Thursday, December 15, 2005

Politically Incorrect
Merry Christmas from China

Believe it or not, all of the stores around here have put up CHRISTMAS decorations. Also the music in the stores actually have CHRISTMAS songs - even “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger”. And yes Virginia they are selling CHRISTMAS trees.

The sales people in the stores and the waiters and waitresses in the restaurants are all wearing Santa hats.

No ‘Happy Holidays’ - No ‘Holiday Trees’ for sale!

They even have a Chinese name for the holiday - sheng dan jie - which means “holiday of sacred birth”.

I guess China has not figured out that CHRISTMAS is politically incorrect! Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a Chinese holiday. The Chinese are using it similar to the way we have exploited celebrated it in America for years - as a marketing event. It is just refreshing to know that in China, Christmas has not (yet) become clouded with the trappings of western “political correctness”.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Language Fun

My Chinese colleagues know I speak Mandarin so if they want to carry on a private conversation in front of me they resort to using Cantonese. Since I am somewhat of a smart-aleck I interject some “unknown” English into their private conversations. Here are a few examples:

“Excuse me, I have an engineering question I need to ask. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

“supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

“Pardon me, I just received an email. Do you know any of these people? Peter, Andrew, James and John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James the Son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot?” Of course a good follow up to this one is to recite the 46 books of the Bible.

I also have my own secret dialect. I have taught one of the guys in the office Pig Latin and made him promise not to teach anyone else. Now when we need to carry on a private conversation we use Pig Latin - to the amazement and confusion of the others in the office.

Like teaching “pull my finger” these are my attempts to bridge cross-cultural differences

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oriental Potato Salad

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention!

This weekend I craved potato salad. So I went grocery shopping: bought potatoes, eggs, onions, mayonnaise, but NO mustard. Mustard was not to be found! I went to another store, NO mustard! What is it? The Chinese do not know about mustard? I panicked! No mustard - no potato salad!

I tried to calm down. think, think, think…what can I substitute for mustard? And then, an epiphany! WASABI - yes, that pungent, green “mustard” that the Japanese use for sushi!

I rush home. Boil the potatoes and the eggs, chop the onion and then in a separate bowl, add 1 cup of mayonnaise, squeeze out about 3″ of wasabi (wasabi comes in a tube like toothpaste). I start mixing the mayonnaise and wasabi. Taste - not bad, but I want a little more spicy - add a little more wasabi. Stir, taste, wow, WOW! I then mix this all with the potatoes and other ingredients, let me tell you it was GREAT!

Mustard? Who needs mustard? I have wasabi!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Medicine Shows-Chinese Style
My Trip to Beijing-Day 2

Remember the old time medicine shows? The one where the medicine salesman would park his wagon and hawk his wares and offer to sell you this wonderful drug that would cure everything from dyspepsia to menstrual cramps?

Wel-l-l…the Chinese have figured out how to bring this to a whole new level! My second day in Beijing, the tour group and I were loaded on the bus and taken to a medicine show tourist trap hospital / museum. We were told that this was one of the oldest and most famous hospitals in Beijing. We were led into a examining room, took a seat and then received a 15 minute lecture from a salesperson nurse, who proceeded to tell us the history of this hospital and of all the famous snake oils medicines that were manufactured there.

After the 15 minute lecture the door suddenly opens and now 2 high pressure snake-oil salesmen doctors come to the front of the examining room and invite any of us with illnesses, conditions, sicknesses, maladies, hen-flu-in-ways, lopsidoodles, etc. to come forward and to tell them “what’s ailin’ us” (as my dear old daddy would have said).

Well as P.T. once said “There’s a sucker born every minute” so several of our traveling group came forward like Baptists in a revival meeting and told the “doctors” of their problems. Of course all the cures were in these little bottles of medicine so conveniently displayed at the front of the room. Some folks bought, I did not. Finally after being exposed to these high pressure tactics for more than a half hour we were released. On our way out, we were shuffled into this huge shopping area and were given one more chance to be cured.

However, our tour guides did not come away empty-handed. They were both rewarded with free samples for diverting our little group to visit this tourist trap famous Beijing hospital and pharmacy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Random Musings

Last night was Halloween, no trick-or-treaters and no horror movies on TV. CCTV did show “Tora, Tora, Tora” (for you Gen-X’ers this is a movie about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor). It was dubbed over in Chinese so all the actors spoke Mandarin, both the American and the Japanese, and that was kind of weird. I don’t mind the American actors being dubbed over as Chinese, but I want my Japanese actors to sound like Japanese!

