lostnchina

…because not all of us have our Peking ducks in a row

People’s Republic of WTF?

The other day I realized that, even though this blog is entitled LOSTNCHINA and I frequently blather on about how odd it is to be Chinese-but-not-quite-Chinese-enough in China, I’ve never posted any photographic evidence.  So, I’ve scoured my photos to bring you pictures from behind the bamboo curtain.  Some of you following my blog are also China-based, so I’d love to see what you’ve got in your collection; I’m sure it’s sumptuously politically-incorrect.

Thirsty for Alpo

Imagine the sweltering 90F+ summers and 100% humidity of southern China.   With my 8-lb laptop, a bunch of files in my backpack and my back dripping with sweat, I take refuge in the air-conditioned supermarket, searching for something cool and refreshing to drink – a bottled water, a can of wax gourd drink, or a container of liquid shoe polish.  I’m too thirsty to be choosey now.  I pass the 100 brands of soy sauce, the two aisles of crackers and cookies – and finally stop at a sign…

…which turns out to be useless, as “wash adjust drinks” – according to the Chinese letters – are beverages in powdered form, which must be mixed with water, or other liquids in order to be ingested.

Becoming increasingly anxious, I plunge into another aisle, without even looking at the sign and find:

Intense & Simulating. Numb & Spicy Hot Pot Flavor (I’m assuming they’re referring to the chips & not the guy)

Suddenly, a sales clerk appears from nowhere, “Ma’am, you want to try the latest flavor of chips?  Wasabi- or shrimp-flavored?”

“No, no, no!  I’m looking for beverages!  Drinks!  Where are the drinks?”

“You will like our latest chips flavors.  They are so popular in America!”

Now, this is very common in Chinese stores, where sales clerks get a commission on the products they’re hustling.  You’re bleeding from your head, or holding your severed thumb, desperately looking for medical supplies, and the sales clerk is urging you to buy a can of chicken-liver flavored Alpo.

Turning away from the sales clerk, I stumble down another aisle and come face-to-face with:

Fresh! Convenient! Tastes good!

Overcome with intense thirst and heat, I turn another corner and take a few deep breaths to calm down.  But then, I see the Potato Chip Lady coming purposefully down the aisle towards me.  I’m unconsciously clenching my fists and jaw, my vision is getting blurry and I’m becoming increasingly frustrated.  Finally, I look up at the sign directly over my head to see where I am:

Damn right, I am!

What do Chairman Mao, Colonel Sanders, Chicken Little and Barak Obama Have in Common?

The Chinese have this thing about fried chicken: they love it.  And their adoration with the king of fried chicken – Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders – is evident in the various reincarnations of the jovial American that are seen throughout China.

That’s Comrade Chairman Sanders to you!

The love child of Colonel Sanders and Chicken Little

Eleven herbs and spices – care to guess what they are?

Kentucky Fried Gophers?

It’s nice to know the guy’s got something to fall back on, if he isn’t re-elected.

(Some of the photos are from engrishfunny.failblog.org, or have been given to me by other people)

Zen & the Art of Driving in China

Anyone who’s been to China will tell you that driving in China is a harrowing experience.  Ever see that cartoon where the driver turns into a skeleton, while waiting endlessly at a STOP sign for the cars to clear, so he can cross the road?  In China it’s not a cartoon, but a fact of life for cowardly drivers.  If you hesitate, you’re left behind breathing the fumes of other cars.  I once asked a female driver how she drove across the road, where there were no stoplights nor signs.  She said she just closed her eyes and hit the gas.  Ironically, to the casual observer, this is how most people drive in China.

To cope with the stressful driving environment, Chinese drivers hang baubles from their rear view mirrors, pimp their cars out with cutesy cushions and stuffed animals, or just grow grass on their dashboards to achieve their own little piece of Zen:

Hello Kitty Gonna Claw Your Eyes Out!

So beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes

One of my favorite things about the Hong Kong International Airport is the Virgin Atlantic/Eva Airlines Lounge.  I’ve never been on a Virgin Atlantic flight, but their lounges are super swankFree booze, free, cool ethnic foods, like Laksa, sexily-upholstered lounge chairs, an expansive view of the tarmac, and hot European men with their pissy wives and girlfriends.

