Archive for the ‘Weird’ Category

Olé gack gack

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Ah, the best time of the year! Football, a chilled beer on the table and…eh-cold chicken feet!

There are other posters as well-advertising fried fish, duck neck, pig intestines and river crabs. Gosh, Mister Li, what happened yo good old potato chips?

Anyway, time to spin the ball. “Waiter…!?”

Match Mama

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Mister Li has really spruced up today. Shirt and trousers are neatly ironed, the shoes are shiny and his hair resembles a perfect maoistic replica. His jacket casually resides on his shoulder. It doesn’t fit right now – a large pile of fresh 100RMB bills provides his wallet with a considerable belly which would make wearing the jacket look rather awkward. But the precious stuffing is of great importance. Because today Mister Li has a date.

And a date in China is paid for by the man. There’s no political correct fiddling with the bill. Who was drinking more wine, but had less 18 on the 23 and who had the sweeter tooth during desert? You can never really split a bill in half, and so East of Berlin nobody even tries. The man very manly proves his strength. He picks the restaurant, after that the food and eventually also the bills from his wallet.

Madam Wonderful on the other hand is expected to be styled-up to covergirl standard. Her job is to flirtatiously but in a slightly shy way wave her long eye lashes at the person on the other side of the table. And she’s expected to be in awe to anything Mister Li acquaints. Very clear areas of accountability. That’s not too bad after all.

Only, Mister Li doesn’t really know WHO he is about to spend the evening with. Short, tall, thin, clever, funny oder fond of tiny handbag doggies? He doesn’t have the slightest clue and his wondering mind puts more and more wrinkles on his forehead as the evening comes closer and closer.

Europeans who go on a blind date are considered rather daring. And while this very direct kind of thing is usually arranged for via web or through any other classifieds, the majority of the blind dates are actually done in disguise. Beth and Andrew might think for instance that Michelle and Steve could work out quite well together. And so they will do their hidden magic: “We’re going for dinner on Friday. Wanna join? Great. Oh, by the way, there’s also going to be one of Andy’s colleagues. I don’t know him, but he’s supposed to be rather fun to be around, so it should be alright. And it’s all very casual, we just want to have a nice time out.”
Well, but sure! Michelle and Steve anyway will chat around over pasta and have heaps of easy fun, because they don’t even know they have just been blind-dated.

When Mister Li and Miss Wonderful meet up, they will similarly not be the ones who have arranged for it. They will know however, that it’s a date and they’re even going to be all by themselves. And they definitely will go. They have no choice.

So, while these two strangers are making their polite hellos in the restaurant of choice, we will leave the scene for a moment. Let’s go and take a look at how this actually came about. And for that we need to turn back the clock a whole week.

Mother Li is getting out of the cab. It’s a sunny Sunday morning, the air smells like success. She resolutely closes the cab door and turns toward the Yuyuantan park in front of her. She loses no time, knows exactly where she wants to go and elegantly bypasses any obstacles and sights on the way.

It’s perfect timing as she reaches the cattle market. The choice is substantial, the competition sparse. Mother Li opens her handbag to grab hold of a pile of paper – documents and photos. Today it’s going to work out wonderfully. She can feel that. One last deep breath and off she goes with the astuteness of a hunter. She approaches a pack of chattering women and throws a cheerful “Good morning, ladies”.
The game begins.

For the next hours mother Li and all the other mommies and daddies are going to be busy bees, exchanging lots of information. “My daughter is stunningly beautiful!” “My son has a house!” “Mine does too AND he has a car!” “Does your daughter cook well?” “Sure, at least 30 dishes. And she’s really good at sowing.” “What are her school grades like?” “Can you show me some bank statements of your son?” “Tell me something about your family’s history”…
This is future in the making. It’s a mercyless business. And it’s one that bears a high numerus clausus.

The Chinese, as we all know, believe in lots of superstitions and they have legends for just about anything. At the time of the Tang dynastiy for instance there was a god who was responsible for the love between man and woman. Yue Lao, the “old man in the moon” possessed the book of fate. Written in it were all the people’s marriages. Furthermore he owned a red strand. It was said that once he tied two people together with it, they were bound to fall in love. regardless of how much sympathy they had for one another beforehand.

We don’t know whether the most beloved hobbyhorse of the Chinese, the matchmaking, started back then. But this hobby does belong to them the way baguette bread belongs to the French.

