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Friday, August 12, 2011

Great Scott! Abroad: The Youth in Asia

Recently our editor had a chance to travel to China where he got to the bottom of an age old myth and dispelled a few others.

I'm not Chinese, nor do I play jokes.  So chances are I'll never put urine in your soda.  But do they actually do that in China?  The whole pee pee in the coke thing?  Is it a popular prank amongst youths?  And what about all the other falsities and generalizations we've made about our far eastern western neighbors over the years?  Are any of them true?  Or are they just some of the many stereotypes that the US has become known for?  The answer isn't a simple one, but in short: no, no, hmm, some, probably.

Coke is everywhere in China, as it is in most of the rest of the world (or so we're told).  But the chances of finding any pee pee in your beverage is slim to none (it's much harder to hide in Sprite).  Still, to be on the safe side, make sure you're the one opening the can/bottle, or you see your waiter pour it with your own eyes.  The greatest irony is that if your Coke is served with ice, there's a good chance you'll get sick anyway, as our pathetic U.S. bodies can't handle the Chinese septic-twinged tap water.  Also, has anyone ever done an analysis of US drinking water/ice?  Chances are there's more pee in ours than theirs, especially after seeing what went on in the lovely Domino's Pizza video a few years back.

Pei Pei: definitely not in your Coke
Still, I proceeded to ask every waiter I encountered if my Coke had pee pee in it.  A few looked at me like I was crazy (I was speaking English, after all), but most of them thought I was referring to the self-proclaimed b-girl Pei Pei Yuan.  They assured me there was no chance an entire human could fit inside a soda can, but at the same time, they were impressed by my knowledge of obscure ex-pat performers.

Luckily I had an interpreter with me who spoke the language very well, but even that doesn't help when the Chinese misinterpret our language worse than we interpret theirs.  For example, one evening we went to a restaurant that offered egg rolls.  After several days in China, this was the first egg roll I had seen listed on a menu, so naturally, I wanted to try it.  My rationale being that if the U.S. interpretation of egg rolls were so delicious, than the Chinese- the original- must be out of this world, right?  Not even close.  Much to our surprise, our 11-fingered* waiter brought us what could only be the literal translation of egg roll:

It tasted as good as it looks.

Moments like these were too many to count, I learned.  Food seemed to be the greatest example of confusion, but that's not to say there weren't many other misnomers and malapropisms as well.  Like Tiananmen Square, for example, which is really more of a rectangle, and the Forbidden City, which is actually quite accessible. 

All in all though, China proved to be an amazing place.  I loved it long-time and I'm eager to go back.  The people there were both inquisitive and jovial, (in part because Big Brother is always watching them), and many locals I spoke to wanted to learn more about us (and U.S.).  I indulged them as best I could, but the majority of the conversations ended with them saying "you have a big belly" and laughing amongst their friends.

I like to think that makes me one step closer to Buddha than any of them will ever be.

*he had a second thumb on his right hand, but sadly I could not get a photo.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Maybe that's why in Japan they have either pictures or "actual plated food (ya right!)" in the windows of all the restaurants. When it's time to order, the waiter drags you to the street so you can point at what you want if you can't speak Japaneese! The first time this happened, needless to say, I wondered what this young man was going to do to this "old lady!" But you got exactly what you wanted and it did make dinner time so much more enjoyable!