Staff at the Virgin Atlantic Lounge continually serve me the free booze, probably because they think I’ll be getting on the same plane as the hot Europeans.  The servers don’t know that I’ll instead be rubbing shoulders with 70-year-old flatulent Chinese men, who can’t take out/put away their tray tables, properly operate their seats, or hold their pee for more than 15 minutes.

It can’t all be perfect, but did I mention the free booze?

So imagine leaving this great lounge, which you wish was your living room, and lurching warmly and fuzzily towards your boarding gate.  And as you board your plane, you take a good look at your boarding pass and realize with sobering horror that you are one of the lucky few to be riding the Hello Kitty magic carpet from Hong Kong to Taipei!

Unless you’ve been living under the Rock of Gibraltar, you will know that Hello Kitty is a 38+ year Japanese phenomenon borne from the freaky womb of the Sanrio company.  It doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80 years old: if you like pink glitter and believe in punctuating all of the photographs you’re in with a “V” for Victory sign, then you’re Hello Kitty’s bitch.

For the entire one-hour-and-forty-minute flight, Eva Airlines never lets you forget that you are at the mercy of the pink-bowed monstrosity.  The hull of the plane is splashed with a Hello Kitty design, the flight attendants wear Kitty smocks when serving food, and even…

Subliminal Kitty advertising

And…

The Kitty waves enter our brains more easily this way

Just in case all of this Kitty stuff is making you nauseous:

Yes, folks. It’s a Hello Kitty barf bag. I like the self-deprecating humor – intentional or otherwise.

…or makes you want to jump out of a plane….

In the event of an emergency – like, you want to jump out of the plane to escape all of the Hello Kittyness – Hello Kitty will calmly lead you to the nearest exit, which is actually a portal to the Hello Kitty dimension.

In the event of an emergency, please proceed to the nearest Hello Kitty call center for the latest announcements.

(In robotic unison at the Eva Airlines self-service kiosk at the Taipei International Airport) Come play with us, Danny…Come play with us….

The face is animated. Stand there long enough and it will blink. Stand there a little longer and it will ask you for a cigarette.

38 comments on “People’s Republic of WTF?

  1. kiell
    July 26, 2012

    Ha, this is so awesome, and I love your blog! My favorite food item when I was in China was “Pork with Nausea Sauce.” Yum.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      July 26, 2012

      Nausea sauce seems to be prevalent in a lot of Chinese food out of China. Hehe….

      Like

  2. McKenna
    July 25, 2012

    I have spent the past four summers in Hong Kong and can relate. This post made me laugh…..and I gained the desire to find some of my hilarious China pics I have stored away somewhere! Thanks!

    Like

    • lostnchina
      July 25, 2012

      Yes, please do! Love to see what other people come up with. There is hilarious stuff everywhere over there.

      Like

  3. bronxboy55
    June 18, 2012

    When my daughter was in Beijing, she sent me a picture of a statue of Thomas Edison, who had also apparently become Chinese.

    Do you think the Hello Kitty theme is intended to relax people by intoxicating them with sweetness — convincing them that they’re on a ride at the amusement park, rather than flying 500 miles per hour at thirty thousand feet?

    I had a feeling you weren’t kidding about that wax gourd drink.

    Great writing as always, Susan.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      June 19, 2012

      Maybe Thomas Edison was Chinese and we just didn’t know it? The proof is in the chopsticks.

      Most Asians are very into Hello Kitty, and I suppose they would find Hello Kitty relaxing. But for others, Hello Kitty seems like a cult.

      Thanks for reading.

      Like

  4. beaufortninja
    June 14, 2012

    Great stuff. I’ve got my Crazy China series where I post a weird photo once a week. I’m backed up right now because I see so many wild things every day!

    Like

    • lostnchina
      June 15, 2012

      Thanks. You’re so right. There’s crazy stuff in China all the time. Even the most banal things.

      Like

  5. Giora
    May 26, 2012

    Very interesting about the Hello Kitt. I knew it’s ig in Japan. Didn’t know it’s big in China. Cool that you can get free drink/food at Virgin Airlines lounge. I don’t travel much. I wonder if other airlines have free drink/food and people can sneak in. About China being a world power without full democracy to its people

    Like

    • Giora
      May 26, 2012

      it’s easier actually to be a superpower when you don’t have democracy. Russia was a superpower under communism. All in all, the USA is going down in its world power, while China is moving up.

