Nothing too special about this photo… Summer’s here!
“Melon” in Chinese is 瓜 (guā). In this picture we have:
- 西瓜 (xīguā) watermelon, lit. “west melon”
- 甜瓜 (tiánguā) muskmelon, lit. “sweet melon”
Nothing too special about this photo… Summer’s here!
“Melon” in Chinese is 瓜 (guā). In this picture we have:
That price is for one 斤 (jīn), which is 500 grams (the vendor says that’s 8 eggs).
So that’s 5.8 RMB per kg, or 2.7 RMB per pound.
2.7 RMB, at the current exchange rate, is US$0.38 (per pound).
Even if you’re not buying the cheapest eggs, you can typically buy eggs in Shanghai for less than 1 RMB (US$0.14) per egg.
2020-06-19 Edit: Sorry, people, my original eggs prices were off. Thanks to readers for calling it to my attention.
The real reason I took this photo, though, is as a reminder to learners that your written Chinese characters don’t have to be amazing works of beauty to get the job done.
Since I hardly write by hand these days, my own Chinese handwriting is pretty ugly too, but I don’t sweat it.
The name of this restaurant is Wan Hui: 皖荟. It’s a pun on the word 晚会, which is sort of like “evening party” (or dinner).
This restaurant in Shanghai’s Changning Raffles City ( 长宁来福士广场) is not mind-blowing, but it’s still pretty special. Cool atmosphere.
I like these character fragment decorations on the walls:
The dry ice and purple lights are a cool contrast to the traditional Anhui-style walls:
As for the food, ummm, it’s OK, I guess? I’m not much of a 吃货 (foodie).
I love bagels. So I have to say: the bagel has gotten a bum deal in China. It starts with the name.
Now, of course 贝果 (bèiguǒ) is a simple transliteration for the English word “bagel.” But there are good transliterations, and there are bad ones.
In this case, the character 贝 means “shell” (like in “shellfish”) and appears in words like 扇贝 (scallop) and 贝壳 (clamshell).
The character 果 means “fruit” or “nut” and appears in words like 水果 (fruit), 苹果 (apple), 坚果 (nut), or 开心果 (pistachio nut).
So with regards to the food-related characters used in the Chinese name for 贝果… that’s 0 for 2 on the food groups! Could this name possibly be confusing?
Knowing that bagels are not well-known among Chinese people, I tested my co-workers. I asked them if they’d ever had a 贝果. They said no. I asked them if they knew what it was. They weren’t sure, but guessed it was some kind of nut.
On the upside (sort of?), I’ve noticed that my pinyin input method (Mac) is giving me the option of a bagel emoji as I type 贝果, and it has cream cheese on it! so maybe not all hope is lost for the bagel in China…
And that’s all I have for you today from the world of hard-hitting bagel journalism in Shanghai.
There’s a cultural trend I’ve noticed over the years living in China, and it’s recently come into sharper focus as a result of having my own children and interacting with more Chinese parents. It’s the family habit of letting the child decide the menu for meals, or, in the case of eating out, letting the child decide where to eat or what food to order for everyone. I’m not talking about an occasional thing; I’m talking about a habitual practice.
I probably first noticed this when I started dating my future wife. She lived with her parents, and would frequently communicate with her mom on the phone. I noticed that I would often hear her telling her mom what she wanted for dinner that night, and that’s what her mom would make. I thought this was kind of weird, but figured that was just her family, she was kind of a strong personality, she was good at choosing food everyone likes, etc.
Over the years I learned that this was quite common, and it starts early. Children of 4 or 5 years old frequently decide most of what’s on the menu for the evening, practically every day. In some homes, the child decides their own menu while the adults eat an entirely separate meal. It’s no wonder that so many kids in China are picky eaters!
When this started happening in my own home with my own kids, I quickly put a stop to it. “Kids don’t get to decide what’s for dinner,” I said. “They eat what they’re given.” Fortunately my mother-in-law and wife were cool with that, but they had already started falling into what seems to be the “default mode” of letting the children (usually the youngest) decide what’s for dinner in a Chinese household.
