Wash Your Dishes Before You Eat
When in Guangzhou, do as the Chinese do. It is very acceptable to "wash" your dishes with tea before you have the meal. Typically, this involves pouring the first tea into your tea cup and giving it a good swish. Pour this into your rice bowl and invert the tea cup and run the lip into the hot tea. The chopsticks are then dipped into the rice bowl. The residual tea in the rice bowl is then poured out into the "waste" bin for the "wash."
Learning to count in Chinese = Very Helpful!
If you make the effort to count in Chinese you will reap huge benefits from this especially if you get off the tourist trail at all and even on the tourist trail!!
I was so happy that I learned how to count in the first few days there before I ventured very far as it made buying stuff much easier!!
1)Yi or EE
bigger Numbers are just building the groups....21) Er she yi Er=2 for 2 tens and Yi is one. Sorry for the rough translations as these are my own translations as taken from my journal. haha I don't think I'll get a job as a Chinese Translation Specialist anytime soon but they worked for me!! The people in the markets and shops seemed very happy that I new the number system. Sometimes they would want to write some of the numbers down but when I would speak the numbers out loud they would just say them to me.....Then they would think that I spoke Chinese and start a conversation hahahaha....My conversations ended at Hello - Ne How ......Thank you - Shay-shay .......How Much? - Do Shuo Chian? ....Mens Toilet - Nan len and of course the counting. But it made for some wonderful interactions...I wish I would have learned more. Also there are different accents on the words depending where you were at too. But I was able to use these words in the north and the south and people understood me.
- Budget Travel
Markets are not for the queasy stomachs......
If your stomach gets queasy from watching animals get butchered before your very eyes do not visit the Qing Ping market!!! Animals of all variations are on display and being butchered fresh to be taken home for a good home cooked meal!! Also watch where you step as there are open drains for the blood to be washed away!!
- Food and Dining
It seemed like on every other small street there was a guy like this doing some sort of of Caligraphy. I'm not really sure what he was writing but for me the written Chinese language is so beautiful that he could have written "I'm stupid" on it and it would be hanging in a frame on my living room wall right now!! haha I wish I would have had something made by one of these guys. At the time I didn't want to carry it with me as I thought it would get destroyed in my backpack.
For me the Money System of china was a little confusing. You've probably already read about the FEC's in my other tips so I won't go into it as they aren't used anymore. The Renminbi seemed to have 3 tiers to it in Paper money. I'm used to dollars and cents which is 2 tiers. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong but there are Yuan - Jiao - Fen which are also know as Kwai - Mao - Fen. Yuan is the biggest of the denominations and it is broken into 100 Jiao then below that is Fen and it takes 10 fen to make 1 Jiao. Quite often if I was buying food I would understand the numbers but not the Kwai,Mao or Fen. I did sort of figure it out better after a while but in the beginning I would hand the seller a 10 Yuan note (US$1.90) for a food item that would only cost 4 Mao (US$.07cents) and I would get back a STACK of money!!! hahah I would chuckle to myself and say "Gosh I've done it again". Some very small items only cost a few fen!!! It took 5 Fen to make one US Cent!! I think this system is currently in use today. Again remember this is 1987 so beware of the prices!! The photo is a shot from a page in my 1987 Journal.
- Budget Travel
Chinese Table Manners
There are a few that should be noted. The first is mentioned in a tip by itself and that is the process of sanitizing your dishes with hot tea before eating.
Another notable table manner is to avoid touching food with your hands. Food should be manipulated and introduced to the palate with chopsticks. This includes delectables such as steamed buns, which could easily be eaten with fingers.
Typically, there are teacups, rice bowls, and small plates that are included in the place settings for the meal. One should note that the small plates are not used for food. This is the discard plate. One should discard any inedibles onto this plate (i.e. bones, skin, paper, etc.)
It is also good table manners to tap the table next to your teacup when being served tea. This signifies gratitude for filling the tea cup. It was related to me that the origin of this custom was from the days of the emperor when he was served tea. He was not to speak, but this was his gesture of thanks.