Today, however, Yue Lao is not needed. Mother Li has already gathered 5 promising telephone numbers.
Having done one hour of negotiations, this is quite normal for her. After all, she represents a son and that makes the game a slight bit more easy. Almost 90% of the tendering community is offering daughters. Mother Li is used to having the choice. But still it’s a kind of an art. It is considered impolite to refuse an offer for a date and so mother Li has to go upon it in a very tactical way. Don’t reveal too much information to soon. The daughter mob is lairy. Rapidly and unconsiderate is it lusting for contact.

Matchmaking is all that counts. The clock is a-ticking. Those whose female offsprings have passed 25 years of age look as relaxed as a trout in the desert. After 28 they are considered old. The daughters that is, not the trouts.
Furthermore, the grandchildren need to see the light of day before the lovely daughter turns 30. Anything later than that sheds an aweful light on the family and makes for some losing-face situation. Nobody wants neighbors and friends to think something’s fishy with their young ones…

And make no mistake – when a date gets arranged for on this market, it has a sole purpose: the two candidates are expected to decide for marriage no later than between main course and dessert. So that’s why mother Li is being very serious about the whole thing. Serious and, well, motherly.
She even has a trick that keeps any obstrusive candidates at distance. She invents alternative realities. Something that works really well is the story of her son being divorced and looking for a second wife. That usually does the job. The market doesn’t like return items.
Luckily she has the possibility of doing so. Men don’t have a best-before-date on this market. For them there merely is a financial hurdle. And you’re all safe should your collective possessions make you pass this one.

Mister Li is very safe. Not only does he have a decent job, he also owns an appartment. That’s why he already outlived several motherly procured dates and still keeps both feet on the ground instead of hectically putting down one knee in a rush.

Besides him, every week in China there are countless other daughters and sons who find themselves confronted with dating schedules they didn’t see coming. It’s pure stress. Even worse, at the end of the night there’s always the debriefing with the parents who want to know whether they can finally call the banns. And that is pure pressure. So every meet with every candidate becomes a test. If you don’t immediately hear violins play or see angels dance, your fear of being difficult to place just keeps growing another bit.

But do you really have to use mediators to meet the love of your life? The uncountable number of agencies for just that matter speaks for itself. Sure, the Europeans have them too, but on this side of the planet they are much more realistic. And that can be quite uncomfy. In Europe people like to pretend they care about nothing but the moral courage and the philosophical world views of other people. But in China facts are what matters. You might not even be accepted to an online platform for instance, should you choose to keep your salary a secret. You even find platforms which won’t accept anyone below a certain level of financial strength.

Should you strive to know about the reasons behind all this matchmaking action, you just need to ask mother Li: “Our kids don’t have enough time. They work too much and much too long. Their friend circle is either far away or comprise only colleagues. How on Earth are they supposed to meet somebody new?”

The logic is ravishing. And even the very individual and enlightened European has to admit that this problem isn’t anything unusual. The means may differ, but the goal is the same. And the Chinese don’t have the Westeners’ possibilities of running into someone in a bar or a club. Those establishments are still considered slightly shady amoungst a surprisingly large group of Chinese people, regardless of age. It’s an ancient misbelief, which (no longer) bears any truth.
The remaining choices are office and friends. Or one of the previously mentioned agencies and mom and dad.

Luckily the Chinese method is with quite some success. Lots of parents have sufficient time at their disposal to go out and hunt. And they have no fear of contact. Besides: Who else would know their kids this well? And that’s the best prerequisite for matchmaking. Whether the kids like it or not.

Mister Li really had fun tonight. It’s not always likt that, so he really is upbeat. He sends the young lady off in a cab and watches the car disappear in the traffic. A smile runs around his face. It really was nice. Mister Li would love to see her again. Best tomorrow. But unfortunately that’s not possible. Tomorrow is Saturday and as usual mother Li has appointed two new dates to attend.
Mister Li sighs and calls a taxi to take him home. It really isn’t easy being single in Beijing.


Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A Saturday at IKEA. A truly marvelous idea as anyone knows. Arguments, annoy and lots of lovely proximity are a given. And an empty wallet after having strolled through their market hall is very probable to say the least.

