Once upon a time I blogged about a short-lived beverage experiment known as Spicy Sprite, and before that, Mint Sprite. Recently someone called to my attention the new Green Tea Sprite. Being the long-time Sprite connoisseur that I am, I had to try it.
It tasted like Sprite, but only… (wait for it) …with green tea in it.
It wasn’t altogether bad, I guess. Not nearly as bad as Mint Sprite, anyway.
The Chinese name is 冰+茶味雪碧. I’m not sure exactly what that “+” in there is trying to prove.
I was searching Youku for interesting Chinese videos about Obama, but all I could find were a few CCTV news clips. If only average Chinese young people liked to video themselves talking about all sorts of topics and put it online, like American kids do on YouTube!
In the process, I ended up doing a search for 黑人 (“black person/people”). Most of the search results were rap or hip hop or dance related, but there was one bizarre one that stood out:
It’s not even Chinese (not related to “Black Man Toothpaste“); it looks like Thai to me. Apparently the Chinese have no monopoly on bizarre/offensive use of black people in toothpaste advertising.
In the last few weeks a new drink has appeared on the convenience store shelves of Shanghai. It’s called 水溶C100, but you probably know it as “lemonade.”
The name 水溶C100 comes from the idea of 水溶性维生素 (water-soluble vitamins). In this case, obviously, it’s vitamin C, and the drink boasts 100% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C (the equivalent of 5.5 lemons, the bottle tells us) in each bottle… but only 12% juice.
I like the drink well enough. Seems to be another success for bottled water company Nongfu Spring, the same company that pleased me 5 years ago with it’s “Farmer’s Orchard” juice. But this new product has been given a fairly horrible name. My wife, who’s been drinking the stuff for a few weeks (like me) still has no idea what it’s called if she’s not looking right at the bottle. It’s just “that lemon drink” (什么100?). And what should we call it in English? C100? I don’t even know. And not only does it have an unmemorable name, but there’s that awkward word in big print “lemon,” just hanging out on the label, though apparently not part of the name. Thanks. Lemon. (But only 12%!)
The drink is quite strong (sour/sweet), but I find it mixes nicely with tonic water, creating a classy concoction remarkably similar to Japan’s own CC Lemon (now there’s an Asian lemonade with a catchy name!). I bet this stuff mixes great with vodka as well.
I saw these board games on a recent trip to my local Carrefour supermarket.
Makes sense; they’re all translated into Chinese except for Scrabble, because that just doesn’t work. [There are at least two Chinese adaptations of Scrabble, though, called Magi Compo and Chinese Squabble.]
Did you notice the price stickers? Yikes! In case you missed them:
I passed by a tattoo shop near my home the other day and snapped a picture of it. I briefly mused that with more and more Chinese tattoo shops opening, maybe foreigners can come to China to get their tattoos and finally get the Chinese characters right! (Of course then most people would have a language barrier to deal with, but that seems more surmountable to me than depending on a random tattoo artist to really know Chinese characters.)
Anyway, after looking at the picture of the shop at home, I decided to check out its website, yueyutattoo.com. Here’s what greeted me:
I hadn’t paid any attention to the Chinese name of the store until I saw its website. The tattoo shop is capitalizing on the success in China of the TV show Prison Break to sell its tattoos. The Chinese name for “Prison Break” is 越狱 (Yuèyù). I understand the main character has a big tattoo vital to the storyline.
On Thursday I noticed three kinds of Trojan condom ads in the subway car I was riding*, and I’d never seen Trojan ads on the subway before. Trojan is getting into the market a bit late; the dominant foreign company is Durex.
What interested me was the content of the ads. One of them was a long horizontal ad which read 不只是神话…… (“it’s not just a myth”). Another was a rectangular ad which briefly recounted in both Chinese and English the Trojan War story, focusing on Helen’s role as the motivation for the war. The last was on the subway door, and it was a 9-by-9 grid of the Trojan condom logo in various colors. None of the ads contained anything about condoms or safe sex, with the exception of the inclusion of the Trojan China website: trojancondoms.cn (which only clues you in if you know English).
[I don’t think I misremembered it, but that URL gives me “Bad Request (Invalid Hostname),” and none of my searches (Google, Baidu) turned up a Trojan condoms Chinese website. “Trojan Condoms” is 特洛伊安全套 or 特洛伊避孕套, depending on which word for “condom” you like. Most of my searches did turn up this video on Chinese YouTube clones, which is pretty funny, but NSFW and not for kids.]
I know the Trojan subway ads could be a marketing tactic, but it doesn’t seem at all compelling. I doubt the typical Chinese commuter knows what Trojan makes, or will connect any of the ads with condoms, and they’re not interesting enough to get people asking what they’re for. So… What’s the point? I really wonder if Trojan knows what it’s doing in China.
哦哟! is a Chinese expression that means something like, “whoa!” But 哦哟！视频 (www.oyoo.com) is a video guide to the shops along Shanghai’s subway lines. Ads for the new website are currently plastered all over the Shanghai subway system.
