Unforgettable 中国 experiences!!
It would be interesting to hear people's most unforgettable experiences in China or to do with Chinese! Anyone who has ever been to China will undoubtedly have either a funny/embarrassing/awkward/upsetting experience to share! So use this group to tell us all your stories.
My most unforgettable experience happened to me a couple of years ago when I was a student living in Beijing. I was moving down to Shanghai with all my stuff and decided to take the sleeper train down in order to save some money (being a poor student and all!) So I jumped into a taxi with four huge bags and headed towards the train station. Due to ridiculously heavy Beijing traffic I arrived at the station only 10 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave. With no cash on me (stupidly), and no more money left to buy another train ticket if I missed this one, I naturally began to panic! I politely (and rather desperately) asked a couple of men if they would help me with my bags - but they would only do it for 50quai! Then, with only 7 minutes to get onto the train I burst into tears! Luckily, one man felt sorry for me, so grabbed my bags and legged it towards the train station, with me sprinting closely behind him. Once inside we had a job to push our way through the crowd of people and security, at which point I really did believe I was going to miss the train! However, out of the middle of nowhere, this 10 year old Chinese boy shouted ' 我 帮助你' and promptly ran ahead screaming to everyone to 'move out the way!' We had created so much of a stir that a policeman was now also following us trying to stop the guy carrying my luggage as he didn't have a ticket. Anyways, I don't know how we did it, but we managed to get me and all my luggage onto the train just as the doors were closing - a definite photo finish! Sadly the poor man who had helped with my bags received a hit to the head by a baton and escorted away by the policeman. I never got the opportunity to thank him for his kindness.
TalOctober 23, 2009, 07:51 AM
I'm going to have to think carefully about this, I have a number of anecdotes but cannot select one now.
Straightaway though I have to say thanks to ousijia for both this thread (great idea!) and that wonderful story. I particularly liked the detail of
the poor man who had helped with my bags received a hit to the head by a baton and escorted away by the policeman.
That'll teach him! How could he be so unChinese? In China it seems, no good deed goes unpunished, (quite literally!)
bodaweiOctober 23, 2009, 12:19 PM
Great story. I once asked a Chinese friend what really happens to these guys who get dragged away in this manner. He said in English (perhaps his translation was awkward) that they are taken away for 'special treatment'.
sherryhongmeiOctober 23, 2009, 12:30 PM
In fact, most Chinese are helpful. I am a Chinese. I can help you in your chinese learning. And I would like to learn English, it will be kind of you to help me in my English learning.
TalOctober 23, 2009, 02:26 PM
The first time my wife and I went to Hong Kong we were keen to economize, so she had booked us into a ‘budget hotel’ amusingly called ‘The Embassy Hotel’. She had heard of it through a friend I think. It was in one of those high buildings on Nathan Road. We squeezed into a tiny lift, ascended several floors, and then squeezed through a narrow door to enter a tiny lobby.
As we checked in at the tiny front desk, I found myself rather shocked to see a framed picture of Adolf Hitler hanging on one wall. It was only slight consolation to me that Margaret Thatcher was on the facing wall, with George Bush (junior) just round the corner. This was a totally new and unexpected situation to be in. It was one of those times in life when no previous experience has given you a clue what to do. What was an appropriate response? Should one say something? Speak out with some sort of indignant complaint? Storm out and look for accommodation where images of war criminals were not openly displayed? I looked around at the few other people there, all of them Chinese. No one seemed to think there was anything odd about this situation. I was tired of course, eager for a drink and a lie down, so I kept my mouth shut.
It turned out that each room was named after a country. ‘America’ and ‘England’ were the best rooms in the place, they had windows and just enough room to swing a cat. We were in ‘Italy’. I was dismayed when I saw it. No windows, maybe 5 or 6 square feet of floor space, nowhere to put clothes or belongings. But there was a big Italian flag pinned to the wall above the bed, a little picture of the leaning tower of Pisa on another wall, a faded postcard of Sophia Loren, a tiny plastic model of Michelangelo’s David glued to the top of the miniature ‘bedside cabinet’. Someone is thinking big here, I realized. There’s a mind somewhere around here with a concept.
