The thing about China is that you can (if you set your mind to it) bear anything that is thrown at you.
What would you like to eat?
Anything. Whatever’s good with you is good with me!
OK, then we’ll have the cat.
Outstanding, that’s my absolute favorite.
Which is funny because the above exchange actually happened, more or less. The more comes from the fact that the English was a little bit more broken, and the less comes from me being slightly less flippant, though nearly so.
This is also funny because even in rural China, they know the Westerners misconception of their culture. He didn’t realize it in the speed of his sly remark, but he was poking fun at me, and I could not help but accept it for the truth it represented.
Another thing you can bear (besides the non-stop Chinese language all around you… why is that, by the way? In English-speaking countries, the non-stop English all around you is of no distraction. Here, the non-stop Chinese is a constant struggle of translation. The strangeness of which is further compounded by the fact that unless they are saying “Hello, how are you?”, “Thank you”, and “Goodbye” over and over again, I have no hope of translating any of it) is the driving. Here, where careening in, around, and through cars, trucks, bikes, scooters, and pedestrians is the norm, if even one of the moves that is routinely done here were done back at home, I’d be white-knuckling it all the way to my destination. While I’m here, though, being a passenger in a speeding rocketship hovering within inches of a huge, poorly made truck in front of it is no cause for alarm. Nor is crossing into oncoming traffic to pass while narrowly missing a family of three crossing the highway. It’s no big deal.
What else? What else?
Advertising. Advertising, as a rule, is awful; but, in China it is especially so. You can easily distinguish the local advertising from the Western variety trying to blend in simply by the fact that the Western variety trying to blend in does a horrible job of actually doing so. The local variety, though I can’t read it, appears to primarily be large banners with whatever is being sold written straight across in Chinese characters. I assume the equivalent is something like this:
Maybe this is more effective if you’re actually a communist. I mean, it tells you what it is, and what kind of a deal you’re getting. Very efficient, and there’s a certain level of attractiveness in that, which I now recognize as I become assimilated.
The Western advertising seems largely the same, in that there is the same copy (I assume), only this time there is the addition of some kind of Asian star dressed in ridiculous branded-clothing. I don’t mean someone selling Adidas wearing Adidas stuff. I mean someone selling, say, Pepsi, wearing an Elvis-esque jumpsuit with Pepsi emblems emblazoned around the cuffs forming a flame pattern. They are all, to a man, giving you a sexy, yet sarcastic look. Like they know they are better than you, know that you know that they are better than you, know that you know that they know they are better than you, and know that you’re just fine with the lot of it.
Incidentally, the majority of the models, pop stars, actors, etc, are also men…which I find bewildering.
Also, why do they pair desks for giants with chairs for children here?