Experiencing China

'Experiencing China' is about ordinary life in China and the wealing and dealing of a Dutchman in the Middle Kingdom. Marc works for DuoArts Consultancy and the Empowerment Foundation, travelling between the Netherlands and China.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Paradox of Food

It seems the larger part of Chinese society is about food...

Dinner with classmates and teachers 

As I already said before, in (rural) China the proverb 'have you eaten yet?' (Chi fan le ma?) means so much as 'how are you?'. Social encounters take place with an abundance of food. From good friends visiting each other, to business banquets, there is always food nearby. Don't worry when in China that you can't find a restaurant nearby. There are millions of small, medium sized and large local restaurants. The smallest is a bike with a big box on it, a little window and many small dishes in it. Then you have the canting, a small restaurant with 'romantic' neonlight, spitting and loud talking farmers. Finally, you have the larger restaurants complete with Kareoke, circular tables, your own waiters in a private room. Then I even haven't mentioned the great popularity of the McDonalds and KFC's (haven't seen a Burger King yet).

Breakfast in Dongping (7 am) 

In Beijing you also have Muslim restaurants (Uighur people from the West of China), Mongolian hotpot restaurants, Japanese and Korean restaurants. Pizza is widely available at the Pizza Hut (no I don't get paid for mentioning the brands!). Modern Chinese youth with bleached hair eat hamburgers, drink coffee at Starbucks or have a Kekoukele (Coca Cola) (I really should get paid for mentioning the brands).

Lunch with government officials 

There are bars where you can get a drink without food though.

When visiting friend, it is common to bring food with you as a gift. Last weekend I went on my first businesstrip to the Shandong province. When I left, I got a sack full with food for my seven hour journey back. I left at 11 pm and mainly slept in the train. However, I tried because there were no sleepers available and I can't sleep sitting in a chair. Because the train was loaded with people from the countryside, returning to their jobs in the city of Beijing, I ended up in the restaurant of the train. Here you have a little more comfortable seats for which I paid 30 kuai (about 3 euro/3.5 dollar) extra. But it was not only for the comfortable seat I paid those 30 yuan. After 30 minutes, at half past twelve pm, we got dinner. I just had a farewell dinner with Tom and his family, so what to do? Well, for it is a long trip, I ate!

Li Xuer (Tom's son) eating 

Till now I only have been writing about the abundance of food. But what then is the paradox of food? All my classmates complain about the fact that they loose weight. Somehow, in the paradise of food, foreign students tend to loose weight. I think it has to do with the fact that most of the Chinese food contains little fat, sugar and other fat producing ingredients. Moreover, many students must suffer from a culture shock. This stressful condition often leads to the lost of weight. Luckily for me, for I am already rather thin, I don't loose weight here. Maybe it is because I know what to expect in China...

Gift from Tom's wife... food! 
Enjoy your dinner!



Blogger Bicyclemark said...

Fantastic post marc... full of interesting tid bits.. commercials.. and things to make people hungry.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Marc David Brand said...

Hi Mark, this is Marc. Thnx and yes, makes you hungry doesn't it?

7:35 AM  

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