I am not sure how widespread these customs are and I recommend that they are followed only in southern China. These customs are very acceptable in Guangzhou.
As I alluded in the "must see" section under the "Temple of the Five Celestial Beings" tip, the central story about the origins of Guangzhou involves the mysterious appearance of the five celestial beings mounted atop their five celestial rams... Now take a look at the photo shown here: it may appear like some strange alien creature, but this is actually a Guangzhou public payphone...! The alien theme continues...
The custom of acknowleding the visitation of strange alien outsiders known as the Five Celestial Beings extends into modern-day Guangzhou once again in the appearance of the "E.T." nightclub with its alien being visage staring across Guangzhou... Did you know that the American television show "The X-Files" is also shown in Guangzhou...?
Sleeping in public is a widespread custom in Guangzhou and in fact, in many parts of China. Far from being only the habit of the homeless, public sleeping is practiced by many average Chinese people, males and females... In this particular scene, three different people have decided to catch some winks at a shopping mall in Tianhe District... I have also seen ordinary people (not homeless) sleeping at the Guangzhou Orchid Garden. In Shanghai, I saw a girl sleeping at People's Park and in Beijing I once saw a girl sleeping at her table in KFC...!
The word Coca-Cola is the notorious and legendary example of unfortunate brand name translation between languages... Since in Chinese, it means "bite the wax tadpole", the Coca-Cola company changed their name to a phrase meaning "happiness in the mouth", thusly placating their Chinese customers... Chinese Coke tastes a little different than American Coke but I still say that Roman Coca-Cola is the best tasting in the entire world...!
Wong Faye or Tony Iommi.
Hey kids, here's a photo of famed heavy metal icon and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi... When I was in Guangzhou, playing some of my Western music cd's for Xiujuan, she listened to the Black Sabbath song "Iron Man" and proclaimed it "interesting"... People in Guangzhou aren't generally very familiar with the supposedly "world famous" musicians of the Western world... Music stars like Faye Wong from neighboring Hong Kong (called Wong Faye on the mainland) and other parts of China tend to be much much more popular... But you know, kids, Ozzy once said: "Tony Iommi is the HEAVIEST motherf****r that ever lived!" And I would have to agree with that statement...
Nager en soirée.
In tropical Guangzhou it is very common for people to go out to public swimming pools in the evening hours after work and cool down with a nice swim. The pools become very crowded with people practicing their strokes, socializing, and playing games... You must pay a small fee to enter and then you can store your things in your locker... But be on the lookout, the swimming traffic in a GZ pool is every bit as crazy as the traffic on GZ streets!
Which and when.
If learning to use the chopsticks isn't tricky enough, try figuring out when to use them... Usually the chopsticks are used but then again, there is the rice ladle... And sometimes the Chinese will just use their fingers, as you see in this photo of Xiujuan about to merrily devour one of her favorite things, a succulent crab claw...! The Chinese also sometimes use the fingers for things such as sweet rolls or eating food at McDonald's... But ultimately, there is one great advantage to being a foreigner... You're not expected to be Chinese. So forget about rules and just do what seems natural...!
- Food and Dining
Even a casual observer of Asia will notice the way that Asian people, especially Chinese and Japanese, like to flash the peace sign during photo opportunities, just as you see in the photo here of a couple of Cantonese friends in Guangzhou... When you're in Asia, or anywhere for that matter, don't forget to promote this recognizable international symbol of love, neutrality and holistic solidarity...!
The homelessness situation in Guangzhou is not much different than it is in many large cities of the Western world (excluding Santa Monica where of course the situation is magnified several times over!)... From time to time, you will occasionally come across homeless people trying to eke out an existence on the dingy stony sidewalks... Most of them are not there by choice although an old Chinese proverb says that after being a beggar for three days, you wouldn't want to trade places with an emperor... And Mao Zedong himself once voluntarily lived as a beggar for a period of time, as a kind of experiment... It would be fascinating to learn the whole truth about the life stories of these often troubled travelers, who are caught in the cold winds of a witless world...
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