Back home you really aren’t too sure any more whether you really needed another 3-pack of scented candles. The same goes for the little plant and the floor lamp. You actually just got that one because you were unable to squeeze by the fighting couple with the plates & spoons issue – One glance around the store and the cart is half way filled up. Magically.

A Saturday at IKEA is nothing for the fainted heart. And that’s why we went on Sunday.

While back home in Europe all you may spot are some lonely inline skaters who make good use of the closed parking lot, in Beijing IKEA’s door sign reads “Ja! We’re open”. And it’s not even something extraordinary – the legislator didn’t plan for a day off on Sunday. Seven days a week shopping until 10:00 p.m. and everyone’s easy.

Of course the disadvantage is that the shopping Sunday on Swedish ground is no different to the shopping Saturday.

Right after entering the yellow box the mind feels furnished and deranged. Not because of the heaps of people, but because of the creepily familiar environment. And that’s despite the fact that IKEA isn’t even called IKEA in China. Instead it’s Yi jia jia ju. Yepp, sounds just the same….

“HEJ” – a large banner yells right at the entrance. Underneath the directions to the Small Land. The one with the funny colored balls you can dive into. Little Mister Li would like to be picked-up by his parents…< Next to the stairs is the catalogue, filled with all the usual suspects: Lack, Benno, Galant, Ektopr, Pax and the rest of the family. Living room, kitchen, private office, bedroom – they all nicely line up in the same order they do at home. IKEA is always the same and with that it’s the largest incarnation of good old home in whole China. And it’s difficult to compute, because even though all the names are the same and everything looks familiar – there ARE differences. a href=””>At the same spot where James and Michelle use to discuss the fitting height of oven, microwave and fridge we now spot Mister and Misses Li, Mister Li’s cousin, Misses Li’s sister in law, their mother and their three neighbor couples. They hover next to the same oven and wonder about what to do with it. It doesn’t deep-fry, steam or cook. It’s no good for fish soup and you can’t even fit a rice pot into it. It’s too slow for heating up congee and even if you did, after that you couldn’t touch the pod any longer. Stupid thing.

Suddenly Misses Li has a possible solution: You probably need the hot box for foreign gourmet food like burgers and pizza. Well, she’s not too far off actually. But the differences in understanding lie much deeper within, so we better leave them to their discussion and head on further down the hallway.

We are passing a toilet that is placed right next to the walkway. And we are irritated – the bowl is covered by a perspex. Its inscription informs the nosy ones that the real toilets are to be found right next to the restaurant. We are wondering whether there would actually be customers who think it’s a feasible idea to sit down in the middle of the shop, surrounded by hundreds of people and do what needs to be done.

At the next corner, Li junior is sleeping on his girlfriend’s shoulder. In a bed – Redalen for just 1.299 RMB. Meanwhile little Li’s lovely flame is staring at the ceiling, possibly wondering how she can convince her snoring sunshine to understand the term “pick-up price” more literally. On the other hand she might be thinking about babies, shoes or jewelry. You never know.

Sleeping Chinese in Swedish beds, that’s not a rare sight around this place. The same goes for the ones sitting of couches, arm-chairs and stools. You even see kitchen table testers. Admitted, just saying this doesn’t sound too extraordinarily. The Europeans do the same. However, they usually are done with it after 2-5 minutes. That’s when they respectfully get up again from the things they don’t possess. But Mister Li turns into a real pro-tester. He puts on a skilled face and inspects every piece of equipment he can get his hands on, slides around arm rests and quietly nods a lot in comment to his findings.

IKEA may not exactly bear the image of a luxury brand for the Chinese, but it definitely is something for those who are better off. The European tends to forget this. To him the wrench house is famous mostly for equipping student’s dorms and young families apartments. But the price level on the domestic market is different around here. And so is life.

Which is why, frankly, Mister Li knows Jack about what he’s doing there. You can tell by looking at his posture which is not relaxed on any item he is testing. And you can tell by the fact that he only inspects those items which someone else had looked at before. Preferably a foreigner. Because, let’s face it, they must know. In the end it’s their equipment parlor. And so it is obvious to see that Mister Li tries to imitate a lifestyle that just isn’t his. And it’s one that he doesn’t need. However, he really does like to appear like somebody who deserves the title “connaiseur”.