The European equivalent of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi’s recent visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine would be for the German Chancellor to visit a church honoring Hitler. At least the Germans apologized for what they did, the Japanese have not…instead they have re-written their history books.

I have seen just about everything here - fast food, discos, garages, car washes, veterinary clinics, shopping malls, subways — everything that we have in America. BUT one thing I have not seen is funeral homes and graveyards. What happens when someone dies here? Does anybody know? Nate Fischer, where are you?

I saw this sign recently at a Chinese factory. “No Quality - No Future!” Think about it. The Chinese are becoming more and more aware that it is not good enough just to produce a cheap product, but they must produce quality products as well.

Chinese love game shows and they will make a game show of anything. They now have a gameshow version of “Antiques Roadshow” where people bring antiques for the experts to appraise. The studio audience is divided into teams and they also make a guess of the value. The team with the most “closest” estimates wins.

What is eaten in the US and is called “Chinese food” is NOT anything like the real food eaten here. Most Chinese prefer white rice to fried rice. What Americans call “pot stickers” is called “dumplings” here. Each province has it’s own unique dishes and styles of cooking. “Sweet and sour” dishes are Cantonese. Spicy dishes are normally found in Sichuan (szechuan) and Hunan provinces. Rice is the staple grain in south China whereas flour is the staple grain in north China. Therefore north China is known more for dumplings, noodles and bread with every meal and south China is known for rice at every meal.

In China, sidewalks and red lights are merely suggestions.

Whoever invented the horn and the motorcycle should have them both put “where the sun don’t shine”. And whoever figured out that you could put an air horn (like from semi truck) on a motorcycle should be doubly cursed. I think more people die here from heart attacks from hearing these horns than by actually being hit by motorcycles.

Everyone here loves to say “hello” (in English) to foreigners. They like to do this while passing you on the sidewalk, while you are in motion. That way they do not have to actually engage you in an ACTUAL English conversation. I call this “hit and run” English. When I first came here, this amused me, then it annoyed me, now I stop, run them down and reply in Chinese, “Dui bu qi, wo ting bu dong yingwen. Wo zhi hui shuo Putonghua. Ru guo ni hui shuo yingwen, ni ke bu ke yi jiao wo?” Which means, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand English. I can only speak Chinese. If you can speak English, can you teach me?” This really confuses the hell out of the “hit and run” English speaker. Sorry, but I am a bit of a smart-ass.

All Asians DO NOT turn the “l” sound into the “r” sound. Chinese people pronounce l’s quite nicely so please do not stereotype Chinese with other Asian languages.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween in China

So! You think that Halloween is not observed in China? Well - guess again!

Yesterday, I made my weekly pilgrimage to Zhongshan City to eat sushi - yes, there are sushi restaurants in China - and what did I discover at the shopping mall? That’s right! Halloween decorations!

Just when I think that I have witnessed everything that makes China seem more western - clothes, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, rap music - then another thing comes along - Halloween! Oh by the way, the past few days on TV, American horror movies! Last night was Resident Evil and Poltergeist.

Now I am beginning to wonder if I should buy some candy this afternoon. Just in case the little goblins or ghouls show up and start knock, knocking, knocking on my door. And who knows, if nobody shows up, maybe I will go “trick or treating” or maybe put a jack-o-lantern outside my door.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Let's go Shopping-Wang Fu Jing Avenue
Beijing-Day 1

This photo is only about 1/8 of the street. This place is huge!

So after a day of standing in line at TianAnMen Square, touring the Forbidden City and all of it’s museums, waiting for our tour bus to arrive 2 hours late and enjoying dumplings and roast lamb at one of Beijing’s dumpling restaurants, a quick vist to Beijing’s BeiHai Park, we were whisked away to Wang Fu Jing Avenue - Beijing’s premiere shopping district.

This area, crowded with people, is a “street” that is closed off to vehicle traffic. You can cross the street without the fear of being ambushed by any type of gas-burning conveyance.

The only thing you have to fear is people, lots of people! People walking, people moving, people jostling - yeah let’s not forget jostling. Bumping, shoving, pushing, laughing, talking, spitting (Chinese people love to spit), snorting, coughing, smoking, shopping, reading, resting, haggling, eating, eating and walking, eating and haggling, eating and reading, eating and (Chinese people love to eat). People!

Stores, stores, stores - Hat stores, clothing stores, restaurants, fast food restaurants, American fast food restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds), a 7 story shopping mall, silk stores, gift stores, book stores, all kinds of stores, more stores than you can imagine….wow!

