Saturday, September 15, 2007

Top signs you’re turning into a local

Last week, I took a phone call during dinner and was told by some friends that I was turning in to a local. I apologized; I should have known better. It’s rude to answer a phone while eating dinner, especially if you don’t even leave the table. But here in China, people even take phone calls during meetings. It’s annoying. I hate it; and I did it myself. Living in China for a while can affect even the most diehard Westerners, but just in case they can’t tell, I’ve listed the top ways that people can be “localized.”

You spit on the street. You are super local if you inhale first or clear your throat like you are hocking a lugie.

You cover your mouth when you laugh. This really only applies to women. It is interesting to note that in China, women cover their mouths when they laugh as if it’s rude to show their teeth, while men are allowed to spit chewed up food back onto their plates. The equal rights movement has not quite made it to this side of the Pacific.

You wear short sleeve dress shirts. It’s hotter than heck outside. Why would you want to wear a long sleeve cotton shirt when there are short sleeve polyester blends?

You can use a squat toilet. Extra bonus points if you don’t need stall doors, or stalls at all for that matter.

You don’t own a credit card. If you’ve made the switch to a totally paper-based monetary system and lost the desire for consumer debt, you have lost your right to consider yourself a Westerner. Some banks in China recently raised the daily withdrawal limit on ATMs to 20,000 RMB. That’s over $2,600 US, per day! In the US, the typical daily limit is $500. Even though $2,600 is more than what most people in China make in a year, sometimes you need to be able to withdraw enough money to pay for your new Zegna suit.

You take the bus. Only a local would be willing to squeeze onto a tight bus, to drive really slowly to some unpopular part of town, just to save the $2 cab fare.

You randomly yell when you need service. This is most common at restaurants, since in other locations, the service people are in your face. If you are in need of assistance, the proper response is to wait until you catch your waiter’s attention and signal for it. It’s not to look at a waiter 20 feet away and yell, “Fuwuyuan!”


Thomas said...

You forgot to include local Chinese's ability to inhale second hand smoke and loving every minute of it!


Anonymous said...

You are good on observation! don't forget people in China still look at you as a foreigner.

Katie said...

Um, I take the bus. What's wrong with taking the bus?

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ on taking bus/subway. Have you ever tried to get a cab during rushhour or rain? Love the public transist in Shanghai, clean and above all, SAFE. Also, it forces me to walk more.