Things impolite in China

31 03 2011

Some time ago I had posted a link to a poll we started in Hefei forum about things considered impolite by foreigners living in China, meant as things that Chinese people constantly even if in a Western country they would be considered rude.. at the least (some of these things are illegal, like spitting on elevator floors!).

But then I noticed lately that I am receiving hits on my blog by people that looks for the completely opposite topic: things considered impolite by the Chinese people!

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Chinese names

30 03 2011

Today, during th long hours working on exposure in the clean room, I had a very interesting chat with my colleagues and learnt something very special and strange for us, Western people, about Chinese names and how to address people. A lot of funny things, that can provoke embarrassing situations 🙂

First of all, I must remind that China is generally much more formal than Europe (and especially than Norway) about how colleagues call each other at the working place. If someone got a ph.D. he is going to be addressed with the title 博士, bó shì, doctor, following the name. Even among colleagues, working every day together, they call each other using the title, like 杨博士, doctor Yáng. Also many refer to each other

Doctor Yáng is my colleague that lived long time abroad and when he introduces himself always says his full name 杨毓铭, Yáng Yùmíng, and then ask the people to call him by the first name only, 毓铭, Yùmíng. This is not so common in China, but for him it’s different after 7 years in Singapore. Still at work, when people has to call him at the phone in clean room, for example, or if addressed by a girl, it is always 杨博士, doctor Yáng.

This latter case introduces also a special situation: if a girl would address my friend by 毓铭, Yùmíng, only, then it means that they are close friends, maybe boyfriend-girlfriend, anyway extremely close (part of the same family or childhood friends or something special). If then the name has only one character, as in the case of my girlfriend 潘蕾, Pān Lěi (潘, Pān = family name; 蕾, Lěi = given name), a boy addressing to her by using only 蕾, Lěi, implies the boy is the boyfriend. Yùmíng would never call her Lěi, but always Pān Lěi. Even relatives would refer to her as 蕾蕾, LěiLěi, more than just the one character name! I also use generally 蕾蕾.

Similarly with a boy, for example another colleague whose name is 沈轩, Shén Xuān, nobody at work, especially no male colleague will ever address him as 轩, Xuān, only: that would be very gay! So he is always 沈轩, Shén Xuān, for everybody.. except for me that I call him Bob!!! His name is a nightmare to pronounce in Chinese, so I gave him one of he easiest English name.. as Mathias used the same name, Bob, for my dear friend Svein, after several attempts to pronounce correctly his name!!! 🙂

Also, if 2 people are close and then one wants to use the name of the other person to show the closeness, in a 2 character names, the second character would be used: taking again the example of 杨毓铭, Yáng Yùmíng, a girl very close to him would call him 铭, Míng, because that is the part of the full name that is actually considered as the person name. The second character, 毓, Yù, in this case, is related to the “position” of a person inside a family. Nobody would call a person using the second character only. Brothers might have the second character in common. Anyway, this was not very easy to have explained by my colleagues.

Another way to address people might be using the term 老, lǎo (old), as a form of respect: if for example, the family name was 王, Wáng, a common way to call an experienced person would be 老王, lǎo Wáng, to distinguish maybe from younger people (王 is an extremely common Chinese surname) or to pay respect. With my Chinese name, 安迪, ān dí, I could be called 老安, using only the first character of my name.

Many things so different from our Western customs: I explained my colleagues here that in the work environment in Europe people is much less formal. Calling with the first name, even superiors, is normal. In Norway, even at university, there is very little formality even between students and teachers. It was actually difficult for me to adapt to call the professor by only the family name, if not by the first name, and not add Dr., Mr, Prof. or something more honorific.

I must add that being a laowai I can make more mistakes than the other people: they would laugh a little and then explain me, but I do not think that they would be offended for some lack of necessary social formality from me 😉

Lazy and unlucky

28 03 2011

A Sunday when I have been a really lazy person: from the plan to go in the morning to buy some plants for my apartment and then in the afternoon go out for some jogging, I ended up doing some translation in the morning.. and keep watching movies in the afternoon, enjoying a relaxing day.. without moving much farther than my bedroom..

