Apr 8, 2010

What do Shanghai and Rochester, NY have in common?

What do Shanghai and Rochester, NY have in common? People in both places want their discount fried chicken! If they can't get it, they're mighty upset, and they're going to mope around and complain until they get the half price chicken they rightfully deserve.

Shanghai residents were angry after their KFC coupons were no longer honored:

A coupon that was available online (one example) offered KFC’s normal 64 RMB Family Bucket meal for half price (32 RMB). The coupon was valid throughout the country and only on Tuesday yesterday. Many Shanghai residents printed this coupon and brought it to their local KFC where they were eventually rejected.

First thing I thought of after reading about the Shanghai KFC situation was last year when Popeye's was in the news because they ran out of chicken in Rochester, NY. I still get a kick out of the news segment. Check it out:

I can totally understand getting upset about Popeye's running out of chicken. As far as fast food chicken goes, it's awesome, and the sides are great mashed potatoes and cajun gravy, coleslaw, biscuits. KFC is another thing, though. I consider KFC is in the same category as my neighborhood jia chang cai restaurant that sells stir-fried cat meat. I feel dirty after I eat KFC. You wouldn't find me moping around a KFC for four hours because I couldn't get their half-price chicken combo.

There was a very insightful comment from a reader on the Shanghai situtaion:
a little scary that they organize so fiercely over chicken coupons but never for the right to read any kind of book they want to or listen to any kind of music they want to

Apr 6, 2010

Disturbing bulk purchase at the grocery

There was a strange man in the checkout line in front of me at the supermarket. He looked and acted like a Chinese version of Mr. Harvey from The Lovely Bones. The man had a shopping cart loaded to capacity with 21 five-liter jugs of cooking oil. His bill came to something like 750 yuan ($110).

I can't imagine one person having a need for that much oil. I buy a one liter container of oil, and it usually lasts me six months. What is this guy doing with all that oil, deep frying horseshit and twinkies for every meal, every day of the week?

I think what it really was is that this guy's got an insatiable oil fetish. He's probably planning to fill up the bathtub completely with glistening, fresh oil, and have his Wenzhou¹ hooker take a bath in it.

There's no other possible reason. The oil fetish theory is the only one that makes sense. Who could possibly use that much oil for cooking? When you make a stir-fry, you use two or three tablespoons at most. This guy purchased 7,101 tablespoons worth of oil. At three tablespoons per stir-fry, that's still over 2,000 dishes.

Now, a bathtub typically holds 45-50 liters. Supermarket Mr. Harvey bought 105 liters of oil. That's exactly how much he'd need for two bathtubs full of oil for his oil fetish. How crazy does my theory sound now?

Wenzhou¹: Wenzhou is a southern coastal city whose main export is escorts and hookers. In China, everywhere you go you can find barber shops with signs that read "温州保健" (Wenzhou massage) in the window. This indicates that the salon in question is in fact a prosti-barber shop.

Apr 4, 2010

"I'll whup ya!"

My favorite Chinese word this week is "" (chōu). I previously knew that the verb chōu could mean "to take out" and "to smoke". This week, I accidentally discovered that it can also be used as Beijing slang to say "I'll kick your ass!" (我抽你!, literally, "I'll whip you!")

You might wonder how I made this accidental discovery. Well, I was going about my own business, crossing a small road - in the pedestrian cross-walk, mind you - and I had the green "cross" sign for my direction. All of a sudden, a Beijing taxi came careening towards me, and stopped just inches beside me, while I was legally in the crosswalk. The driver laid on his horn for a good five seconds or so, even though I had the legal right of way and I'm a pedestrian. I guess I wasn't moving fast enough for him.

Can you imagine yourself driving in the parking your neighborhood Safeway grocery store, some pedestrian crosses in front of you, and you screech to a halt inches from him, and then you add insult by blowing your horn for an extended period of time?

So I stopped walking, right in front of the cab, as he blew his horn. I gave the driver the evil stare down for few seconds. Nothing too extreme, just a little message that I wasn't pleased with his disrespect for pedestrians and disregard for motor vehicle regulations.

After a few seconds, I continued across the street and went on my way. I guess my evil eye got his goat, because the cabbie pulled over to the curb where I was walking and started shouting at me though the passenger window, across his customer that was sitting there:

Wǒ chōu nǐ! Wǒ chōu nǐ! Wǒ chōu nǐ! (Literally: "I'll whup ya!, I'll whup ya! I'll whup ya!")

I thought the cabbie was a countryside transplant with poor Mandarin skills, and he was trying to say Wǒ cào nǐ! ("I'll f-ck you!"). That curse wouldn't have made a lot of sense.

I politely responded to the crazy cabbie, "I have the right of way, that was a green light."

It was a productive day. Despite being a victim of both simple and aggravated assault in the space of a couple minutes, I learned some great Beijing slang, and I helped a taxi driver better understand pedestrian right of way.

Watch out for those Beijing cabbies, they're a crazy bunch!

Apr 2, 2010

Collectivist drinking

I was reading about how China and Asian countries have a collective mentality, while in the West, we're more individualistic:
A collectivist culture is one in which people tend to view themselves as members of groups( families, work units, tribes, nations), and usually consider the needs of the group to be more important than the needs of individuals. Most Asian cultures, including China's, tend to be collectivist.
It occurred to me that over the past weekend, I had a collectivist drinking experience at a bar.

In America, when you go to a bar, lounge, or club, you order your own cocktail or other drink. Sometimes your buddy might order a dozen tequila shots or some other shooters so everyone can have a quick bonding experience, but for the most part, you pick your own drinks. And of course, when you throw a house party in college, you might make a big bowl of jungle juice to share.

The fascinating thing is that in China, it's common to share a big cocktail with friends in an establishment outside your home. It seems to happen more when out with younger people at a bar or club, where everyone shares the same cocktail.

During our recent night on the town, the ground we were with, totaling around ten people, ordered two different group cocktails:
  • Group cocktail 1: The waiter brings out a fifth of Macallan 12 Year, five cans of Watson's club soda, and a glass carafe filled to the brim with ice cubes. He dumps in 1/3 of the scotch, half the soda water, and pours everyone a glass.
  • Group cocktail 2: Same thing, carafe of ice, but this time a fifth of Bombay Sapphire, diluted with club soda.
When I've been in situations like this, I'll skip the soda + liquor + ice concoction and just drink the scotch or gin neat. I'm on a budget and typically stick to the cheap well brands myself, so it's a real treat when someone orders higher end stuff. No sense diluting it with soda water or Coke.

I've heard that when you drink unmixed liquor, it's much easier to tell if you've been slipped fake booze, so that's another plus.