Later I met the manager, a young Hong Kong guy who told me he’d done a degree in ‘Hotel Management’ in the UK. I couldn’t resist asking him about the Hitler picture.
“You know some people might consider that rather offensive,” I told him.
“Why?” he said, with an innocent look.
“Well… you see in Europe, nobody would put a picture of him on the wall like that. It would be bad taste. He caused the deaths of millions of people, caused a lot of dreadful suffering.” He really didn’t get it though.
“But it’s just history,” he said. “That picture is just art.”
I tried a different tack.
“Look,” I said. “Imagine you came to my home in the UK, and on the wall you saw a picture of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito. How would you feel?” He really seemed to think it over for a moment.
“I wouldn’t mind,” he said. “To me it would just be… err… history.”
There really are no closed minds like the closed minds of the young I thought, and gave up. I guess the vast majority of my fellow guests were Chinese travelers. They always seemed surprised to see me there, even in Hong Kong.
I didn’t really enjoy my stay in ‘Italy’. Each night I would be kept awake for a long time by a scrabbling, scratching noise from the floor above. (I imagined it must be some kind of factory, I pictured rows of little Filipinos making things on machines, but it turned out to be the sound of hundreds of Mahjong tiles being shuffled about. It was some kind of night club I guess.) Anyway I persuaded mine host to move us into ‘America’ for the final night of our stay. This was much grander. The Stars and Stripes were pinned to the wall here of course, and it was a little model of the Statue of Liberty that was glued to the top of the bedside cabinet. There was a framed picture of Mount Rushmore, and a poster featuring the image of every US president, with a kind of quiz to guess who they were. I actually got as far as James Madison before I got fed up.
Of course I couldn’t leave without sneaking a peek at ‘England’ when a family from Beijing checked out the next morning. Just as I expected, there was the Union Jack, there was the picture of Winston Churchill giving a V for victory, there was the little red telephone box glued to the top of the ‘furniture’. I came out humming West Side Story, and saw that the door of ‘Germany’ was open. Of course I had to sneak a peek there too.
The walls were painted a deep burgundy red. An enormous red flag with a black swastika at the centre was the main feature. Another framed image of the Führer of course, but also one of Hermann Göring pinning a medal on some beaming Messerschmitt pilot’s chest, rows of proud BF 109s visible in the background. Glued to the top of the furniture was… hell, I don’t even remember, I was so stunned. The overall effect was a Nuremberg Rally in a closet.
I went back to ‘America’ to get my camera actually. No one will ever believe this unless I photograph it I thought. But of course I’d forgotten to recharge the night before, and we were due to check out in an hour or two. Perched on the end of my bed, sipping my last cup of tea, I gazed into the eyes of Ronald Reagan, (the final entry in the President Quiz.)
“Well Dutch,” I thought. “You’re in good company here.”
bababardwanOctober 23, 2009, 10:57 PM
Great story tal;thanks for sharing.I love a good theme.I think of the US as the place to go to find a good theme happening.Perhaps this is 'cos of Vegas.I thought you would have taken a peek at "Japan" after your discussion just to see what was there.Was there some sort of map you were following to work out where the different ones were or were you just lucking on them from labels on the doors?
TalOctober 23, 2009, 11:37 PM
OK mate I'll come clean. I did see 'Japan'. Mine host gave us a quick look when the delights of 'Italy' began to pale. I fear our Japanese friends here would not have been impressed!
Decorated in pastel shades of pink and pale blue, 'Japan' was Hello Kitty World!
A big faux silk Hello Kitty bedspread hung on the wall in the place which in every other room was occupied by the national flag. Err... except for 'Germany'. There were cutesy little pictures on the walls like the one above, a Hello Kitty coverlet on the bed, and, you guessed it, a small pink plastic Hello Kitty glued to the top of the 'bedside cabinet'. I think there was even a Hello Kitty shower curtain in the tiny 'bathroom'.
