Jul 21, 2011

WSJ video: living like cooped up rats in a Hong Kong apartment

The Wall Street Journal has some great stories usually. However, this article and video showing four people living like rats cooped up in 150 square food apartment in Hong Kong is a little off.

Have a look:

The first thing that tipped me off that this article is a bit sensationalized is the tentant's name, "Yang Lianchun". This is not a Hong Kong Cantonese transliteration, it's a Mainland Chinese name spelled using pinyin. The article does mention briefly that she moved to Hong Kong from Mainland China, but they don't mention much more. She's moved away from a bad life in the Mainland to try and make it in one of the most expensive cities with a meager income, and now she's got an even worse life.

In the US, it would be like a fry cook from Big Boy packing up and trying to make it in New York City on $500 a month. It would be the same story: a tiny, cramped apartment, and an unpleasant standard of living. You'd be stuck there until you hit on something where you could start pulling in more income.

I've visited apartments of normal Hong Kong folks in Hong Kong, and yes, they are small, but they don't live live rats cooped up in a cage like this lady. This is the background they don't give you in the article. Normal Hong Kong people live like people, although much less square footage than in the US. With good interior design, you can do a lot with a small apartment.

My view of this lady is, hey, give it a go in Hong Kong, but if you can't hack it, suck it up and move to the New Territories, or just go back to the Mainland and get a government "iron rice bowl" type job.

Jul 11, 2011

The stupidest, or funniest, Chinese waidiren alive

On a recent United Airlines flight to California from Beijing, I had the pleasure or displeasure, not sure which, of sitting directly in front of a 40 something Chinese man with a waidi accent in Mandarin (to be specific, a central China, chicken sounding accent). I got a nice earful of his chicken accent as I sat in front of him and he yakked loudly on his cell phone prior to departure.

Throughout the coach section where I sat (Economy Plus, nonetheless — it's like an upgrade from McDonalds to Burger King) there were two dozen college sophomore students, dressed identically with the same t-shirt bearing the name of their English language school. They were presumably headed to the US for a cultural tour including the wonders of California, I suppose things like 215 cards and In-n-Out Burger.

To my left sat two of these college sophomores, both female. They were quite well behaved, and didn't speak, snore, or bump me throughout the entire flight. These are my ideal seatmate for a trans Pacific flight. The the left of the waidi gentleman behind me sat two college sophomore boys.

The waidi fellow behind me, by comparison, would cross and uncross his legs, jostling my seat back. After one such jostle, I turned and stared at him through the gap between the seats. "What?", he asked in an irritated, defiant tone. I stared at him a few more uncomfortable seconds and turned around. As we neared the end of the flight in the US, the waidi gentleman loudly gurgled phlegm in his throat. It was not quite the full out Mainland loogie-hawk, of course, but the stage right before, kind of like a warm up loogie-hawk.

This is not my ideal seatmate on a plane.

To return to the story, at some point after the first meal during the flight, the show began. Mr. Waidi started his conversation with the college boy next to him. The dialog, in Mandarin originally, was something like this:
Mr. Waidi: So are you part of a educational tour to America?

College boy: [Describes the tour and where they are going]

Mr. Waidi: [Changes the topic] You know, they tip in restaurants in America. The restaurants aren't that great to eat at, but they are expensive.

College boy: Really?

Mr. Waidi: Oh, yes. You generally need to start at 10% for the tip, and if they do a really great job, you can go up to 20%.

[I bet the waitstaff loves this guy. The 10% tipper.]

College boy: I see

Mr. Waidi: [New topic] Luxury goods are a good deal in America compared to in Beijing. You should buy a Louis Vuitton bag while you're there.

[Yes, college students have the budget for Louis Vuitton. Good call, waidiren.]

College boy: Really?

Mr. Waidi: Of course. In America, a Louis Vuitton bag will cost only $1,000 or $2,000. In China it would be $3,000-$4,500.

College boy: I don't think I'll need to buy a designer bag.

[At this point I start to chuckle to myself as I picture this waidi ren with a shovel of pig manure in one hand and a $2,000 Louis Vuitton man purse in the other, traipsing around his hometown sludge pit in Henan or Hunan or Wuhan or wherever.]

Mr. Waidi:
You should consider getting one for your father then. How's your father?

College boy: Oh, he's good.

Mr. Waidi: Yes, you should certainly get something for you parents.

College boy: Ok.

[Ha! I can picture this one even better. The father's sauntering around the village in a straw hat and flip flops, yellowed and moth eaten t-shirt rolled up to his nipples and exposing his belly fat, and under his left arm he has a Louis Vuitton bag. "My son made it in the big city, he sent me this fancy bag." This is great material. I love it.]

Mr. Waidi: High end golf clubs are another good thing to get.

College boy: Oh?

Mr. Waidi: Yes, in Beijing, the high end golf clubs are much more expensive. The golf stores charge a lot for them. America is a great place to get some good clubs if you play the game.

[At this point, I picture the gentleman at the edge of a farm near his hometown, sewage ditch right nearby, hitting Titleists with his $500 driver off into dried dirt.]
At this point my drugs (just kidding, only over the counter stuff for me, no Ambien or downers here, I'm 100% natural) began to take hold and I fell asleep.

After the final meal before landing, the pristine headlands of northern California were visible. We passed over the usual suburban scenery, and I got treated to this concluding dialog:
Mr. Waidi: [Speaking to the college boy] Look over there, I see a golf course. I don't remember there being a golf course in that area before.
College boy: Hmm.
Mr. Waidi: Yes, I really need to get over to that course.

My conclusion after hearing all these amusing stories and comments, spoken with an accent in Mandarin even worse than that of Mao Tse-tung or Hu Jiantao, is:
  • I get much more amusement sitting in front of a waidi clown for 11 hours than I have had sitting in front of a screaming baby or a barking Shih Tzu.
  • I occurred to me that this man was demonstrating his social status and value to a young college boy. Knowing that as single men, we will often demonstrate our social value to women, although not in such a pompous way, I can understand what he's doing. I can only assume that this was a drawn out pick up attempt, and at some point, phone numbers were exchanged. If I'm correct and this was a pick up attempt, I commend the waidi man and hope he does well. His game was pretty sloppy, but he was rather confident with himself.
  • If this was not a pickup attempt, then I must say that we need to really tighten up our visa interviews in whatever consulate issued this fellow a visa to visit our fine country.
If you're at a California golf course, and you're behind a twosome with a Chinese gentleman who drives fifty yards and carries a $3,000 Louis Vuitton man purse, you may have met my airplane seatmate buddy.

[Note: the Chinese term waidiren (外地人, "outside person") refers to anyone not from Beijing, Shanghai, or whatever big city you are in. In Beijing, the folks throwing litter on the street, spitting as they walk, and letting their children urinate in the gutter are more often than not waidiren. The easiest way to check is to verify the first three digits of a persons ID card, or shenfenzheng. This number is issued at birth based on the city of residence at that time, and does change if one moves in the future.]

Jul 5, 2011

People writing about being a john in China vs. in Canada

The occurrence of the two similar stories, one in China and one in Canada, had good timing:
Check out the teeth on this Guangxi fellow. Did the VD make his gums get like that? Yikes!