One awkward thing about comparing this aspect of Chinese and American families is that I really only have my own “American cultural experiences” to compare to, and those are not at all recent! I don’t have regular contact with many American families, so if this same habit is now super common in American families too, I wouldn’t know. I suspect that it exists as well, but is nowhere near as widespread as it is in China, where the One Child Policy has set off a cascade of new family dynamics, often resulting in spoiled sibling-less children.
Talking to other parents in Shanghai, what I usually hear is, “my kid often doesn’t want to eat, and is already so skinny. So I’d rather let him decide what to eat and eat something rather than eat nothing.” My reply to this, of course, is, “he’ll be pretty hungry and less picky the next day after he eats nothing for dinner. He won’t starve. 4-year-olds don’t go on hunger strikes.” This works in my family (I’ve let my kids go hungry when they decide they’re going to be picky eaters), but I get the definite impression that Chinese parents think this won’t work in their families (or they’re just not willing to let their kids miss a single meal).
We’re working on a new discussion course for intermediate learners at AllSet Learning focused on various topics related to raising children. It’s really a very, very rich vein for discussion, and it’s the reason this “picky eater” and “kids ordering food” topic resurfaced for me recently. If your experience (American, Chinese, or whatever) is different, please share!
Just a simple China product discovery:
In China, the word “mojito” is not pronounced “mo-hee-to” like it is in English. Rather, the Spanish “j” is approximated with the Chinese “x” sound. In Chinese, it’s written 莫希托 (mòxītuō) or 莫西托 (mòxītuō), or sometimes even 莫希多 (mòxīduō). But it’s not a big step from “xi” to “qi” in Chinese, which makes the xi/qi pun possible, using the number 7 (qī). This gives us: 莫7托 (mòqītuō), as well as the curious English name “Moji7o.”
No comment on the taste! I didn’t buy it or try it.
This ad is hanging in Shanghai’s “Cloud 9” (龙之梦) shopping mall:
First of all the repeating character is 鹅, which means “goose.” In the circular logo, you can see a little characterplay going on with the goose head.
Above that, you have “鹅，鹅，鹅” which, of course, reads “goose, goose, goose.” This is a famous first line of a classical Chinese poem. It’s famous because it’s so simple, so a lot of kids memorize it as one of their first (if not the first) classical poems committed to memory.
Here’s the poem in its entirety:
鹅 鹅 鹅，
曲 项 向 天 歌。
白 毛 浮 绿 水，
红 掌 拨 清 波。
And in English (source):
Goose, goose, goose,
You bend your neck towards the sky and sing.
Your white feathers float on the emerald water,
Your red feet push the clear waves.
The banner is an ad for a restaurant, 鹅夫人, or “Madame Goose.”
This restaurant, 鱼你说, has a pun for a name:
I also like the stylized font!
The name is a pun on the phrase “与你说,” which means “talk with you.” 与 is a rather formal word that can be used in place of 和 or 跟 in many contexts.
Although the pinyin for both the name and the phrase are “yu ni shuo,” actually 鱼 is second tone, while 与 is third tone. But 你 is third tone, which means that 与 is read as second tone, due to the tone change rule. So actually the two sound the same.
I like potatoes. I have Polish and Irish blood, so maybe it’s in my DNA. China has a number of good potato dishes, such as the staple 酸辣土豆丝 (sour and spicy potato strips). But it seems like some of the best ones get no love from the local population.
Take this dish for example:
The original Chinese dish was 椒盐土豆 (“salt and pepper potatoes”), and it was good, but I asked them to make it spicy (spicy version pictured above), and it was so much better. Really amazing.
Years ago I had an ayi from China’s Dongbei (northeast) region, and she learned to make garlic mashed potatoes (with no butter) that were awesome. But Chinese people don’t normally eat that.