It’s an interesting concept. You take a bunch of short videos, set them to poppy music, and put them on the site in YouTube fashion. But the videos taken are all of shops along Shanghai’s subway line. They’re organized by subway stop as well as by category: 好吃 (food), 好玩 (entertainment), 好看 (clothing and accessories), 好家 (home decoration/furnishing), 好学 (education), 好朋友 (partners?).
I must say, the videos offered are all pretty dull (with the possible exception of the “Transformer Heaven” shop video); they’re all basically just poorly shot commercials. I also don’t see a lot of evidence of activity. I’m not sure that 时代报 (Metro Express) has what it takes to make this site work, but it’s good to see the Chinese experimenting. Other encouraging signs: the site is relatively free of the cluttered design that plagues Chinese websites, and the page looks fine in Firefox!
I regularly ride the subway to get to ChinesePod headquarters, and on each ride I am subjected to the advertising played on those flat LCD monitors. One of the ads I see a lot is for Jacob’s Creek, an Australian wine. I noted that the Chinese name is 杰卡斯.
杰卡斯 is obviously a partial transliteration. 杰 is chosen for its sound and favorable meaning of “outstanding,” and 卡 and 斯, both chosen for their sounds, are commonly used in transliterations of foreign words.
After seeing this Chinese name enough times, the thought occurred to me: the English name which most closely matches the Chinese transliteration 杰卡斯 is not Jacob’s Creek, but Jackass.
I found this 8-page Carrefour ad in my mailbox the other day, and I thought I’d scan it and share it. For those of you not in the know, Carrefour is a French supermarket chain that is super popular here in the PRC. It just recently opened at its new Zhongshan Park location in Shanghai. Anyway, I would think that this these pages might be very interesting for anyone interested in China, Chinese, or Shanghai.
– Page 3: find out once and for all what the price of eggs in China is.
– Page 4: the chicken’s not fresh unless the head is still attached.
– Page 5: the electric bug swatter is one of the coolest things you can buy in China, period.
– Page 8: maps and bus schedules! (Micah is loving this page even if no one else is.)
I have added a few of my own comments on the individual pages on Flickr. Note that on the individual pages for each scan on Flickr you can click on the “all sizes” button to see a much larger version of each image. You may just want to go to the Flickr Shanghai Carrefour Ad set page.
What would you expect a store called “Three Guns” (三枪) to sell? If you guessed clothing, you guessed right! Just in case there’s any confusion as to what the name of the shop refers to (could it be some kind of literary reference or something?), the logo clears that up.
Still unsatisfied, I went inside and talked to one of the employees. “Why would a clothing store call itself ‘Three Guns?'” I asked. The employee kindly told me that the brand had a long history dating all the way back to before the Communist Revolution, and that the original founder had liked guns. So he named his clothing store “Three Guns.” The end.
It seems hard to believe, but bulk pricing is hard to find in China. When I had only been in China for about a year, I would typically have conversations like this with supermarket clerks:
> Me: How much for one?
> Clerk: 5 rmb.
> Me: OK, how about if I buy this 6-pack?
> Clerk: (looking at me like I’m a little slow) 30 rmb.
> Me: OK, then this whole case of 24?
> Clerk: (wondering what’s wrong with me) 120 rmb. Like I said, 5 rmb each!
Coming from such a hugely capitalist nation, it confuses me when I’m not constantly being goaded into consuming more, more, more. But finally I got it: China just doesn’t do bulk pricing in supermarkets.
Until recently! I saw this box of 蒙牛 (lit. “Mongolian Cow”) milk packets at the grocery store, and they were doing a special promotion: you buy the box of 8, and you get the one taped to the outside for free. Soon thereafter I began seeing this “buy 8 get 1 free” strategy everywhere (but only for milk).
But speaking of Mengniu, have you had this stuff? It is so good! I’m a milk drinker, so I can’t believe I lived in China so long before trying it. It’s so thick it puts American “whole milk” to shame. And then Mengniu chocolate milk… well, don’t even get me started. If you live in China and you drink 光明 (Bright), you’re totally missing out. (If you don’t want all that delicious milk fat, I guess maybe you want to be missing out, though…)
I still get a kick out of seeing what form Western products take in China. Sometimes it’s just a matter of checking out how the company chose to represent its product name in Chinese, but other times the trip across the Pacific also results in other unexpected changes. This is a perfect example. In China instant oatmeal is suddenly a drink? Bizarre.
Carl bought this stuff about a year ago, and it’s still sitting on top of the refrigerator, even though Carl has long since moved out. He said it was good, but he didn’t finish it or take it with him. (Hey Carl, stop by for a visit and some oatmeal beverage any time…)
The Chinese word for “oatmeal” used on the box is 燕麦 (lit. “swallow (bird) wheat”). I know that 麦片 is another name for oatmeal, so I’m kind of curious why marketers might have chosen 燕麦 over 麦片 for their translation. Anyone care to enlighten me?
