty money. Only that it gets even more disgraceful with the courts getting involved.”

-comment, yeah again I am floored by the gall of it…

“But this will definitely end up being detrimental to the all-out efforts to promote the made-in-China label.”

-comment, yeah because no one knows about all the goods produced in China.

“Official seals of recognition on inferior or shoddy products can only denigrate the collective image of Chinese goods.”

comment, OMG!! gotta say that again!

“Official seals of recognition on inferior or shoddy products can only denigrate the collective image of Chinese goods.”

-comment, did he say denigrate the image of Chinese goods, this is too easy

“That “famous brands” are more or less a meaningless, if not deceptive, label of self-pity is at this point a mere family secret among ourselves.”

-comment, yeah but due to this timely expose, now we all know, that is if we can figure out just wtf you are jabbering about!

“If such a pattern is allowed to persist, our best hope will be that others never see through it.”

comment- ok got you, so you say somehow the Chinese are copying those famous local brands, which will hurt images of Chinese product quality. ? Then, I guess, you say that it can be our dirty little secret if we don’t tell anyone… which implies that the quality of the knock off high quality goods must be similar to the original, for, if it weren’t, hen we would all know after purchasing one!

whew I am tired! China is a great place but somebody has to send this news article to the Daily Show- imagine what he could do with it. Actually kudos to the author, he is trying and his passion comes through, maybe it was just a translation thing.

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

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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Huge TV Screens by Tian an Man

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 12, 2009

Here are some kick ass TV screens that they installed for the 60th anniversary.

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Four eyes…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 11, 2009

“Hey double eyes”. In China it is actually a good thing. See, the Chinese, as do all Asians,  have more fat in their upper eyelids giving them a puffy look. In pursuit of a more international look they go to any length to get that ‘double eyed’ look that we have.  Actually there is a boom across Asia, especially Korea to obtain the elusive double eyes check out the link here.

Yeah, while American and Brazilians are looking to enhance their breasts or rears, Asia is cutting those eyelids. Actually the first time I saw one of these devices I was spooked, but as they say live and learn, now when I see it, I just understand…

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Chinese Lesson #1

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 12, 2009

Ok, here is part one of installments that I like to call Chinese lessons.

Frist off get prepared:






Chinese is a great language, it is not based on anything that we in the west know or speak. for instance due to latin or greek roots, people traveling from USA to Colombia, to Italy will recognize the same roots in words, making communication much easier.

Then there is Chinese. Speaking Chinese will aid you in speaking in, well not really in other countries as the conventions that apply here only apply to China, and also they use characters which are basically hieroglyphics and also wont help you anywhere.

So lets begin, in Chinese pinyin (form of spelling words phonetically) person is pronounced ren and the character is ren : person not which is basically pronounced the same, but means forbearance. Got it? well lets not dally on that subtlety.

Now common Chinese or Mandarin is spoken by Chinese everywhere or at least that is the official language.  in reality, China has 56 races each of which has an off spring of Mandarin, or in some cases as in Yunan, with the Miao people or other sub-races, they have a distinct language. So basically if you speak Mandarin, you should be able to communicate with 1.3 billion people, unless they speak one of the 250 dialects and thus bastardize the official language. But that is merely a detail and muddies the waters, lets move on.

Mandarin has no tense other than present, no articles, and no plural. So if one wants to say I want to go to the store the English translation would be = ‘I want go store’.  Yesterday i went to the store = ‘Yesterday I go store’. Got it? good.

Moving on,

China has four tones, each of which dictates the real meaning of the word. Each word has a different character so when read, it is easily distinguishable, in spoken language, a change in tone will assist you.

So depending on the tone, the following words mean:

ma= horse, mother, persons name, signals a question,

bao= hug, make baby, baby, persons name, type of dumpling

ok so not as to overcomplicate things you can say.

I want to hug you =  Wo yao he ni bao but then again that could mean, I want to have a baby with you, so maybe it is a poor example.

Actually after several frustrating ADD minutes, I think it is much easier to buy a phrase book and just point. i mean come one,  you will probably never come to China, and if you do, most of the cabbies in Beijing understand rudimentary English and if not just point, you will be ok.  Also, due to the myriad of languages, dialects, and combinations thereof, it will almost assuredly be fruitless. So, get off your butt and come or just forget about it, forget about learning the language, just sit back and watch ESPN or something.


today Beijing is snowing….

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Queuing up in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 9, 2009

I lovingly/laughingly call this post “queuing up” in China, as for anyone who has ever been here knows, this term does not exist, at least not in the conventional sense of the word.

According to http://www.m-w.com:

queue    definition 2 : a waiting line especially of persons or vehicles

Well, I guess, according to this definition, at its most liberal of interpretations, what they do in China may be loosely construed as queuing up.  The real question is what the word waiting ” LINE” is.  For in China they do not queue up, they mass up, or blob up. If you look closely, they disregard the single line approach for the more convenient three cloud approach. In each line it is as if there are really three lines or bubbles surrounding the area of interest. Each bubble operates as a single line or family and proceeds towards that area of interest in a somewhat peaceful manner.

The confusion comes when we as a foreigner see this approach, we have no context from which to understand it. if the sign says wait here, and has an arrow, it is exactly there where we shall wait.  We watch as the offending mass huddles up no where near the delegated place, and begins toward the same destiny as those of us who have followed the rules. We watch in horror and astonishment as they may even proceed at a faster pace then we, all in direct disobedience of the sacred signs. To the local Chinese, these signs are nothing more than suggestions, to be utilized as  necessary.

