Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pajama Police!

With the World Expo starting in May, the city is scrambling to make improvements before anticipated visitors pour in. Girly bars that line a couple of streets have been boarded up, road construction abounds, and new subways lines are on the way.

One 'improvement' that has everyone talking about is the crackdown on pajamas - a quirky part of the culture here. It's very common to see locals walk around in their pjs out in the streets. Nice pjs mean status, an obsession for many Chinese (Strangely enough, walking around with a Starbucks coffee is also conveys status since the drinks are relatively spendy here.). It's sending the message, "I'm well off enough to buy these pjs to sleep in!" No one bats an eye at someone stepping out in their pjs to grab something from the local market, or strolling in the busiest parts of the city.

Here are some pics of pjs out in the streets: http://shanghaiist.com/2009/10/30/around_shanghai_pajama_fights_cat_s.php and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3723539/Chinas-pyjamas-police-fight-Shanghais-daytime-love-of-nightwear.html.

I say, who cares about the pj wearers! Perhaps the pajama crackdown committee should focus on some more important issues like personal hygiene and manners...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Insulation. Heard of it?!

A recent notice posted around our apartment complex basically asked residents to keep their faucets running on the hot over night. With temperatures dipping below freezing, the pipes might freeze...and they have before in the past. From last winter, I can still remember feeling sorry for the shivering maintenance crew guy standing outside on the balcony holding a hairdryer for 45 minutes on the water pipes as he endured the gusty winds. No one seems to think insulation is important in newly apartment complexes or what we jokingly call concrete palaces.

These 'palaces' also lack wall insulation. The outer walls of our apartment are simply painted concrete. With heat running in the winter, it's a breeding ground for mold to grow, which it has before at a previous apartment we lived in. Ay ya (expressing disappointment in Chinese)...another example of how things are built cheaply here without thinking about the potential consequences. Does it make sense to have to run hot water all night?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Copying away...

For many visitors and expats, buying 'fake' or pirated goods is a huge draw: purses, jewelry, pens, football jerseys, game consoles and games, DVDs, watches, and the list goes on and on . There's definitely a lure with the relatively cheap prices and endless selection. However, the money is supporting not-so-good causes, and it's copyright infringement against these companies.

"They" usually just turn a blind eye to these activities because of it's basically everywhere, but once and awhile people get "caught." Published in the local English daily today...

Police seize fake goods

XUHUI District police detained 10 people after raids at four downtown stores containing counterfeit products over the weekend, officials said.

Police confiscated more than 3,700 fake Montblanc, Louis Vuitton and Gucci purses, designer glasses and watches valued at about 30 million yuan (US$4.4 million), the Xuhui District Public Security Bureau said.

More than 40 police officers and 10 officials with the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau stormed the hideouts in residential areas on Shaanxi Road S. near Huaihai Road M.

Officials said selling counterfeit goods was an ongoing problem in the area. Sellers usually attract passers-by with pictures of fake products and lead them to small shops in alleys, if they show an interest.

The case is still under investigation, officials said. Police will determine more specifics in the case and decide whether the 10 people will be charged. All the counterfeit goods will be destroyed.

According to the country's criminal law, anyone who gains a profit of more than 250,000 yuan from selling fake products faces a fine, plus a prison sentence of three to seven years.

Usually, the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau is in charge of such cases, but it hands over investigations to the police when cases involve more than 50,000 yuan in fake products.

....Entire markets in the city would shut down if the country actually enforced its criminal law on a regular basis! What about all the large scale sweatshops producing these goods? They can't be much of a secret. My husband also pointed out that the story said 4.4 million USD worth of goods from 4 stores were taken by the authorities. Dividing 4.4 million by the number of items confiscated (3700) means an average of 1189 USD per item. It's hard to believe this figure is correct unless they're saying the copied items are equivalent in quality to the originals.

On another note related to copying, the Telegraph in the UK featured a photo album showing the cars copied by Chinese companies at the Shanghai Auto Show. The copied Mini-Cooper even says "mini' on it! There's not a question to what they're copying: the Mini, Smart Car, and Rolls-Royce Phantom. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/picturegalleries/5208546/Chinas-copycars-familiar-looking-vehicles-at-Shanghai-Auto-2009.html?image=1

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

(Kinda) Blocked!

It's no surprise that Web sites get blocked here, but this must be the most extensive one that I've seen with a certain 20th anniversary coming up. Blogger/Blogspots, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Hotmail, and Windows Live (seem strange?) have been reported blocked by domestic servers. (There are ways to get around it though.) It's not only Web sites either. BBC and CNN broadcasts have been suddently blacked out. Newspapers have been shredded or not delivered if they have a special section on the event.

With 20 years gone by, it seems like the majority of those in their 20s don't really understand the significance of the day. It's a combination of what they've been taught (or not taught, I should say) and the overall economic success of the country. There's a sense of contentment among those who have gone to universities and now live a more Chinese middle class lifestyle. In general, those in the working class just look to get by. No need to create any problems or think outside the box.

With this said, there's still enough here and out there to create concern for 'them,' and the coverage continues around the world...Here are some links:



Friday, February 13, 2009

Thinking about privacy and personal space again...

Privacy in China is mental rather than physical. You make yourself unaware of who’s right next to you, whether it’s someone shelling beans or having an argument or brushing his teeth in his underwear....This insightful comment was made by Emily Prager, a longtime New York resident who decided to make Shanghai her new home. Her first person account of the move was featured in the New York Times in July 2007. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/19/garden/19shanghai.html?ex=1185508800&en=9b279bb67f43bb8b&ei=5070&emc=eta1) It was just about the time that Josh and I found out about the possibility of our upcoming move.

I recently revisited the article after finding it in my e-mail inbox. The quote explains many things that I've seen here. Whether it was the man urinating in the bush in a busy neighborhood, and along the same lines, the numerous children using floors in supermarkets or trash bins to do their thing, the way people pick their nose and clean their ears in public with their long pinky nails (mostly men), or conduct themselves in gym locker room. (I'll save those details for a feature post in the works.)

The same goes for personal space. It's all inside your head. That's why there aren't any excuse me's or apologies if someone bumps into you - even if it could have been avoided. It's why I practically got pushed over going through a clothing rack because the women next to me was going at a faster pace.

It's truly an ingenious coping mechanism - a way to make daily life more tolerable -when you live in such close quarters and deal with what appears to be an endless sea of people. From an outsider's perspective, these things can be puzzling and frustatrating at times.

These observations are more than a simple case of bad manners though. They represent a stark reality that exists for residents. Many say years of poverty and isolation created these behaviors. Bottom line is that it's important to understand why people act the way they do. Unfortunately, it doesn't always make it easier to deal with. More importantly, you hope that the conditions that people live in here will improve...and then perhaps, their manners.