One thing that hasn’t changed is that in China, too, oatmeal is marketed as a healthy product.
Why can’t Coca-Cola leave Sprite alone in China? Why does it keep coming up with freakish flavors? First Mint Sprite, and now this. “Sprite on Fire.” Chinese name: 火辣雪碧.
I took my first sip with great trepidation. It didn’t really seem any different from regular Sprite though. After a few more gulps, I was noticing a slight spicy sensation. It didn’t taste like cinnamon; it seemed to have some of that spicy effect that you get from Atomic Fireballs. But it wasn’t very strong at all. Totally unworthy of being called “火辣” (“fiery hot”).
Later I found a news release about it on the Coca-Cola site. The spice is identified as ginger. That sort of explains the Chinese connection. They didn’t explain why they keep releasing Sprite flavors in China that suck so much, however.
This Asian toothpaste (now called “Darlie”) has been brought up on the China blog scene before, but I’m revisiting it (prompted by Matt in Xi’an) because I recently found a picture of the old toothpaste clearly showing the old name and the new name, as well as the old logo and the new logo.
> Hong Kong’s Hazel & Hawley Chemical Co. would probably still be hawking Darkie toothpaste had the company not been acquired by Colgate. The Darkie brand’s Al Jolson-inspired logo, a grinning caricature in blackface and a top hat, was as offensive as its name. Colgate bought the company in 1985, and then ditched the logo and changed the product’s name to Darlie after US civil rights groups protested. However, the Cantonese name – Haak Yahn Nga Gou [黑人牙膏] (Black Man Toothpaste) – remains.
Wow, I never imagined I’d be cool enough to have reason to quote “Toothpaste World” on my own website.
Without a doubt, food is one of the major perks of living in China. Not only do we get the most authentic Chinese flavors here, but we frequently get them cheap. In addition, a Westerner living in China will inevitably be exposed to all kinds of new and exotic foodstuffs completely unavailable back home. What the Westerner doesn’t expect is to discover those exotic foods produced by familiar American multinational corporations and displayed in Chinese convenience stores.
One such example is mint Sprite. Yes, it tastes like mint, and it’s a drink. The Chinese seem to like it, and I read that it’s available in Canada and the UK as well. I bought it once. I finished the bottle, but that was plenty for me.
What interests me more is the current Lays Potato Chip Renaissance that we in China live in the midst of. Lays (乐事 — “Happy Things” in Chinese) has come out with some really unusual flavors, and some of them are quite good.
Click each thumbnail below for a bigger image.
The three flavors in the groups on the left are Cool Cucumber (清怡黄瓜味), Crisp Hokkaido Seaweed (北海道鲜脆海苔), and Fresh Lemon (沁凉柠檬味). I like all those flavors, but the cucumber flavor is especially weird and tasty. The Chinese really know how to appreciate cucumber.
The three flavors on the right all belong to the “Chinese Favorites” (中华美食 — actually more along the lines of “Chinese Gourmet”) collection and include Spicy Crab (香辣蟹味), Peking Duck (北京烤鸭味), and Five Spice Fish* (五味鱼香味). I haven’t tried these yet (I am not a total potato chip freak), but I will soon. I find it interesting that only the Peking Duck flavor from the “Chinese Favorites” collection has any English on it. Is this Lays’ prediction of which flavor foreigners will actually be willing to try? (Hmmm, maybe someone should send Richard a bag.)
Collecting and trying all these strange new potato chips almost makes me think I need to do another Junk Food Review….
* OK, I know my translations of the flavor names are not the greatest, but I also know from experience that translation of Chinese food names is not easy, and in this case particularly not worth the effort.
So what are the latest crazes sweeping China? Well, of course, these days SARS panic has superseded all. I remember just a week ago, though, when SARS was still a pretty distant threat. At that time instead of buying face masks, everyone was buying a brand new drink called Nongfu Guoyuan, or Farmer’s Orchard. At most places you can buy the regular 600 mL (20 oz.) size for 3.5 rmb (US$0.42), or the same size with a flip-top lid for 3.8 rmb (US$0.46).
So what’s special about this drink? Well, first, it boasts at least 30% fruit juice. This might not seem like a whole lot to you, but it’s impressive to anyone who’s ever been in China for any length of time and naively bought “fruit juice” only to receive some watered down, sugary, “fruit-like” concoction with only 10% real fruit juice, if that. 30% sets a new standard, and people are responding. Second, the drink is really good! It tastes like real fruit juice! I’ve been drinking it a lot lately, even though it’s a bit more expensive than similar drinks, which tend to be in the 1-2 rmb range.
The only downside is that the drink is undeniably a shameless V8 Splash ripoff. The package design, the size, the taste, the fruit juice blend (how many fruit drinks include carrot juice??), the way that it is marketed as a healthy drink, the fact that it needs to be shaken before drinking…. Still, it’s good. I will keep drinking it.