No sign was to be seen of the rich and ancient Japanese culture, not even so much as a Geisha girl doll! Perhaps it was supposed to disrespect Japan and be some kind of revengeful act!
Anyway being in there for less than a minute made me feel like I had a headache coming on, so we ended up staying in 'Italy' for one more night.
bababardwanOctober 24, 2009, 12:12 AM
hey tal,thanks for indulging my curiosity.Very interesting.I would have not been able to resist another chat with the proprietor along the lines of "you shenme yisi?" But I personally wouldn't have complained..little girls would love it despite the cultural omissions,hehe.
TalOctober 24, 2009, 12:29 AM
Are you suggesting little girls are naturally attracted to Nazi iconography? (Just kidding!!)
You know looking back I think the 'proprietor' may have just simply had a Nazi fetish obsession interest. I noticed he always seemed to wear a black shirt, and one evening I even caught him with a scarlet armband on. I feared the worst, but when I got close enough for a good look the logo was not a swastika. I think it was a coffee cup or something. But it was close enough!
Some Chinese people do seem genuinely fascinated by Nazi Germany though. I once had a heated discussion with a student who believed that Hitler was 'a clever man, a man who loved his country and was strong enough to lead it.' He (only just) stopped short of telling me that the world would be a much better place if Nazi Germany had not attacked the Soviet Union, but he was quite clear that Britain and the US would have been no match for a German army fighting on a single European front.
bababardwanOctober 24, 2009, 12:48 AM
hehe,maybe if you mumbled over the "swa" and emphasised "stika" in an enthusiastic way the young and innocent would be into it.Of course I know that you know I was referring to Hello Kitty heaven,hehe.
TalOctober 24, 2009, 01:06 AM
Cheers guys, glad you enjoyed!
If I've inspired anyone to go looking for the Embassy Hotel you may be disappointed however. Being a glutton for punishment I planned to stay there again on my next visit, (it was pretty cheap after all!) Sadly the Hitler loving boss didn't respond to my emails. When I visited the building a little later the doorman told me it had been shut down by the tourist authorities for being unlicensed. Personally I think the 老板 must have just made the mistake of booking a Teutonic visitor into 'Germany'!
bodaweiOctober 24, 2009, 04:09 AM
That really is a great story, I loved it. And the sentiment expressed by the 老板 in a way does not surprise me. I was going to tell you why, but I don't want to start an open debate about national stereotypes - there is already a bit much of that in China. Lets just let the story stand - its a good one.
bababardwanOctober 24, 2009, 05:05 AM
。。would you believe,I currenltly have the very same pleasant chap on skype as I type.你有一个问题？
btw,he's just asked me to let you know you left some 很有意思的玩具，hang-on,he's also saying 鞭子 【有什么意思？】 和 锁链 【再 有什么意思？】。。所以，他问你，在哪里可以送你的东西？
zhenlijiangOctober 24, 2009, 12:40 AM
(I know you're just dying, as always, to hear what I think, haha)
Yeah great story Tal, thanks for the tour. Now even I won't forget the Embassy Hotel.
我有一点不好意思, to see the pains you seem to be taking not to make us 日本朋友 feel bad about how we're represented in the UN of wrong-idea hotels!
Of course Hello Kitty herself is the greatest Japanese ambassador we can think of ourselves. That is a no-brainer.
No deliberate disrespect here I'm sure--even though their decision is very telling--the planners of the hotel probably simply sat down to chat about the decorations for all the rooms and thought, "What about Japan does everybody know and like?" "And won't provoke any "sentiment" whatsoever?"
Personally have no objection at all to have those kitch little symbols like geisha and samurai and ninja totally overlooked--really.
好球 Baba, nice assist!
Tal's story is even better with the Japan episode written as a postscript.