четверг, 17 января 2013 г.

Impressions of China (Part III)

Jinan, where my brother Lawrence has been living since 2009, is a busy city of somewhere between 4 and 6 million people.

On day five of our visit Oxana and two of the girls went for various medical procedures at a local hospital. The following day our girls took part in an art class for Chinese pre-schoolers, attended by their cousin, Leo.

Much of our time in Jinan was spent travelling by public transport or taxi to various places, often connected in one way or other with shopping.
There is certainly plenty to buy in China, which someone has nicknamed the world's factory. There are lots of shopping centres with expensive shops as well as cheaper, smaller walk-in kiosk-like shops selling unbranded goods. Plenty of western brands have found their way into China, not least MacDonalds, but also Tommy Hilfiger, Benetton, Lego, Hello Kitty (my list no doubt gives away our family predelictions!). If one eats out in Chinese places and buys everyday items things are cheaper, but if you go for the branded restaurants and shops prices are much the same as the UK. Later on we made a pre-Christmas shopping trip, including a local Tesco's outlet with lots of Chinese foods, and finished off the day with a relaxed meal at Pizza Hut.

On day six of our visit we had a second formal meal, this time to thank Miao Miao's relative who kindly invited my mum and brother to stay in their 5-star hotel in Jinan. As already intimated, gifts are very important in China. Another related aspect is 'face'. No doubt many will be familiar with this concept, that in Chinese and other oriental societies it is very important not to lose 'face' - i.e. to be ashamed in front of others. While by no means oppressive we did experience something of this first hand as we interacted with our in-laws in China. Lili is obviously a very wealthy lady and her gift of two hotel rooms for over a week was exceedingly generous. (On top of this she then presented each of us with further gifts.) When she arrived at the meal it was obviously appropriate to stand and to show deference throughout the meal; UK-style familiarity was clearly out of place. While we might smile to show we are relaxed, in China a smile shows that one is maintaining face. The meal passed without incident and was actually quite enjoyable. With the help of Lawrence's brother-in-law, Gavin (his English name), I made other short speech in Chinese - about how Lawrence liked living in Jinan and so on - which was understood.

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