So today after a normal day at work, meaning finally no required jia ban 加班, overtime, I came home with good intentions: get some sport clothes on and go out for a short but necessary run. Just before that, better unload some.. lunch.. and then it’s when I discovered that except the toilet water, all the rest was.. closed!!!

And it still is.. almost at 9pm.. so no chances  for shower after jogging.. so, good intentions down the drain, with the little last water left..

At least I could enjoy a great sunset (pictures not edited!)..



28 03 2011

Saturday I was walking around the center, first time in ages, and, first time in my life, I assisted to a pickpocket thief in action, I think contributing to the failure of this low-life.

I have been a target of these people in the center of Hefei, but when it happened to me, I was not that angry. But I can think that the girl target of the thief Saturday would have been really angry!

I was walking around a shopping center located at the very beginning of the walking street in Hefei center. There is a bus station, with several stops and a block of shops, covered by an arcade, for 3 sides. It is the first block at the cross Huaihe lu (pedestrian street) and Suzhou lu. Always lots of people there.

So I was actually a little surprised when I walked in the arcade part and past me, in the opposite direction went a girl with a boy trailing after her, very close to the shop windows and walking almost in crouched stance, very close behind her. At that moment, in that arcade area I could only notice myself and these pair. So I first thought the guy was the girl’s boyfriend of friend trying to play a trick to her, but something wrong caught my attention, so I kept staring, even when the girl had passed me. She noticed I was staring and suddenly she felt the presence of someone behind her, trying maybe to reach into her coat pocket. At that moment, when she started turning, the guy jumped back, turned and pretended to do his own business.. then I also stopped, looked around and.. clearly saw another guy, a few steps in front of me getting eye contact with the thief and then turning looking at me.

Clearly the two low-lives were together: the girl checked her pockets and started looking around and to me.. I sort of nodded to her and point to the guys that at that point were walking together around the corner. Then I decided to change direction, and walk back toward the walking street, as the girl did. I turned just to notice the two guys were walking back, following us/me?

Can’t say that, but my awareness/paranoia had spiked, so I walked back to the beginning of the pedestrian street, notice a guard there and just stationed myself to the side of the guard, looking over where these two thieves were. Waited some time then left, keeping my bag close to my body and often checking my pockets 😉

The situation appeared so obvious that seemed unnatural to me. The thieves also did not look like Chinese people, more East China people: this sounds like discrimination but unfortunately it is a fact that several thieves in Chinese larger cities come from that area. I’m not saying they are all bad people, as not all Rom or Romanian people are bad.. but there are several that are evil! I just know for myself, I have to look out! Too easy targeting a laowai like me..

Practice in Shanghai

24 03 2011

Thanks to an interesting participation to SEMICON exhibition in Shanghai, last week, I had a chance to do 3 things I do far too little:

  1. Wear my super special cool stylish suit (not “dress“.. på Norsk 😉 )
  2. Practice 2 week nights Aikido: once in Shanghai International dojo and once in the very new Xijiao Shanghai Aikido dojo, in West Shanghai, started by my dear friends Ulrich and Didier!
  3. Eat a wonderful Italian style pizza!!!

2 Aikido session over 3 short days in Shanghai.. several hours on subway for moving around.. totally worth it!!

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Shanghai, city with no soul!

23 03 2011

Last week I participated with my company to a large exhibition in Shanghai: SEMICON 2011. It is the second time the company sent me to such an exhibition, after Shenzhen 2010, focused on PCB equipment.

Comparing the two events a few huge differences pop up at once!

