Please

Please. 
Thank you.
Simple, and I was taught that saying these three words is an important part of being polite and considerate.

A new expat friend recently asked me what the Chinese word is for please. It is pronounced “ching” (pinyin=qing), but I told her she won’t hear it very often, and there doesn’t seem to be an expectation to use it. 

In an effort to improve my comprehension of spoken Mandarin I spend a lot of time eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. I never hear please. 

I asked my Chinese teacher and she told me the time when it would be expected is when I want to ask someone a question. “Ching wan” translates to “please (may I) ask” …and then the actual question. 

It felt weird to me also when I first arrived to not be using please as liberally as I would at home, or even in other countries. I always try to learn three phrases in the local language when I am traveling:
Please. Por favor. S’il vous plait.
Thanks. Gracias. Merci.
Where is the bathroom?

My friend seems determined to use the word now that she knows it, but like me, she may eventually give up after a while. 

I am still trying to give up smiling because Chinese people don’t really do that either. #culturaldifferences 

One of my struggles with living in the most populated city on the planet is my American belief that living here for everyone would be better if we showed each other more kindness, but I recognize that perhaps my version of it may not be the best for this culture.

(Images from Google image search)

Restaurant Dining in Shanghai

There are some things about dining in restaurants in Shanghai that I find odd.

  1. Only 1 menu per table. And lots of the menus are like Cheesecake Factory – they are like 20 pages, in part because there are pictures of the dishes. And since Dave likes to thoroughly read menus, only having one menu means taking turns.
  2. Sometimes the server will seat us, and then stand at the table waiting for us to order. This feels awkward to me, in part because of the previous point. We need some time with the 1 menu, but haven’t had much success so far in asking the server, in their local language, to come back in a few minutes.
  3. Restaurants don’t serve cold water. This is one of my frustrations when traveling in Europe also. But in Europe they typically serve room-temperature water. In Shanghai, the water is hot. Hot water means, to the locals, that the water is safe. I have learned how to ask in Mandarin for ice cubes.
  4. Food comes out in some random order. In the US, even at Applebees, when you order a salad or an appetizer, it comes out first before your main dish. And the main dishes come out at the same time for all people at the table. Because food comes out randomly, this can mean you are watching other people eat while you wait for your food.
  5. The servers never come back to ask if you’d like dessert. I like this because it has removed a temptation that I am not always able to ignore.
  6. The servers will bring the bill before the food comes out of the kitchen. I like this one also because when I am ready to leave it saves me from having to track down my server.

I still find eating at a sit-down restaurant in Shanghai to be a little intimidating. I don’t know the language, but I have found some success in acting like a two-year old and just pointing at what I want.

Shrimp and rice – my go-to dish

What do people from other countries find quirky about eating in restaurants in the US?

Week 1 as an expat in China

One week down, and approximately 78 to go. Seriously though, I think I accomplished lots during my first week in Shanghai.

My first challenge was to get over the jetlag. The flight here was my longest ever – 14 hours from Detroit to Shanghai, after a flight from Minneapolis to Detroit. I drank lots of water, got some rest, and still had a bad case of jetlag. Part of my struggle is that it gets dark here earlier in the evening than at home. China doesn’t observe DST. It gets light very early in the morning, which I love, but I also love long summer nights with lots of light, and that doesn’t happen here. Sunset tonight will be 7 pm.

I have really struggled with the heat and humidity. And it rains a lot. I hate sweating. My apartment has an indoor pool, which is kept at a great temperature. I have been in the pool every day since I arrived – in part for exercise, but also because it cools me off to be in the pool.

I have two cats and one dog at home in Minnesota. DH and I discussed bringing one or two of the cats over to Shanghai, and in the ended decided they should stay home. The three animals are really bonded, and I didn’t want to break that up. But I wanted a pet, so we went to a pet adoption event in Shanghai back in April, and met a cat named Rafael. And he is now our cat! We brought him home on my second day, and I am having so much fun getting to know him.

Even though I just arrived, I’ve already planned a trip, because that is who I am and what I like to do. It will be a quick trip next weekend to Tokyo for DH’s birthday.

I started language lessons. Learning Mandarin feels a bit like climbing Mt Everest, but I have a great tutor. Wish me luck. It seems like this will be one of my biggest challenges.

One of my other challenges will be the patience required with the slow internet here. Cue the old dial-up sound from the 1990’s.

I am still in withdrawal from giving up diet Mt Dew. I haven’t spent all day, every day looking for my favorite pop/soda, but I have looked for it.

When you think of China, what animal do you think of? Giant Pandas! I made a quick trip to the Shanghai Zoo this week. I didn’t stay long because of the heat, but I saw two pandas, stopped by the giraffes, and saw a few other animals also. Most of the animals were napping. I want to go back, but I will wait until the weather is cooler.

Wait…not done yet…

I joined a weekly get together at a coffee shop of Shanghai’s American Club. As an introvert, going to events like this are outside of my comfort zone, but I am so glad I did. I will be joining this expat group, and want to volunteer with them also. I met six awesome women and look forward to getting to know them, and the rest of the club, over the coming weeks and months.

I know I will encounter Shang “lows” as well as Shang “highs” while I am here. I am keeping myself entertained laughing at translation errors, and cultural differences/oddities.

Child-sized toilets. They are cute, but would you let a child that small go to the bathroom alone? There really isn’t room for the child and an adult in the stall.

I’ve bought milk in bags in Canada, but they were at least one liter. This is the smallest bag of milk I’ve ever seen.

Most signs in Shanghai are in English, even if the words are awkward and not what we would use in the US.

I hate snakes! I didn’t try the Smiley Fotato Grid. I assume it is potato, but couldn’t really work out what the dish would be.

I’ve learned the number 4 is unlucky in China. But where is 13? There are three other apartments on my floor- numbered 1-3, but I am in apartment #5, instead of 4.