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Updated: 2008-01-11 07:17

How the other half lives

The expat tide began drifting back to China this week following the annual exodus for the festive season. Ryan McLaughlin and wife Maggie returned after three weeks in the "real world" of his native Canada. While at home, McLaughlin set about enlightening his countrymen on life in his adopted homeland. He uses this as the basis of a list called, "what neverbeens don't know about China" on his blog www.thehumanaught.com. Some of his observations include:

1. By and large people in China wear the same clothes as the rest of the world: I'm curious to know if they had images of Shaolins, Manchus, or Maoists in mind.

2. Chinese food in North America is generally Cantonese or domestically fabricated: I had to explain to friends that 90 percent of Chinese food found outside Chinatown is likely to be from Guangdong and/or Hong Kong - both of which, though quite populous, are only a small part of the whole country.

3. Chinese don't use ovens: I found myself listing to gasps of, "but how do they make bread, bake cookies, roast turkey!" Well folks, 1) They steam it. 2) They buy them in a box or at a Taiwanese bakery, and 3) Turkey? Strictly for export.

School's out

Ringing in the New Year with a ubiquitous list of predictions, Ernie Diaz, editor of www.chinaexpat.com, touches on a fresh career option for expats. Diaz says the squeeze on real estate in California will see yet more Americans up stumps and move to China to teach English, leading to an oversupply of such educators in China. Instead, expect to see laowai faces serving up your favorite late-night grease fix. "The English teacher supply will finally exceed demand, making sidewalk yang rou chuanr (barbequed lamb skewers) and DVD sales a more lucrative option for under-skilled foreigners," Diaz says.

Going up?

For Rick Martin at www.lostlaowai.

com, the ability to listen in on conversations conducted in the local lingo has made riding elevators a lot more fun. On his blog, Martin shares a couple of anecdotes from snippets overheard in lifts.

The first takes place when Martin leaves his apartment doused in a heady, expensive JS Aupres cologne. "The elevator stops on 19, and a 40-ish Chinese man and his female companion get on. The woman sniffs the air a few times. "Wow, that cologne smells pretty strong," she says in Chinese.

The man looks me up and down before replying, "It's Adidas, nothing special." The man told the woman the offending scent was cheap, at 50 yuan ($6.8) a bottle.

Martin was subtle in letting the couple know that he understood what they were saying by adding in Chinese: "No problem brother, us foreigners always do our best to be polite."

The second anecdote involves Martin being unwittingly privy to the illicit affairs of his lift-riding companions, when a 50-something man warns a younger woman not to wear a scent that could later be detected by his wife.

(China Daily 01/11/2008 page19)