Ok, Shanghai meeting is much larger, but the first thing I noticed at once, very different from Shenzhen, was the amount of people outside the main hall entrance selling (!) the entrance pass!! Given that it was free admittance after registration on the web, I guess those must have been special passes for conferences or similar related to the exhibition.. but in Shenzhen there was nothing like that!!

Also, once inside, I have been approached at least 5 times by a typical character in Shanghai (more than other large Chinese cities, from my experience!!): men or women welling fake Rolex or similar watches!! When one walks in Nanjing Road, walking street in center of Shanghai, every 10 meters these weird people approach every foreigner strolling by offering these “real” Rolex at very good price.. But I did not expect to have these people inside the semiconductor exhibition (full of guards and policemen, by the way)!

Great lasagneThe food offer was quite incredible in Shanghai. McDonalds everywhere (bleah!) but several other little restaurants, I guess related to larger one in the city. With my colleague, we tried once an Italian one: panini and lasagne!! And lasagne was extremely good, thinking it was a “mass production” (and quite expensive as well, but I can accept to pay for good food!).

Exhibition in ShanghaiFurthermore almost all the stands had models, not only pretty girls from the companies dressed up to show around.. and some of these were.. wow.. Even my company got one of them.. a typical KTV girl, dress nicely, paid to stay at the booth and smile.. with nothing to do all the day.. I think she had more fun working at KTV, but this was only taking part of her daytime 😉 (the two in the picture were from the stand in front of us.. no they are not my colleagues.. unfortunately!)

Shanghai has no soul, only heart for business!

I do not say that: it was told to me by a few different friends that live there, both foreigners and locals!! People that has lived in other cities as well..

Walking around ShanghaiI always liked Shanghai, but I understand now much better my friend’s words. I still have a great fun when local friends take me out walking and show me where Shanghai still has a soul.. but I can see the business attitude or mind much more clearly now. And I can’t say I like it. On the other hand, I see where Hefei is still much more attached to Chinese traditions. Also Hefei of course has set business as new god, as most of Chinese places, but being still a village respect to Shanghai, it still keeps some of that innocence that Shanghai lost..

Thinking about Shanghai reminds words from Guccini’s song Bologna:

Bologna è una ricca signora che fu contadina:
benessere, ville, gioielli… e salami in vetrina,
che sa che l’ odor di miseria da mandare giù è cosa seria
e vuole sentirsi sicura con quello che ha addosso, perchè sa la paura.
Bologna is a rich lady, once a farmer:
wealth, villas, jewels.. and sausages in the shop windows
someone that knows that to swallow the poverty smell is serious stuff
and wants to feel safe with what she wears, because she knows what fear is..

I hope the video below is really the song I was looking for.. can’t check it from China 🙂

Let’s see if I will ever have a working experience in Shanghai!!

On the way back home, feeling so materialistic and without soul as Shanghai can make people (I know, terrible excuse) I just enjoyed the panorama that Hongqiao station offered:

pretty legs at Hongqiao station

..with a romantic note (yes, I just turned around after the legs-shot!!)

sunset at Hongqiao station

Western spring!

22 03 2011

Official beginning of spring, not only Chinese spring, but the same as the rest of the world!! 🙂

beginning of springAnd yesterday, right on time, was also the official start of the bad season, with rain and cold! So much cold that during the night I had my hands almost frozen while I was writing posts for the blog!
Apparently only the very first spring day is supposed to be.. terrible, as it was (about 70mm of rain in a couple of days!)! The weather forecast for the week are for cloudy but not too rainy. Of course the previous days had spoiled us, with even a top temperature already close to 30 degrees Celsius! The main difference for the next days is a substantial drop of the minimum temperature, even reaching again the zero degrees for the cold hours on the night.

And this morning, walking to the shuttle bus stop, the sun was finally breaking the monotonic cloudy sky, and bringing both warmth and better feelings.. at least for the morning.. before spending another full day in the yellow lights of the windowless clean room. Every time getting out one wonders what weather to expect! 🙂

beginning of spring
beginning of spring beginning of spring