Going Chinese

Yesterday, I went into the office for the first time because I had a meeting set up with a colleague.  I’m not officially supposed to start work in the office until February 9th when I have a work license, so I’ve just been working with the Redmond office at home. 

I scheduled our meeting at about 11:30 not realizing that this was prime lunch time.  Everyone else was gone, and my Chinese colleague was the only one there waiting for me.  He asked if I had lunch yet and invited me to lunch.  Feeling quite obligated at this point, I went to lunch with him in the cafeteria in the basement.  He explained how the system worked, but honestly, I didn’t fully understand due to the complexity.  I paid 12 Yuan (~$2) to some lady before I entered the cafeteria because that’s what my colleague suggested.  But, I noticed people were paying different amounts depending on what they were going to eat.  I got a receipt that said I paid 12 Yuan.   Next I stood in a long line that was moving very fast, and grabbed a tray.  There were 4 people behind the counter.  I recognized the rice lady who scooped up a bowl of rice and dumped it on my tray (no bowl).  The other three people scooped up something unrecognizable from a trough and dumped it in piles on my tray.  I grabbed a pear and a soup at the end.  Not bad for $2.  At the end of the line, I gave my receipt to another lady, and apparently, I was done.  I found my colleague who had gone in a different line and looked like he got some pasta with sausage in it.  We sat down together, and I started to decipher what was on my tray.  One pile looked like sauteed zuchini. Another was a pile of sauteed cabbage and onions.  The third pile was mushrooms and other vegetables with hunks of fat.  I wasn’t sure what animal.  Maybe pig.  Maybe beef.  I had a little bit of everything, and although it wasn’t food I was accustomed to, I still felt good about getting my $2 worth of food. 

Afterwards, I went to Walmart, which is right across from my subway stop at work.  It was actually quite nice and was somewhat familiar.  They had a lot of things that Walmart normally carries, except they weren’t the cheapest store in town in China.  Tenille texted a short shopping list to me.  I went to the basement in the food department to look.  All of a sudden, I felt my $2 worth of lunch disagree with me.  I tried to suck it up and shop for the 4 food items on the list, but the disagreement was too strong.  I quickly made for the bathroom which was 1 floor up outside of the checkstands.  I left my basket by the bicycles, and ran for the washroom.   I quickly found it and opened a door to a stall where I ran into my first squatter toilet.  That’s ok… it looks easy enough… if only I could find some toilet paper.  There was none in the stall.  In a panic I looked all over the bathroom.  Nothing.  I ran outside… nothing… Oddly enough, with all the panicked running around, it must have distracted the disagreement in my digestive tract, because all seemed settled.  So, I went back to the basement to continue my shopping.  Along the escalators, there are piles of merchandise that you can pick up as your ride along.  When I saw something that looked like a package of tissues, I grabbed it (just in case…)  It said, “Breeze” on it.  Hmmm… hopefully it wasn’t some feminine product. 

I was a few items short, when the disagreement returned.  Armed with tissue paper this time, I quickly made for the checkstand to make sure I carried in my own gear.  I’ll spare the details, but I will say that the hole in the ground was not as intuitive as I thought it would be.  I’m sure the reader is probably thinking, “Seriously, how hard could it be?”  Next time you go to the bathroom in a hole in the ground, let me know where your pants went so you don’t pee on it.  I had my own solution, but I want to compare notes and see what you came up with on your own. 

I finished up my shopping and took the subway home.  It was a pretty significant “culture” day, and so I thought I’d share. 


  1. In Japan I would take one leg of the pant off and rotate it around to the side away from the toilet so it was safely out of the way. For dress pants, we went further and tucked the leg into the leg we were still wearing.But we did have toilet paper.

  2. Adam just demonstrated to me what he thought was the "perfect" squat only to be stuptified…. I think the best way is to hold your pants up off the ground with one hand and brace yourself with the other always making sure you carry tp with you….better luck next time!

  3. Ha ha ha! I\’ll be laughing for a while. I always carry TP (or similar) and wipes when I travel.Have you found that lunch without dishes is the norm? Or, did you miss something that day?

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