Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Why I’d rather be born in the Year of the Snake than the Dragon in China

2013 Year of the Snake Cartoon

2013 Year of the Snake

 

It began around April 2011, those subtle winks and prods between couples, before slipping out early from the KTV bar with plenty of new accessories from the 7-11 counter. Lights were out across China as hopeful parents pwapped like crazy to hit the 12 month window of a dragon kid.  The 17 million new babies picked to be born in the Year of the Dragon are said to possess passion, courage, luck and strength like no other, so they’re a pretty good bet for your shot at securing retirement funding.  Or are they?

 

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China’s One-Child Policy Shaping the Cars of the Future

While most of the world’s major economies splutter along, China’s blistering economic growth has businesses everywhere salivating for a piece of China’s increasingly wealthy middle class.

 

Everyone peddling something from adventures down the Nile River to skin-whitening face cream are redefining their strategies to get a piece of the Chinese pie. Even Porsche chose Shanghai for their world debut of the 4-door family wagon Porsche Panamera – its biggest launch in years.

 

Launch of the Porsche Panamera in Shanghai

Launch of the Porsche Panamera in Shanghai

 

But it seems ads with backdrops of Chinese skylines are for beginners, when you see the lengths the world’s biggest auto manufacturer is going to get their cars on Chinese roads…

 

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64 years of Hard Labour to Marry Your Traditional Chinese Bride

If you were born in China post the 1979 One-Child-Policy, you’d better hope you’re a karaoke crooner or have a lot of cash.  Getting a wife in China is becoming increasingly difficult.

 

If you’re one of those boys who does find your Chinese bride and grows old with her talking about sunsets on the Nile River, you’re one of the lucky ones.  Tens of millions will be without.  Yep, for every 100 boys born in China these days, there’re only 81 Chinese girls to woo.  And with those ratios, it just pushes the stakes up.

 

One of the lucky ones - A handsome Chinese groom in pink with his lovely bride prior to their traditional Chinese marriage in Shanghai

Not so traditional Chinese marriage outfits worn by a lucky groom and his Chinese bride

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Dogs in China – Designer or Dinner?

Do the Chinese eat dogs? It’s one of the most popular Chinese-related searches on Google, and for 2,500 years, Chinese people have munched away on dog meat. But these days its only common in a few areas in the south … and on Chinese spacecrafts.  Yep, dog meat was on the menu for the Chinese astronauts who orbited the planet in 2003. Was it served in toothpaste tubes?

 

In most Chinese cities you won’t see many Lassie kebabs smoking away street-side. To the contrary. There are now close to 50 organisations bursting with dog-loving Chinese dedicated to halting the culinary custom. Earlier this year dog enthusiasts blocked a highway in eastern Beijing in a bid to rescue hundreds of dogs being trucked to local restaurants.  Five hours of negotiations ended when the enthusiasts bought the dogs for US$17,000. Many of the dogs were wearing collars and tags and had obviously been dog-napped.

 

There’s also talk of Government legislation outlawing dog for dinner, however that is likely to be as ineffective as their anti-smoking laws.

 

These days in China you’ll see a lot more manicured poodles than braised beagles. It seems for the growing middle class who can’t yet afford the bright orange Lamborghini, the designer pooch is the accessory of choice.

Cute toy dog wearing shoes and a bib

One of China's designer dogs wearing shoes

 

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The pecularities of eating in China

Who could possibly like green tea flavoured toothpaste? The Chinese it seems. On more than one occasion I have been wooed with different shades minty green and slogans such as “fresh blast” and “nature burst” only to discover my molars overrun with the bitter sensation of guey dried leaves.

 

chinese-toothpaste

A couple of Chinese tooth paste choices - the green tea-flavoured variety.

 

How does pea-flavoured icecream sound?

 

I enjoy sipping a cup of green tea or a few peas with my mash, but I have to admit in my closed-minded western opinion, there’s a time and a place.

 

I cannot think of a time or a place anywhere in the world where I have found tastes more contradictory to my culinary instincts than in China.

 

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Here’s to the Year of the Rabbit!

Every year it comes with blasts of gunpowder, steamed dumplings and red envelopes. Chinese New Year or Chūn Jié (Spring Festival) as it is known in China is The celebration on the Chinese calendar. Think Christmas, New Years Eve and Thanks Giving all mashed into 15 days of festivities. Fireworks bang, red oval lanterns hang and red cut-outs are plastered everywhere; symbolic of happiness, longevity and wealth.

 

 

During the Chinese New Year Festival it’s obligatory to be with your nearest and dearest, so every year sees hundreds of millions of Chinese return to their hometowns and villages. It’s when the city folk really appreciate the migrant workers doing menial jobs to keep the cities ticking over, because things slow right down once they’re gone. They’ll leave by train, bus, car, motorbike, boat, bike, horse, plane, whatever. It is the largest human migration on the planet, by far.

 

Over the festival, around 2.6 billion trips are made. That stretches China’s extensive transport networks to breaking point. For most Chinese, train travel is the mode of choice – it’s safer than planes and the roads are congested and less comfortable. But the finite capacity means only about 12% of trips during the festival period are on tracks.

 

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Who said China was a-changing?

When I was a youngster, China really scared me. I’d been told if everyone in China all jumped at the same time, the whole world would wobble. Although there hasn’t been a coordinated hop, China is without doubt, shaking up the balance of the world.

 

Curiosity has drawn Ellen and me to get in amongst China during this fascinating time in history. I was lucky enough to be working for an Internet company in North America during the dot-com boom, Ireland when the Celtic Tiger was roaring and New Zealand when microwave ovens were introduced, but nowhere has the rate of change been more apparent than in the Middle Kingdom.  This is the biggest boom in history.

 

The rate of change for almost everything in China is staggering; incomes (almost 300% since 2000), car sales (32% last year), the market for art (25% last year), number of billionaires (57% last year).  Even more impressive is the scale of it all – the rates are measured across 1.3 billion people!  And although developing countries have a low starting point to measure growth from, significant tracts of China are long past the ‘developing’ stage.  Shanghai, for example, now has a higher average GDP than parts of southern Europe.

 

suburban_beijing

View northwest to the suburbs of Beijing. This is not downtown, but the burbs, where shiny towers are popping up everywhere



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My wife Ellen and I are currently living in China, bumbling our way around this fascinating and fast-changing country. We kicked off our stay with a semester of Intensive Mandarin studies at Beijing Language and Culture University and are now living in Shanghai. These posts cover some of my experiences, views and curious facts in and around the Middle Kingdom. Please let me know what you think!


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