Saturday, September 18, 2010

Poor American in China

Americans have been bragging overseas  about our power and wealth since at least World War II and, probably were acting that way since the start of the 20th Century.( I’m a Mayflower descendent from two Pilgrims, and I used to think that was cool, until I realized in the 21st Century only money matters). So, after shopping in Beijing at the Silk Market in 2008, where I got a handmade suit for $180, I decided two years later to go shopping in Shanghai.
A local friend had promised to help us find things in Shanghai. I said there were a lot of places we didn’t want to go in Shanghai, like Huaihai Road, because I knew how expensive things were there. So we were taken to Nanjing Road where Lao Bai Xing (ordinary people) like us allegedly could afford the prices. I quickly realized that these places had no bargains and I didn’t want to spend my money. Then I got a look from my wife which said Mei Mianzi would be our fate if I didn’t unload some cash on some item after the friend had spent half a day with us.  Mei Mianzi means to lose face, a fate worse than death in China.
Therefore I paid $200 for some Clark shoes (I know, I must be a nerd) that I could get for $100 back in Los Angeles. Suddenly I felt like one of the poor tourists who come to America and take a bus to the nearest outlet mall. I looked around at the city and noticed how many impressive skyscrapers were around me.
I know most Chinese couldn’t afford to shop in Shanghai. I assume most Shanghainese couldn’t shop on Nanjing Road, but it didn’t make me feel like a blustery rich American who should tell the Chinese how to run their country. I remembered that we were telling the Chinese to issue a lot of credit cards and have their banks come into the 21st Century by giving more mortgages on real estate, right before our banks destroyed the world economy.
Americans somehow don’t feel right if they can’t tell other countries what to do. Next time I’ll go shopping in Vietnam.

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