Sep 21, 2010

Making change in a store: China vs. Norway

In China:

Cashiers in China are change hoarders. It doesn't matter if they're working at KFC, Wal-Mart, or a local convenience store. At least once per day in Beijing — not exaggerating here — I will be asked by a cashier if I have exact change, or close to exact change. Transactions in China are much more cash-based than in the US, where we tend to use credit cards a lot more, which may explain the focus on conserving change.

You'd think that in such an environment, the store manager would delegate someone to run over to the local bank in the morning, and get bundles of ones, fives, tens, and some other assorted change. In China, there really are no large bills. The largest note is 100 yuan, or about $15. I'd have no problem being asked for smaller bills if, for example, I were trying to buy a pack of gum with a $100 bill.

One positive about this change hoarding mentality is that it's incredibly easy to get rid of all your loose change. At one point I had amassed probably 10 pounds of Chinese coins. And there's no Coinstar to be found! "What to do?", I thought.

So I got some Scotch tape and taped my various coins together so they were in little bundles of 1 yuan, 5 yuan, or 10 yuan, depending on the denomination of the coin. I took them with me in my little fanny pack to the local market, and boy, you would not believe the positive reaction I got. Every single merchant I bought vegetables and meat from wanted my coin collection. Some of them even traded me paper bills for the coins. I thought it would take me a month to get rid of all those annoying coins, but I dumped them all in about 20 minutes.

I can't imagine the look of disgust the cashier at Safeway would give me if I tried to pawn off a few rolls of pennies and nickles on her.

In Norway:

My experience has been that Norwegian cashiers get confused if you try to help them save their change. They have no interest in giving you the most efficient amount of change, they just want to give you your change and go to their smørbrød break.

Example: My total at the local RIMI grocery store came to 236 kroner. So I pull out:
  • one 200 kroner note
  • two 20 kroner coins
  • six 1 kroner coins
To put it simply, my bill was 236, and I gave 246. The result is that the clerk only needs to give me one 10 kroner coin back as change. A cashier in Beijing would love me for being so considerate.

The Norwegian cashier, upon taking my various kroners, blanked out completely for about five seconds. She just stared in bewilderment at the pile of money I handed her, and then, a look of realization. "Ohhh", she said, finally (or something like that in Norsk), and fished out my 10 kroner coin.

Sep 19, 2010

"It places the lotion in the basket."

I couldn't help but think of Silence of the Lambs when I walked by this Chinglish sign the first time:

"It has some of Beijing's the cheapest mobile phones and SIM cards"

Sep 15, 2010

Something that costs the same in Norway and China

Nearly everything in Norway is way more expensive than in China. A glass of regular local beer at a restaurant in Norway will run you about $13. In China, a glass of beer at a casual outdoor place is $0.75, or at the most $5 at an upscale restaurant.

I've uncovered one item, however, that is nearly the same price in both countries: frozen Chinese crayfish. Check it out.

"Kinesisk Kreps" in a Norwegian RIMI supermarket, $9.62 / kg.

"香辣龙虾" in my local Beijing supermarket, $
9.17 / kg ($7.68 / kg on sale)

Who would have thought? Anyway, you won't catch me eating these crayfish. My local sources in Beijing indicate that these crayfish swim and root in raw sewage. Not something I'm looking to ingest.

Sep 12, 2010

Pinky nail freak

This is a dude on the Beijing subway with a very long pinky nail. I've seen longer ones, but this one is still pretty gross.

This picture makes me lose my appetite, so I just had to share it. Enjoy.

Why would a man want to grow a long pinky nail like this in the first place? I think it's very unsanitary.

Sep 10, 2010

Rice washin' stick!

I seen this thing in a Beijing supermarket: a Japanese-branded "rice washin' stick" (洗米棒). (My personal translation of the product name)

Who would have thought you'd need a whisk-looking plastic thing to help you wash your rice? I usually just add water to the rice I get at the supermarket, turn on the rice cooker, and 20 minutes later, boom, perfect rice.

This is apparently how you use it (found on Google image search).

Sep 8, 2010

Dressing like a Ho

Spotted in the Kerry Center mall in Beijing:

What type of "Ho" is the model trying to be? Perhaps this is the slutty secretary look.

Sep 2, 2010

Beijing duty free booze

This post is meant as a reference point for expats in Beijing. What I've got here are bunch of pictures of the most recent booze selection at the Beijing airport duty free. Keep in mind that you can get all or most of these things on the way back into Beijing, not just on the outbound.

Below each photo, I've listed how much each thing is, and what the same thing would cost in California at a retail store.

  • Too expensive: Bacardi 1 L: CNY 102 (Price at BevMo in California for 750 ml: CNY 75)
  • Good price: Bacardi Gold 1 L: CNY 102 (Price at BevMo in California for 750 ml: CNY 108)
  • Good price: Bombay Sapphire 1 L: CNY 137 (Price at BevMo in California for 750 ml: CNY 136)

  • Good price: Absolut 1 L: CNY 130 (Price at BevMo in California: CNY 136)

  • Too expensive: Belvedere 1 L: CNY 287 (Price at BevMo in California for 750 ml: CNY 204)

  • Normal price: Baileys, 1 L: CNY 143 (Price at BevMo in California: CNY 142.63)

  • Good price: Bowmore Scotch 12 Year, 750 ML: CNY 219 (Price at BevMo in California: CNY 299)

  • Good price: Cointreau Liqueur, 1 L: CNY 157 (Price at BevMo in California for 750 ml: CNY 217)