Posts Tagged ‘Beijing’
For whatever China lacks in cleanliness (seeing children peeing on the street is a common sight here), it makes up for in freshness. In the West, it is common for families to go grocery shopping once a week, if that, and stock up on preservative-packed food that can last them through a storm. Here, though, people are likely to buy whatever they need for one or two meals, and then return to the market the next day.
While there are traditional supermarkets (here called hypermarkets), meat, produce and a variety of other things are typically bought and sold at wet markets. A stroll through one of these is not for the faint of heart, so we’ve put together a little list of tips to help you navigate the wet market like a pro.
How to Navigate the Wet Market
- Make sure you have small money with you: If you are a foreigner, you’re likely to get ripped off a little (or a lot)—more on this later. But things are still generally very cheap at the wet market, and vendors won’t make change for large bills. They don’t need your business that bad.
- Bring your own bag: Yes, vendors will give you small plastic bags. But they are likely to break, particularly with all of the elbows and shoulders you’re likely to receive, so best to bring your own.
- Listen closely: Yes, if you aren’t Chinese, you will be expected to pay more. If you’re really concerned about this and want to get a fair price, then either go with someone local, or try your best to listen to what other people around you are being charged. Everything is negotiable in China, so if your listening skills are good (and you can muster up the courage to speak a bit of Mandarin), you’ll save yourself a few yuan.
- Look outside for fruits: While you may only see vegetables, meats and fish in the actual market, there are still plenty of fruits available. These are only sold seasonally, and may be more prominent being sold on the streets adjacent to the wet market.
- Wash EVERYTHING: And then wash it again. While everything is amazingly fresh here, everything is also amazingly dirty. The bushels of rice have people running their hands through all day in deciding which rice to buy. The pork you buy will likely still have hairs and bone fragments in it—understandable considering it was probably alive earlier that day. The produce is likely to have flies touching it all day. Just wash everything.
- Stay cool: Don’t be alarmed that the meat isn’t refrigerated. It was likely alive earlier that day, and is meant to be eaten immediately. Fresh is the key word here.
- Eat with caution!: There are no boneless pigs or chickens or fish in the world. And there are no boneless pork or chicken or fish dishes in China. I can’t emphasize enough to be careful before you dig in—don’t choke on a bone!
Chinese people are many things—ambitious, competitive, hard-working, high-achieving and, outwardly anyway, humble. One thing they are not, however, is shy. If you’re anywhere near a major city (and this is likely to be the case, given that there are an astounding 91 metropolitan areas in China with a population exceeding one million), you’re going to be pushed, smothered, and have people in your face constantly. The best way to deal with this is to prepare yourself mentally before you come—it’s going to happen, so no use in getting upset about it.
First, if you happen to be waiting in a queue to get in anywhere—be it airport check-in, a market, the subway or anywhere else—you probably will be sandwiched between two strangers so tightly you can’t breathe. In the case of the subway, you may find yourself not even having to exert any of your own energy to get up the stairs—simply let the mass wave of inertia surrounding you whisk you away.
Second, just as you will face crowds, people in those crowds will try to cut in front of you. Whether they employ the direct strategy (i.e. elbowing you in the side and never turning their head while they take your place in line) or the subtle (waiting for the moment you look at your iPhone’s playlist to slide in front of you), it’s going to happen. Get used to it.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything you can do to make dealing with a crowds a little more manageable—you just may not be so comfortable with it if you’re from a place where manners in public actually exist. You’ll save yourself mounds of frustration, and perhaps even earn a little respect from those behind you, if you get comfortable with the idea of throwing your body mass into the person in front of you. If you have the right mindset, it’s actually kind of fun after awhile, and it will make sure you’re doing your part to keep the crowd funneling its way forward.
When you’re in China, especially if it is for business, you are likely to find yourself in a Chinese drinking session. These six tips below should help you understand what you got yourself into, and how to get yourself out of it. If you just happen to be drinking with a few Chinese people, the below won’t apply–this is for the hardcore Chinese Chinese drinking sessions that often accompany business outings, and some other social types of gatherings. Study up!
