Just "Box"

12 Nov 2003

I understand that northern China has already received a fair bit of snowfall, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that winter finally announced its presence in Hangzhou. Not that it’s really cold now, but it’s beginning.
One of the telltale signs that winter is here is that “iceboxes” become just “boxes.” In restaurants and some grocery stores the Chinese unplug their refrigerators in the winter and simply use them as storage! It makes sense, I guess, but it still seems strange when you come from a country that dutifully wastes that refrigerator electricity all winter long. (Oh yeah, I forgot — we also have the strange custom of keeping buildings warm inside in the winter.)
Of course, drinks often aren’t kept cold even during the summer here. Newcomers from the West — if nothing else — quickly learn the Chinese word “bing de” for when they order drinks. Cold. You know you’ve been in China too long when you forget to ask for a cold beer but then drink the warm one anyway. Or even worse — when you don’t really care anymore whether it’s cold or not.
[shudder]

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

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