It does not take long however, to espouse this much more creative and unconventional approach of the Chinese, when one spends minutes or hours being passed over by more aggressive “waiting line blobbers”, who insist and receive service in front of the more servile patrons. It only takes the quick westerner days, perhaps minutes to begin to see the beauty and symmetry of the “new line order”.

We being capitalists, quickly understand the utter Darwinism of possessing longer limbs with which to reach out to the sales lady and more heft of body with which to push the lighter Asians from our way, all in the pursuit of obtaining more things. Come to think of it, the Chinese line formation philosophy is actually quite cutting edge and capitalistic, I wonder if it would work in New York or Texas…

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Qwerty Country

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 9, 2009

QWERTY as in key board. I assume you have all heard that the original qwerty keyboard was invented to slow us down while typing,  as the older typewriters couldnt handle an excessive amount of keystrokes at the same time (remember the old machines in which the letters were raised on little platform like legs).  Well, I have it on good authority that that theme is alive and well here in China.

As a foreigner here, one of the first things you will notice is the levels upon levels of bureaucracy that this country is capable of.  For instance, everywhere one goes, one is met with a wait staff the size of a small military unit. that is right, fifteen to fifty young Chinese, all burning with energy to help you to buy shoes, a magazine, or serve you food, (no tipping is required!)

So, one may ask, why do I call it a qwerty country if being  over/staffed is a good thing. The answer is that they are two separate issues.  Being overstaffed is good if one considers help constantly underfoot while one is eating a good thing. All joking aside, the attentiveness of the wait staff is actually quite comfortable. The problem comes from the bureaucracy that i have been told is built in, to ensure job creation for a country with 1.3 billion folks.

As an example, when going to a restaurant, or fast food joint, one is told not to bus ones own tables as if we all did so it would mean fewer jobs for a group of people. In essence, here they look for ways to create employment, to some they actually eschew technology to do so.  i have had discussions  about technology and how computers and machines are so beneficial, i was told in no uncertain terms that in this country those types of changes will be met with stiff opposition due to the constant need to provide gainful employ even at the lowest levels.

thus, the key to this article, they have perfected the art of simple job creation. When i came here before the olympics, I  noticed quite a few older people just standing about by the streets and subways, basically doing nothing but gawking at foreigners and chit chatting amongst themselves.  But, during the olympics presto! All those septuagenarians were transformed into smiling “helpers’ for the olympics. Yeah, all 10,000 of them donning blue polyester shirts and supposedly pointing people in the direction of the games.  but then, unfortunately the games ended, so you have thousands of elderly people just dying to lend a helping hand so what do you do? you let them keep the polyester and the fancy armbands, and now call them “Traffic helpers”, think of them as bands of roving crossing guards.

But, Beijing only has so many streets so what else could they do? Subways…Bejing has around 8 lines of subways with countless stops, so they merely herded those elderlies with some spunk downstairs to push, cajole and “control” the flow of humanity in the subway system.

But i dont think i am entirely on point yet. As for bureaucracy, they have a system with espouses it, loves it, worships it.  for instance, take a simple task such as buying medicine. in the west we have a relatively compact efficient system, point at item, or grab it, move seven paces, pay, leave.

In China it is more along the lines of:

-go to counter, wait for sour woman ‘A’ to approach you

-watch as all 15 other workers stare at you, but will not help as you are not in their specific area, so they cannot assist you

-be shoved aside by at least four other patrons who have not learned to wait in line

-say ‘screw it’ and look for woman ‘b’

-place order with woman ‘b’ or ‘a’ if she is not busy

-wait for woman ‘b’ to lift out product and then HANDWRITE, the product number, name and price on not one but two slips of paper

-stare in disbelief at the handwritten receipt, look at lady ‘b’ like, “this is a joke right?”

-get shoved aside by people used to the system

-shuffle off to cash register to pay

-approach cage holding ” cash matron”   a woman to whom you must submit handwritten slips of paper for medicine

-stand in line behind obedient clients (cash matrons are naturally sour and dont take kindly to butting)

-approach cash matron, pleasantly pass handwritten notes

-wait as she adjusts her bulk, stares at her assistant who seems remarkely chipper , but is merely a ‘cash matron in training’ and will soon assume same sour demeanor as her leader

-wait some more as she studies handwritten note

-wait as she folds ever crease in note

-witness a vicious and violent flurry of large paws as she begins to Bang! Stamp! Crush! the items you have just given her.

-wait for her to restack items, place them next to nearly 10,000 identical ones

-pass money

-wait for more checking of cash as if it were a Monet and thrusting dagger eyes at the customer

-wait as she reprocess the money, making it acceptable for her superiors

-wait as she issues not one but two receipts, one for you and one for them

-stamps both with violent Thwaaak!

-throws them out to customer

-stares with the hatred of a bureaucrat at you til you depart

-you then, take new papers

-search for sales lady

-get pushed aside by those who dont know how to wait in line

-learn to push back

-extend had with paper

-learn it was wrong paper

-extened other paper

-receive goods

-leave vowing never to return

The system is one in which you can actually speak with no less than seven people, just to buy some cold medicine. but then again we in the USA are staring at 10.2 % unemployment, so maybe the idea isnt all that bad.





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