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Thursday, April 27, 2006

I really am Chinese! 

Thursday, April 27, 2006 - written around 9:30am on the airplane

One of the most notable differences of China between this trip, and when I went in 1992 is how Westernized the country (or at least Shanghai) has become.

The last time I came, I stayed in a large city in Southern China and in Beijing. It was very clear to me, and to the locals that I was not from there. I remember a lot of people asking me what I was. No one ever asked me if I was a Chinese-born American. Instead, they asked if I was from Japan, Korean, and once, Hawaiian (which made the most sense to me). I remember thinking that I wasn’t considered Chinese at all.

I naturally assumed that the same thing would happen this time – boy was I wrong! Because the culture in Shanghai is so westernized now, it turns out that I blend in with all of the locals! I had several workers from our hotel (which caters to International travelers) approach me and speak to me in Mandarin. I also had people at restaurants speak to me in Chinese, even though they had just spoken to everyone else in the group (Dick and his colleagues) in English. Imagine their surprise when I look at them with absolutely no comprehension, and I tell them that I don’t understand in English.

The irony here is that even if I did speak Chinese, my family speaks Cantonese, not Mandarin.

While I was spending the days by myself site seeing, I noticed that a few people spoke to me in Chinese before realizing that I didn’t understand. I think this worked very well for me. When I joined Dick’s group in the evenings, they would occasionally asked if I was approached on the streets by the men selling fake merchandise (watches, purses, etc.,) The truth is, I hadn’t been approached at all. They were amazed by this because tourists here are notoriously approached by these scalpers. I guess the fact that I’m Chinese, and I intentionally walked around with a sense of authority led many people to believe that I’m from here!

The best story I have about “being Chinese” happened last night.

A funny thing happened when we returned to our hotel last night...

We had spent the evening with Dick’s boss and colleagues. We had dinner at “Laris” (thanks for the name, Aditya!), on The Bund, and then went over to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Pudong for drinks and cigars afterwards. It was extraordinarily cool, by the way. The bar is on the 84th floor of the building.

Anyway, Dick and I returned to our hotel sometime after midnight.

We started walking towards the elevators, when we were stopped by one of the hotel staff.

He said something in English, but all I heard was “friend”.

What? We have a friend waiting for us?
We have a message from a friend?

The next thing I know, the guy turns to me, and starts to speak quickly in Chinese. I told him in English that I didn’t understand him.

That’s when Dick and I figured it out: this guy didn’t realize that Dick and I were “together” (this has happened a few times, including when we checked in). Dick told him that we were together and we went directly to the elevator.

As we talked about what happened, I told Dick that I think this guy had assumed that Dick was an American visitor, and that he was bringing a “Chinese friend” up to his room with him! I remember reading a section in the Hotel information folder in the room, there were specific rules about “bringing guests to your room” and what was acceptable, and what wasn’t.

So, just so we're clear:
They thought I was a hooker!

This is Dick's new favorite story.

And you hooker name? Trixie! :-)
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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway --- oh right, I *am* my own employer! ;)

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