Of course, French fries are pretty popular here. But the really good potato dishes get no recognition in China…
I spotted these pro-veggie ads in the Shanghai Metro recently:
少吃肉 [Eat less meat]
多走走 [Walk more]
少吃肉 [Eat less meat]
多福寿 [Be happier and live longer]
This is good to see, because as anyone who has lived in China should know, the (even remotely) affluent Chinese consume quite a bit of meat these days (and waste a lot of it, too).
The ads aren’t too clever, but the message is good, and there’s even a spot of characterplay in there. 蔬食 refers to a “vegetarian diet.”
Check out the English name of this little shop:
“Born Fried” is almost certainly an overly literal character-by-character translation of 生煎, a kind of bready, fried stuffed bun. Wikipedia describes it like this:
…a type of small, pan-fried baozi (steamed buns) which is a specialty of Shanghai. It is usually filled with pork and gelatin that melts into soup/liquid when cooked. Shengjian mantou has been one of the most common breakfast items in Shanghai since the early 1900s. As a ubiquitous breakfast item, it has a significant place in Shanghainese culture.
That same page gives the literal translation “raw-fried” for 生煎. Still, there’s something about “Born Fried”… it has a cool ring to it.
In case you’re not familiar with this little joyful celebration of grease, here are a few photos from Flickr (not my own; click through for the photographer’s photos):
After you’re done admiring the map, check out the character 菜 at the bottom:
(Sidenote! I have to wonder: why didn’t they choose to use chopsticks instead of a fork?)
菜 can mean “a dish (at a meal),” or “vegetables,” or even just “food,” depending on context. Here, the text reads:
The ad uses a common idiom. 是我的菜 means “is to my liking” or, oddly enough, “is my cup of tea.”
Interesting enough, it’s super common to use this expression with relation to romantic attraction:
This is a great expression to learn early on because it’s fun, instantly comprehensible, easy to use, and uses only basic words and characters.
One of the interesting things about living in Shanghai is seeing new technology integrated into daily life across the city fairly quickly. Two significant recent examples include mobile payments (WeChat, AliPay) and bike sharing (Mobike, Ofo). But WeChat is enabling lots of other cool changes as well.
The other day I went to Burger King and there was a fairly long line.
I noticed this banner telling me to scan the QR code and order on my phone to skip the line:
I don’t always go for this kind of thing, as sometimes the “quick and convenient” way ends up being more hassle (the Shanghai Metro’s recent launch of QR codes for subway ticket payments is a great example of that). But this time I decided to give it a shot.
It was, indeed, easy and fast, and I think I got my order sooner than I would have had I stayed in line.
It was pretty clear to me that Burger King is essentially using the same system used to prepare orders for delivery guys: the user orders on the app, and the delivery guy picks it up in the window. This implementation is simply combining the two for one user. And it utilizes WeChat, so it’s not even a totally separate iOS or Android app. The only flaw I saw was that it didn’t auto-detect which store I was in; I had to choose it. Had I accidentally chosen the wrong location, that would have been quite annoying for both sides.
Still, interesting to see this. McDonalds in Shanghai has had touchscreen order kiosks for a while, but shifting the ordering to WeChat (which virtually every consumer in Shanghai uses) adds a new level of convenience.
I’m used to seeing English words mixed in with Chinese advertising copy, and even product names, but this name took me by surprise:
“茶π“?! Why in the world…?
I showed this to some Chinese friends, asking them why anyone would put π in the name of a bottled tea drink. No one had an answer.
I speculated that maybe the “π” was being used as a pun on 派, meaning “faction” or “clique”? They didn’t really like that theory, but they had nothing better to offer.
In my foolish optimism, I searched online for the answer, and discovered it in this article:
What is “Tea Pi,” you ask?
Nongfu Spring‘s official answer: a combination of tea and fruit flavors, infinitely unrepeating π, which is also our infinitely unrepeating youth!
Uhhh… there’s nothing I can say to that!