- Learn the Lingo: Toasts are common in China. No matter what you’re drinking (which is likely to be a kind of Chinese rice liquor called baijiu), you’ll have toasts–known as ganbei–and you’d better comply for fear of being distrusted (or laughed at). In case you’re wondering, the word ganbei translates to “drying the cup.”
- Take the Lead: If you really want to score some points with your Chinese counterparts, don’t just accept their toasts–toast them back as well. This applies especially well to those who may be above you on the totem pole. This art of “respectfully suggesting a drink” is known as jing jiu.
- Use Two Hands: If you ever played baseball, your coach surely hounded you to catch the ball with two hands. That rule is surprisingly versatile, as in China it is considered respectful and polite to take your drink with two hands (one on the bottom propping the cup), and then slightly tipping the cup towards your colleague upon finish to show that you’ve emptied your glass.
- Say Cheers!: As in most places, it is common in China to knock glasses together while offering your cheers. When you do this, you should make sure your glass is lower than theirs, particularly if they outrank you. If you are about equal, you may find it funny when both of your glasses lower basically to the height of the table. If the group is large, it is common to tap your glass on the tabletop.
- Hold Your Own: There is nothing wrong with getting drunk, even during business dinners. It’s actually expected, as by being completely sober upon your departure, your hosts may feel as though they failed in showing you a good time. If you’re an obvious foreigner, they will probably think you can drink more. Given that the Chinese are big on handling their liquor, as a badge of honor of sorts, you’ll probably be stuck having to down whatever you’re handed. There is a funny term in China–jiudan–that translates roughly to drink courage. Make sure you train up on yours, and hopefully your ability to hold your liquor will carry you through. You may need an exceptionally strong brand of jiudan if you aren’t used to the Chinese liquors, which can be very strong and bitter.
- Know How to Say When: There are a few tips if you aren’t really on top of your game to help you save face. First, when it comes to saying cheers, you may not have to toast everyone individually. It is common to toast two or three people at a time, which will save you a few shots of liquor. Also, if you actually clink glasses with someone, it is understood that you will down your drink immediately, like a “bottoms up” decree. If you’d rather drink more slowly, you can try your skill at touching the other person’s glass with the back of your finger (as long as they are not a senior to you), which is a signal that you would like to slow down a bit. It may not work, but worth a shot. Next, drinking and driving is to be avoided. If you’re driving, you may be able to use that as an excuse to slow down your consumption. If you’re female, that may be a good enough excuse as well–woman are not subject to the same drinking pressure that men typically are, particularly in a business setting. I have seen instances of people just declaring that they don’t drink, which may be looked at suspiciously but ultimately accepted. If you’re going to do this, though, make sure you aren’t caught with a beer! But as drinkers around the world know, the safest way to maintain your control is to fill your belly–with food! Food in China, especially at banquets, is abundant and fatty. Use that to your advantage–the more you eat, the more jiudan you’ll miraculously discover.
My ID: 3:28pm, Monday, 29 December 2008: Beijing Capital International Airport
Dragonair flight KA908 from Hong Kong
I had been to Hong Kong before, so my Initial Descent into China wasn’t completely foreign to me. But yet while Hong Kong has a very international, Western feel, I expected Beijing to be much different. I remember being nervous upon walking to the immigration queue. In hindsight, the only reason was because of the Chinese government’s strict reputation and the hassle I had to go through to obtain my one-year, multiple-entry visa from the USA.
Minutes after arriving in Beijing, I realized that this country was serious about its modernization plan (the airport was immaculate), and that everything I had heard about the Olympics earlier in the year—from the facilities to the technology—was accurate. It was also a much more diverse city than I expected, with expats living here from all around the world. This was an example of how many preconceptions I had gathered, now I had to let them go to enjoy this place to the fullest.