      Like

      • lostnchina
        May 27, 2012

        I totally agree with you on this point, Giora. I was going to say that the USSR back in the day was the scariest superpower there was. And it’s easier to be a superpower when you’re a totalitarian or communist regime simply because the government dictates how things should run, so it’s easier to become “efficient” at building the infrastructure or the military/defense to scare the pants off your neighbors. In a democracy, people vote on whether or not a bypass, that would benefit the general population, should be built through their backyards. So progress is slowed or stifled.

        And look at what happened to the USSR once it became a “democracy” – countries broke off, civil war, etc. I’m not saying communism or dictatorships are a good thing, but I do believe, after having lived in China all these years, that when a country is at a certain level of development, different types of government would be more effective than a democracy in getting the country onto its feet. But once a certain level of socio-economic level has been reached, then another type of government is needed. That’s just my personal opinion.

        Like

        • Giora
          May 28, 2012

          We have the Chinese newspaper “The Epoch Times” given free in Toronto. They are against the Communist Regime in China. Last month they had a big article that according to their reliable information, The Communist Goverment in Beijing in their big meeting this october will say that China is moving from Communism to Democracy and allow other parties to run in the next election. That’s what they say. We’ll have to wait for October to see if it’s true. You personal opinion is right and China is about to change to a Democratic election with a few parties in the next few years. Too many young and ecutaed people in China want change.

          Like

        • beaufortninja
          June 14, 2012

          Interesting discussion. Hope you don’t mind if I throw my 2 cents in. If voting made any difference at all then it’d be illegal. The Soviet Union went down because it’s economy had been faltering for about 20 years or so because growth had stalled. The original communist strategy of taking peasants off the farms and putting them in factories in the city wasn’t effective because there were no more peasants to move. The same is happening in China. And unless China rapidly switches its economy from export-led growth then it’s likely that history will repeat. Recent economic data looks grim. But whatever. Just my 2 cents.

          Like

          • lostnchina
            June 15, 2012

            Interesting point. I think China’s been trying to evolve from a place for cheapy labor to a center of R&D, but its workforce hasn’t caught up. China’s still got a ton of people in the farms, but they’re not capable of doing much else except intensive labor stuff, due to their education and background. The Chinese government tries really, really hard to designate special trade zones and stimulus to various regions but there’s still great disparity between the rich and the poor and the gap’s getting bigger. And the export-led growth will cause more unemployment and unrest. That’s why I fear China will implode before it does anything “harmful” to other countries, as many people think it will. That’s my one cent 🙂

            Like

    • lostnchina
      May 27, 2012

      Hello Kitty is big in Taiwan, but not so much Mainland China yet. You’d be hard-pressed to sneak into an airline lounge since they check your credentials (frequent flier miles). There’s an airline lounge for every major airline, I’m sure. And there’s always some kind of food and entertainment (ie. Game centers, computers, TVs). As an Eva Airlines Gold Member I can bring a “guest” into their lounge with me wherever I’m at (of course, you’d have to be flying).

      Like

  6. Jean
    May 26, 2012

    Sigh, Kitty and pinkness, is just so..Asian!

    Like

  7. vicky1clicker1tr
    May 25, 2012

    Yes, I would like to hear more about Taiwan and whether most people there want to break away. That might not fit the theme of your blog, but I am interested in that. Do you think it will ever come to a war, like it did with the USA and England, or will they just separate, like with England and Canada?

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 25, 2012

      Well, this is kind of an involved topic and not answered easily. I guess anything can happen with Mainland China: they are unpredictable. But now that they’re a big world player I don’t think they’d do something so rash, like invade Taiwan (which they can do easily in a sneeze. Taiwan’s the size of a pea compared to China). Plus, I think China has enough of its own domestic problems at the moment, with Bo Xilai, the blind activist Chen… I think China’s more of a danger to itself than to anyone else, as they become more developed and its citizens demand more social freedoms, and as the disparity between classes widen. I think the greatest risk will be one day when China reaches a level of growth, where there are higher rates of unemployment. In a country of 1.3 billion, can you imagine a 10% unemployment? That’s 1.3 billion x 0.1!!