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Economics 101 - part 1

or “Why Chinese companies can sell stuff so cheap - Part 1″

Setting: Boss Yuan’s office at a factory somewhere in China.

Yuan: So Li, tell me how is everything going in the factory.

Li: Boss everything is going well. We have almost completed this new order going to America and the containers should be loaded tomorrow afternoon. We did have a small setback however.

Yuan: Really? Why is that?

Li: Xiao Zhang put his hand in one of the ventiliation fans and it cut off 3 of his fingers. He was trying to impress the girls in the factory by showing them he could stop the fan with his hand. Apparently he has done this before with success but this time he miscalculated.

Yuan: Xiao Zhang is a real dumbass!

Li: I agree!

Yuan: Well, when he returns to work give him a job at the milling machine. He can operate that with only one hand!

Everybody bursts out in laughter.

Setting: A factory somewhere in America.

Jones: Smith, I just finished reading the production reports and it appears that we have had a slow-down in production.

Smith: Yes sir we did. One of the workers put his hand in one of the ventilation fans and it cut off 3 of his fingers. He was trying to impress the girls in the factory by showing them he could stop the fan with his hand. Apparently he has done this before with success but this time he miscalculated.

Jones: Oh my God! Were the OSHA approved fan guards installed?

Smith: Yes, they were installed. Remember we spent $1M last year to get everything up to OSHA requirements. But the worker removed the guard and was able to insert his hand. OSHA is still coming to investigate and we will have to close down the line during the
investigation. Also, the worker is threatening to sue because we did not provide adequate warnings about the dangers involved in placing your hand in a fan. He will probably go on disability because he will not be able to work with only one hand. I have already called the legal team and they are considering our options but they feel that we will probably have to reach some type of settlement with the worker.

Jones: Well I guess we should be more careful in the future. If we pay out another settlement this year we will need to increase the price of our products.

’nuff said.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I'm at the corner...

…of “Walk” and “Don’t Walk”, please send a cab.

And if you can’t send a regular cab, send a motorcycle taxi.

That’s right! These modern conveyances exist all over southern China and are waiting to spirit you away to your final destination.

Have more than one person in your party? Don’t worry! Our ample seating room easily accomodates multiple people. In fact a family of 3 can comfortably sit on the spacious seating area.

Now you may think all of the above is a joke, but seriously these “motorcycle taxis” exist all over southern China and I have seen as many as 4 people riding (including the driver). These
professional drivers patiently wait at the bus stops waiting for the bus to deliver their
next set of customers. So if you are wondering why the guy on themotorcycle is honking the horn at you for no apparent reason it is because he is asking you, “Hey bud, need a ride?”

(Hey you folks a Kodak need to send me a check for a rather stunning commercial placement.)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Just my contribution...

…to “cross-cultural” learning. Today I taught the guys in the office the meaning of “pull my finger”.

I am hoping that this will catch on and spread like wildfire and maybe one day I can be known as the guy that brought “pull my finger” to China, kinda like a 21st century Johnny Appleseed.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

You May Not Like Our Vegetables...

…But You Can’t Beat Our Meat!

Everyday at lunch these street vendors line up outside our factory selling fruit, vegetables and meat. YES, you heard me right! M-E-A-T! No refrigeration, no fancy red lights to give the fake sense of freshness.

You ask, are there flies? Why of course there are flies!

One of my colleagues at work, sensing my queaziness with the situation, told me that this is a part of Chinese daily life - to buy meat in the open market. He also added that the restaurants here also buy their meat the same way.

Apparently it is not too big a problem since I have not heard of any deaths from food poisoning and I really have not been “food” sick since I have been here. It also makes me think that even though in America we are given the “appearance” of good health and sanitation practices, what about the things that we don’t see? I really don’t want to spend too much time thinking about this, and probably neither do you, so I will move on.

Most of the vegetable and meat vendors have scales, but the meat vendors use a hand-held balance beam to weigh out their offering. Of course, all the prices are negotiable and Chinese people love to “haggle”. They call this bargaining or haggling “tao jia huan jia” or “tao jia” and it is quite an experience to witness the buyer and the seller “give and take”. I think everyone in sales should take a sales class from a Chinese street vendor! They are the ultimate bargainers and closers!If you want to see BIGGER views of these pictures, just click on the photo!

Thanks for stopping by and as always your comments are welcomed!

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Friday, June 03, 2005

A Problem at Work...

I discovered something today that disturbed me deeply. I realized that our company parking lot is very inadequate. There is not any room for people to walk between the vehicles and there are absolutely NO handicapped parking spaces.

