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Cultural-clash, crabs, frogs and snakes: all and a little more in Xiamen

CHINA | Monday, 1 October 2012 | Views [474]

On Saturday a couple of guests joined us in the breakfast. After the usual where-have-you-been-in-China-how-long-you-are-staying-here questions we found out they were working in Hangzhou for six months already. She, Polish, works with telecommunications and he, German, is teaching German. I wonder if “teaching German” is the new “ teaching English” as a excuse to do something useful while you're backpacking, but who knows.

While expressing our impressions about China, they gave us a perspective that was unknown so far. Working directly with chinese colleagues, their opinion about work and partnership has many more obstacles than the cultural differences per se.

Communications is a huge problem, and they tend to do the day to day tasks according on what they think they know, not necessarily on what was discussed. According to the Polish girl, her Chinese colleagues didn't ask questions when the workload was being distributed and even agreeing in doing the task, it would be complete in a different way. If confronted, they would give any explanation about the communications problem. The point in the whole story is: why not to ask? Simple: to not lose face, according to the couple.

Generally, one-morning conversations are not enough to make you change your mind from difficult concepts like this. Even understanding that there is also the other side of the story, he insight was great to make me think more in cultural clashes in the working environment. I had experienced similar situations in my previous work and it took me a long time to change roles in my mind.

The situation is not different when it comes to food. Why do they eat snakes, frogs, turtles, crickets and worms is beyond my comprehension. But we do eat “weird” food in Northeast Brazilian. Special dishes cooked with blood chicken, sausages made with pork blood, sun-dried meat and, in few areas, all sorts of dishes made of goat's intern organs. Not to mention the goat's cooked brain (bleeergh), delicacy eaten at 6am in one particular market in the north area in Fortaleza.

In Xiamen, there is a market close to the pier. In there you can buy all you know and don't know regarding seafood - and other types. Crabs? Prawns? Mussels? Fish? Sea urchin? Sea cucumber? Lobster? Octopus, cattle fish, squid? Name it. They have. And they sell it alive. They also have snails, frogs, turtles and snakes, also alive and disposed in buckets, normally too small to store them in a acceptable condition. Close to this market you can find a long long street cooking the seafood you saw in the market. Food is fresh, and it is a pity that they not always cook in front of you.

In our expedition we tried rice and prawns, cooked in a bamboo shot (good, but too greasy). We also tried a pork dumpling soup (tasteless) and deep fried “ fresh milk”. I thought it was cheese, but the girl in the counter (engineer student working in her “middle-autumn job” . Apparently they need some working experience, not specified in what) told me it was coagulated milk. It was ok, honestly. Nothing to die for, but nothing to make you vomit.

Later on we took a boat to Gulang Yu and walked to the other side of the island. It remembers me Olinda a lot, with all hills and colonial houses. Far from the touristic fuss, we found tiny little charming streets, hiding their secrets to those lazy enough to climb it.

Tags: china, culture, market, work, xiamen

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