      Like

      • vicky1clicker1tr
        May 25, 2012

        Thank you for this quick reply, Susan! You know much more than I do about this, of course, but I just can’t see China becoming a ‘world power’, when it is being so careful to control the thoughts of its people, and their abilities to grow. I don’t think you can truly grow, and become an integral part of the rest of the world, when you are trying so hard to keep your citizens from taking part in that world…a small example being, their ability to access and use the internet.

        Like

  8. synapticcohesion
    May 25, 2012

    So is this Taiwan, China proper or both? I heard that the Taiwanese consider themselves to be different ethnically from the Chinese–is this true? And is Taiwan is still not part of the People’s Republic of China (though China want to claim it as theirs)? Thanks.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 25, 2012

      Yes, this is both. The weird signs are all from China, except for one, and Hello Kitty is more popular in Taiwan than in Mainland China. And whether or not Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic depends on whom you talk to. Technically, most Taiwanese are originally from Mainland China. There are indigenous Taiwanese on the island, too, but they are the minority. But I guess being isolated on an island, plus being treated shabbily by the Mainland Chinese who flocked to Taiwan after the communist takeover didn’t help with the China-Taiwan relationship. That’s why some Taiwanese don’t identify with Mainland China.

      Like

      • synapticcohesion
        May 25, 2012

        Fascinating. Hello Kitty for adults is pretty scary. Though in a place where members of congress fight like children, I guess that’s not too surprising. 😛

        Like

  9. Kind of off topic, but kind of not……. I was out for Bubble Tea last night with some friends (near Toronto), and while I was waiting (forever) to be seated, I saw a sign that said ‘Patio Avaluable’, and I thought “It sure is”. So we got talking about some of our favourite Chinese/English translations/spelling mistakes that we’ve seen. I think the best one was the seafood section of the grocery store that had a ‘Fresh Crap’ sign. Thanks… but I think I’ll take the Lobster instead.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 22, 2012

      I don’t think that’s off topic at all. I love these crazy Chinglish signs. Fresh Crap sounds like something that should be washed down with Wash Adjust Drinks.

      Like

  10. expatlingo
    May 21, 2012

    I would not have believed the Hello Kitty theme if you hadn’t shared the photographic evidence. Freaky. Really freaky.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 21, 2012

      Yes…well, try taking the plane after you’ve had a few glasses of white wine. That’s quadruple-y bizarre.

      Like

  11. breezyk
    May 21, 2012

    haha great signs.
    Is it wierd that I sort of want to go on the hello kitty plane?

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 21, 2012

      No, it’s not weird. I think everyone would like to fly on the Kitty plane at least once. But remember, once you’re on it, they won’t let you leave until THEY say it’s OK.

      Like

  12. gingerfightback
    May 21, 2012

    It just confirms what a lovely smile Obama has. Beve Rage! Indeed

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 21, 2012

      It’s interesting to me how all these people – Colonel Sanders, Obama – become Chinese-ized once they get behind the bamboo curtain.

      Like

  13. WSW
    May 21, 2012

    I’m pretty sure I saw that Wash Adjust Drinks sign on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway recently. Or was that the approach to JFK? Might have been the airport lounge. Hard to recall exactly, but thank you for perking up my current bout of insomnia.

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 21, 2012

      I’m positive those Wash Adjust Drinks signs have something to do with the godforsaken NJ Turnpike, where I once got lost for half an hour going back and forth.

      Like

      • WSW
        May 21, 2012

        I have it on good authority that there are people on the Turnpike who’ve been trying to get off for YEARS. Clearly these signs are part of a larger conspiracy to rattle you so severely that you’ll buy anything.

        Like

  14. vicky1clicker1tr
    May 21, 2012

    So THAT’S what ‘Wash adjust drinks’ means!

    Like

    • lostnchina
      May 21, 2012

      Yes! And kudos to the translator who came up with “wash adjust”.

      Like

      • vicky1clicker1tr
        May 21, 2012

        That’s actually quite clever. ‘Wash’: run water into/over adjust: don’t use all of the powder
        drinks: voila!

        Like

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This entry was posted on May 21, 2012 by in China, Humor and tagged , , , , , , , .
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