Something that just won’t fit however is the surprisingly high number of people in the wrong age. Mister Li’s parents are hovering in front of white wall units, pondering about the strange choice of colors. One question is painted clearly on their foreheads: why would the Europeans choose such a light paint which catches dirt so easily? But their are not here to spend money anyway. For them it’s rather like visiting a museum for strange western habits and life styles. They look about as puzzled as Herr Meyer does inside the 120 square meter shop for green tea in Wangfujing: So much choice of things that you don’t really have any need for and whose differences you don’t seem to be able to grasp.

There is a sign at the end of the market hall. Right where the border lays to the huge self service shelfs with the DIY storage racks. It reads: “We will deliver your items on the same day if you purchase them until 6 p.m.”. Sure, they don’t put it there in English, but this is about what the sign says. Right underneath it however, waits a middle-aged woman. She looks like a customer who waits for her husband or for Mister Li’s nephew’s sister-in-law’s aunty or something.

When passing her, she silently hisses something. It doesn’t take long and you know that this is the delivery service. Except it’s not from IKEA. Here we actually encounter something that is unknown to the western furniture worlds: a taxi mafia.

And it goes like this: You discuss how much stuff is expected to be inside your shopping cart after having passed the cash point and where you need to deliver everything to. After that inevitably follow the tough price negotiation talks. After having found an arrangement, she picks up her phone and hectically makes various phone calls. We were all set for an amount of 8 Euros for a completely full cart plus two large Gorm storage shelfs – a bit of a challenge for any ordinary taxi. Misses Mafia however was very upbeat about it all.

Talking of that – she was very service oriented anyway. She’d help us put the stuff onto the miniature conveyor belt at the cash point and from there back into the cart. She’d push the second card with the bulky storage shelfs and give it to the incognito dispatch manager who showed off his status by expressing a quite recognizable English “Welcome to China”. After that he determines the right driver for the job and accompanies us to the exit. Outside we’re warmly welcome by the fellow with the car key who immediately takes care of the heaviest shopping cart and starts packing it all into a little mini van. It conveniently parks almost right in front of the building.

It all happens without further ado and the only thing the driver wants to know is whether we need his assistance in erecting the two Gorm racks, because that would make his trip last a little longer. He has all the necessary tools for installing pretty much anything right there in the van. Good man! But we don’t need his help, we’re wrench-skilled ourselves. And so off we go. He drives right up to the building door and bravely unloads everything himself as well with some impressive heavy lifting action.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. This whole service isn’t exactly legal. We had the doubtful pleasure of witnessing how two colleagues of Misses Mafia got escorted out of the building by some not-so-happy looking security guys. IKEA doesn’t tolerate any delivery competition.

And that’s a bit controversial. They actually profit a lot from that. The customers know they don’t have to hold back during shopping. They will manage to transport anything to their home, including a complimentary taxi service for themselves. And it would even be installed for them if they would like that. The stupid foreigner calls that a classic win-win-win situation for customers, IKEA and even the four-wheeled mafia.

Sure, mafia might not be the correct term – but it was clearly well organized. Everything went too smooth and quickly to just be a tiny money-on-the-side thing of a handful of people. But I certainly welcome any mafia that helps saving money and is polite and helpful!

Mister Li didn’t need this service. All he bought was a little brush for dish washing. It has a little sucker cup on the bottom which allows for a firm stand on a flat surface. He just thought this little sucker thing was very cute. But he didn’t get the fact that this is a kitchen item. So from now forth the brush sits next to his bathroom sink and Mister Li keeps wondering about the strange ergonomics of European utilities for hand care.

But a connaiseur keeps a stiff upper lip.

(Deutsch) Der Baum, der hat drei Ecken, drei Ecken hat der Baum

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

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(Deutsch) Wo ist denn das jetzt?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

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(Deutsch) Morgens um Acht…

Friday, November 6th, 2009

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(Deutsch) Buddelkönig

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

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(Deutsch) Weiss-Röckchen (update)

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

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(Deutsch) Ach Du Fröhliche…..

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

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(Deutsch) Hier ist das Vögelchen

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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(Deutsch) L/R

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

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(Deutsch) Des Kaisers neue Kleider

Monday, September 28th, 2009

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(Deutsch) Was man hat, das hat man. Nicht.

Monday, September 21st, 2009

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(Deutsch) WinWin Partnerschaften

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

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(Deutsch) Nun mach aber mal nen Punkt

Monday, August 24th, 2009

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