Two nights ago, kept awake by jetlag, I came upon the blog of my Microsoft friend named Bei-jing. She moved her family to Beijing in 2006, which allowed her to write a post entitled "Beijing in Beijing".
I think I shall name one of my children after a city, so that they can experience this pleasure. If it's a daughter, I'll name her Verona. "Verona in Verona" -- what cadence! Or I may name her Vienna, or Venice.
If it's a son, he gets to be called Frankfurt, or Stuttgart, or Edinburgh.
Anyway, in the blog, Bei-jing discusses cultural surprises from China. It gave me an unquenchable desire to draw up my own list!
1. Chinese people can be surprisingly out of shape while looking perfectly fit. Over New Year's, my dad and I visited Xi'an, where we climbed up a stone staircase to see Chang Kai-shek's old living quarters.
My dad and I climbed it easily while chatting. Behind us, I heard a female voice say between gasps of breath, "Oh my God! I'm not going to make it. I really need to start exercising. I'm so out of shape."
Conditioned by America, I turned around expecting to see a 250-pound woman walking behind me. Instead, the speaker was a willowy girl, no more than a size two.
I don't understand how it can be that hard to propel 100 pounds of body mass up a single flight of stairs. If I stood behind her and fanned my hand, the gust of wind would carry her up those steps.
2. I really like the pace of the Chinese courting ritual. It's much slower than American expectations. So sweet!
A Beijing Googler told me a story about being set up on a blind date. He figured out quickly that he wasn't interested in his date from a romantic standpoint. However, when he dropped her off at her apartment, she invited him up to sit for a while, and he accepted.
"Weren't you worried about giving her the wrong impression?" I asked.
"No," he said, "In China, everyone assumes nothing will happen on the first date, so it can be perfectly platonic if I go up to her apartment. I was just being polite."
America is a different story. I held a party earlier this year. One of my female guests, a very pretty girl who models on the side, met one of my male guests, a sometimes bashful engineer. Within fifteen minutes, she'd held hands with him, touched him in other ways, and told him she was going to take him home and [censored for young ears] him.
Granted, this is fast even for America. But I still like the Chinese pacing better.