Translation: kids these days like random stuff.
I never imagined that collaborating with a musician to create a fun song for learning Chinese grammar would result in a love song to stinky tofu (臭豆腐), of all foods! But that is indeed what happened last week. Check out the result, from Chinese Buddy:
It’s a fun song, and there are two kids in my house (and even an adult or two) that can’t stop humming it. From a grammatical perspective, the use of the verb 要 with various objects is highlighted.
My input into the Chinese learning part of the song was:
Yep, four checks! If you’re a beginner working on basic sentence patterns, I hope you find this song helpful. As for the stinky tofu… well, I’ll leave that up to your own judgment.
Do also check out Chinese Buddy on YouTube. There are a bunch of songs (mostly oriented at children), and the styles of the songs range quite a bit, so don’t judge the music on just one or two songs. Probably my second favorite song would the the Tones Song. (Yeah, I have a thing for tones, and also ukulele music, maybe?)
I’ve been noticing this mural at a noodle restaurant in Shanghai for several years at least, I think. But the Warriors’ most recent win and Kevin Durant’s performance in particular make me think I should share this odd bit of wall art:
I saw this tea place in the Jing’an area and felt like “Hey Tea” was sort of an odd name:
True, odd English names aren’t so odd in China, I know. But then I realized that this other shop was just around the corner:
Yeah, the original “Hey Jude” pun doesn’t exactly carry over for any random drink.
(More Beatles puns here. This post is for Pete!)
UPDATE: Tom in the comments points out that Hey Tea is a big chain from Guangdong, so it looks like my theory is off.
It’s almost that time of year again: China’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (or as the Chinese like to call it, “Chinese Thanksgiving,” without all the thanks giving and turkey). It’s that time of year when people eat a little snack called a mooncake.
Like many foreigners (and many modern Chinese), I am not fond of the mooncake (despite once participating in a mooncake-eating contest). Yes, I am aware there are many kinds. I have long since tried all the traditional kinds, such as 豆沙 (sweet bean paste) 莲蓉 (lotus seed paste), and 蛋黄 (egg yolk), as well as the fancy new kinds made with ice cream or Japanese mochi. Not a fan. But then I just recently had a freshly baked (not sweet) meat-filled mooncake, and I am a fan:
Yes, it took me 16 years in China to discover a mooncake I liked. It wasn’t exactly top-priority. The filling is referred to as 鲜肉 (it’s pork).
So, if you don’t like mooncakes, I feel your pain. But this kind (fresh!) is actually decent. I hear that is the kind people line up all day to buy.
I spotted a punny McDonalds ad in the subway yesterday that might not be obvious to a lot of learners:
The ad presupposes knowledge of the word 充电宝, which is a pretty recent word, and isn’t in a lot of dictionaries yet. 充电 means “to recharge” (electricity, but sometimes metaphorically as well). 宝 means “treasure” and is also used in the common word for “baby” (宝宝), but here it just means “thing.” 充电器 already means “charger” (for electronics), but the difference here is that a 充电宝 is a battery that can be carried with you and used to recharge you smartphone. These portable chargers seem to be way more popular in China than the battery-extending cases (Mophie and the like) I’ve seen a number of Americans use.
OK, so back to the pun. It’s focused on the “bǎo” part of 充电宝 (portable charger). It uses the character 饱, meaning “full”. It creates the sense that a meal at McDonalds is a “recharging fill” (not “full recharge”).
Anyway, you get the idea.
I was tempted to use a title like, “You think this guy is just selling watermelons, but you won’t believe what he does next!”
Anyway, on my morning commute, I passed this dejected-looking vendor, eyes downcast, as he shirtlessly watched over his truckload of watermelons. He was staring at his scale, and I imagined he was thinking about how absurd it is that this electronic device determines his income.
As I got closer, I saw what he was actually doing.
Yeah, that’s an iPad. Watermelon guy was watching some kind of drama (but due to bad luck, the screen was black right when I snapped this shot).