I know that many of my fellow co-workers walk to work, but for those that use a vehicle I consider our current parking situation unsatisfactory. I plan on speaking to the management to see if something can be done to improve the situation to allow people to have more room for their individual vehicles. I shudder when I think of all the “nicks and scratches” these vehicles must get every day because of their close proximity.

Below is a picture of our company parking lot. I hope you can appreciate our plight and any suggestions you may have to improve this situation would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Colonel Sanders is alive and well in China!

What is this I see across the street…could it be?

Yes, I think it is…

It’s the Colonel!

And a lot of Chinese people love KFC! The offering is a little different than the United States, but they have this one dessert that is similar to an mini egg custard pie which comes in a box of 6 pies. These things are deeee-li-cious!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Where I will be working!

Some of you have asked, do you have a picture of where you will be working? As a matter of fact I do and it is shown above. Below is a picture of our showroom.

Janes Lock factory showroom

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Zhuhai, China
One of the most beautiful places in the world.

Zhuhai China
For those of you that think China is an impoverished, third-world country kindly enter the 21st century and look at the above picture. Beautiful, right? Zhuhai, which means "pearl sea", is in mainland China and is 1 hour away from Hong Kong via ferry. Macau is only a 15 minute walk away. It is a beautiful, modern seaside city with plenty of shopping and golf.

Zhuhai is a garden-like seaside tourist city, where flowers blossom all year round. In 1999, it was granted “International Award for Best Practices in Improving the Living Environment” by United Nations Center for Human Settlement and was the only winner of the award in China. Besides, it won series of titles such as “Top Tourist City of China”, “State Garden Green City”, “State Environmental Protection Model City” and “State Hygienic City”.

Compare this to Miami or Fort Lauderdale at 1/8th of the price!

Here are a few more Zhuhai pictures for your enjoyment!

Zhuhai CityView of Zhuhai from my hotel room during my visit in October 2004.


A shopping center in Zhuhai. Do you see the reflection of the "Golden Arches"?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Hong Kong - what a place!!!

Hong Kong cityscape 1

A beautiful view of Hong Kong island from Kowloon.

Hong Kong cityscape 2

And another view from my hotel room in Kowloon.

Hong Kong Skyline at Night

And another view of the skyline at night. Hong Kong, what a place!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Guangzhou China
Capital City of Guangdong Province

Guangzhou China
Its international name was formerly Canton, after a French language corruption of Guangdong. As of 1999, the population of the city is about 6.85 million while the urban population is about 4.05 million. Guangzhou, located at the north of the Pearl River delta, is an important trading center as well as a busy port and the capital city of the province of Guandong. The city has an area of over 16,000 square kilometers (6,177 square miles).

The climate of Guangzhou is sub-tropical. The average year-round temperature is 22C. August is the hottest month, with an average temperature of 28C. January is the coldest month, with an average of 13C. The rainy season falls between April and August. Average annual rainfall is 1,720 mm.

Like Athens of Greece and Rome of Italy, Guangzhou also has a history of more than 2,800 years.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Even in China it is still Coca Cola

DSC_0199Check out the "pull-tab" opening (with the removable tab). Now that is something we haven't seen for years in the US.

Interesting thing about Coca Cola's translation in the Mandarin Chinese language, the pronunciation is kuh-koh-kuh-le...sounds like what we say in English, right? But the interesting part is that the literal translation in Chinese means "pleasing to the mouth".

Friday, February 04, 2005

Country Cookin'
Chinese Cooking

Where's the rice?So where is the rice? Everyone that I know seems to think that rice is served with EVERY Chinese meal. But guess what? NOT SO!

Check out this interesting "grain" plate served at just about every meal that I have eaten in China. Corn, hominy, green peas and nuts, but NO rice was served with any of the meals. Strange how we think we know something and then end up finding out how wrong we are. By the way, if you don't know what hominy is...well ask anybody that grew up in rural Georgia. They can tell you. (Hint: Grits are made from hominy, hominy is made from corn.)

Hot potMore country cookin for you! This is called a "hot pot". This is brought to your table with raw vegetables and meat such as mutton or beef. Basically, this is like a Chinese "fondue" where you sit at the table and cook your own food. But the interesting thing for now is what is in THIS pot. It is TURNIP tops and TURNIP roots. Just like home!

BBQ RibsBut what about Bar-B-Que? Strange as it may look this is a picture of bar-b-que ribs. Each rib is wrapped in a special plastic cooking wrapper to hold in the bar-b-que sauce. Cooking the ribs this way also makes the ribs very tender. A bit of a pain in the neck to eat, but extremely delicious!