How To Survive in China

Some random thoughts since I’ve arrived here in Shanghai:

  • I should mention that I did no research on this city before I came and sadly, it’s showing.
  • Looks like I’ll be eating dumplings for 3 straight weeks.
  • Being an Asian-American in China is problematic. Already, I’ve been asked for directions twice. When they inevitably realize that I don’t know what they’re saying, they either a) look at me like I have a mental disability b) Keep talking in Mandarin to see if I might recognize any of the words that they’re saying or c) Recoil in panic. For the first time in my life, I wish I were white.
  • Having lived in New York City for over a year, I know what millions of people feel like. Here, I can feel the crushing pulse of billions.
  • My hotel has odd amenities. In the bathroom, they have complimentary soap, razor blades, men’s casual socks, toothpaste, condoms and sex oil. I’ll probably end up using all but two of these items.

Sidenote: The condom box has critical reviews written on the back. Apparently, it’s made of “latex viagra” and the New York Times calls it “A Triumph of Excess“. On the front, they claim that it’s “No. 1 American Choice“. This cosmetic obsession is something else I’ve noticed in China. My hotel is next to the “Joyfull International Brand Luxury High Rise 4-star Hotel of Shanghai”. Their branding strategy seems to go the “Let’s put all the buzzwords into one advertising campaign” strategy. So if I’m looking for a hotel, I can see, Wow…I’m an international person and there’s a BRAND NAME hotel…can’t be that bad. And look! It received 4 stars. And it’s full of joy. Let’s stay there. It’s true with everything from hotels to condoms. Apparently, America is the preeminent authority on condom quality.

  • I’m slowly learning how to read Chinese. The process goes something like this. I stand in front of map and I look for where I need to go. I say to myself: “Ok, crazy looking symbol, box with sprouts coming up from the top, complicated symbol, crazy symbol, horse looking letter.” Then I go find it.
  • A guy approached me today and started speaking in Mandarin. I said, I don’t speak Chinese. He says,

“Ohhh you American? Where you from?”

New York

“OHHHHhhhh….I have many friend from Shanghai in New York.”

That’s great

“Hey, listen, you want to enjoy some young girls?”

No thanks

“No no, listen. They very young and you young, and you can enjoy much better than street girl.”

There’s a saying in New York that goes something like this: ‘Go fuck yourself” Know what it means?”


  • The only man more popular than Mao Zedong is Kobe Bryant.
  • I went to a McDonalds and I tried to redeem my “Free Medium Fries” Monopoly card. They looked at me like I was from Broadway and Park Place. (Astoria’s pretty close though ho ho ho).
  • I’ve only been able to pick up a few Mandarin words. Ne how, and Shi she of course. And the other one I keep hearing is “nigga”. Nigga this and nigga that. It may just be my imagination but it’s as if every sentence begins with “Nigga, wohshsoeheaoe” I’ll hear sentences that go like, “Nigga, eowshog nigga, weiohs wei nigga, wesuchwoe nigga, woeihds nigga nigga wei. hao hao hao.” Can one of my Chinese friends illuminate me on what nigga means in Mandarin? Does it mean “Um” or “The”?

Sidenote: Wouldn’t it be funny if “nigga” in Mandarin meant “What”? Then it’d be like a Chinese person coming to Brooklyn and hearing “Nigga, What?” on the sidewalk and then the Chinese person would be like…Yo, that’s redundant.

  • I forgot my nail clippers and my nails are unseemly long. But the worst part? I seem to fit right in with the other men in this country. It’s pretty dang gross.
  • My stomach is about half tea, half grease.
  • I can’t tell if these are clouds or smog. I was thinking about buying one of those paper masks for a souvenior but now I’m thinking I might use it for the duration of my stay. The only thing stopping me is my fear of being asked for more directions.
  • Finally, I usually post my blog posts on Facebook. I didn’t know that Facebook is banned in China. How did I post this? Backdoor channels and circuitry. That’s all it is people. Subnet IP espionage.

(I asked my friend to post for me…Shh…don’t tell the government).



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8 responses to “How To Survive in China

  1. thethroughball

    Yea…it’s means “um”. Safe travels buddy!

  2. Joan

    Hhahha Chris. Once in awhile I’ll stop by your blog and read your latest entries and I’ll laugh and smile to myself lol. Have a great(safe) time in in China!

  3. teef

    chris! you’re in shanghai? what are you doing out there… clearly i am out of the loop.

    i’m heading there on sunday.. arriving on monday night, 10/18! we should hang out. i’m flying out on 10/22 to taipei.

  4. daniel park

    actually, “nage” or “nigga” as it may sound, means… that.

    so, it’s interesting that Chinese people say it so often… it’s kinda like saying, “you know what i’m talking about… THAT THAT THAT” it’s like asking other people to finish your sentences because they follow you. intentional vagueness.

  5. Andy

    As your Chinese friend from high school who has been following your blog these past few months, let me help you out a bit here.

    The “nigga” that you’re hearing may be the phrase that sounds like “nei-ga,” which roughly translates as “that one.” For example, if you wanted to point out to a friend a particular pencil on your desk, you would point to it and say “nei-ga.” The phrase probably comes off as sounding like “nigga” because people over there probably just slur it when they speak quickly.

    At least, that’s how it makes sense to me in Mandarin. Because you’re in Shanghai, the phrase you’re hearing may also be in Shanghai-nese and may mean something entirely different, which would void my explanation above.

    As for the cloud smog…um, my college roommate from China once showed me a pic he took when he was in the country, and when I commented about it being an overcast day in the pic, he said that it wasn’t clouds, it was pollution. But then again, he was further up north, in a coal-producing province of China. Get a face mask. The cool kids in Taiwan are doing it, and over there you can still see the sun through the smog.

    Oh. And the Chinese government probably already knows that you asked your friend to post for you.

    I, for one, welcome our new Communist overlords.

    But, more than a few of my friends who have recently gone to China have said that they actually feel more free over there, than they do in the U.S. I’m guessing you’ve already gotten a taste of that, what with the street pimp coming up to hustle you.

    Stay safe, have fun! But not too much fun, if you know what I mean!

  6. Andy

    Oh. One more thing. After consulting with some Chinese experts (aka my mom and dad), I’ve arrived at the conclusion that you should eat something else besides dumplings. Shanghai is known for their noodles.

  7. Connie

    Hi Chris! Danielle told me that you were in Shanghai for work. I hope it’s going well but if it’s not, I actually have a friend there (also a UCLA grad) there right now who’s working the Expo. She’s been there for a couple of months and is fluent in Mandarin so if you want, email me and I can give you her info. But I would also totally understand if you want to navigate on your own. 🙂

  8. kim kim

    My chinese friend’s grandma doesn’t speak english. When his white friend and black friend came over, his grandma said in chinese, “I’ve never seen that one before” pointing to the black friend. All the black guy saw was a chinese old lady point to him and say “nigga”

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