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Movie lover. Growing Capoeirista. Space enthusiast. Dedicated craftsman. And best of all, homegrown Los Angeles native. Wait, how in the hell did I end up in China!?
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Dear China, for once could you please hold the ‘Méiyŏu?’ It seems just about every week that I, an American expat teaching English in China for the past 6 years, stumble upon what seems like one of the country's cruelest ongoing jokes: ‘Méiyŏu-gate'.
What exactly is 'Méiyŏu-gate?' Well, you ever hear the phrase “Sorry, we don't have what you're looking for” so much that it drives you to the brink of insanity? I have. That's 'méiyŏu' (in English, 'don't have') for ya'—not being able to get the sh*t you need in China right when you need it. For instance, ...
‘Méiyŏu' to your clothing and shoe size. You want XXL t-shirts, 40-inch waist pants, and a fresh pair of size 46 kicks? Trust me, you ain't getting it. Heck, you might get laughed out of the store for even asking.
Chinese generally have a smaller body frame than westerners, so most clothing stores in China will only carry up to size 44 in men's shoes (10.5 US), size 34 and smaller for pants, and XL and smaller for t-shirts, though even that may just be a size L by US standards. If you're large and in charge and preparing to move to China you'd better take all the clothes you've got in your closet if you don't want to the headache. Thank me later!
'Méiyŏu' to that mouthwatering dish or drink you'd like to order, even though it's CLEARLY listed on the menu.
So what if it's summertime and blazing hot. You want that ice-cold cherry flavored smoothie that's advertised as the season's special concoction and looks so good that you'd kill for it? Well guess what? ‘Méiyŏu.'
Or what about that scrumptious looking burger you caught sight of while biking past a fast food joint on a late night? No problem to place an order, right? Wrong. Ironically, that hamburger stop has ran out of beef.
You ever see those countless videos of disgruntled people in the States throwing massive tantrums because McDonald's ran out of fries or Burger King didn't have ice cream? Well, I can't stress enough how many times I too have felt incredible rage after being ‘méiyŏu-ed' out of a dining experience in China. What's more, the fact that most instances have involved some type of western food—ie burgers, pizzas, pastas—or an unpopular item in China's food culture like cold drinks and breaded seafood, which are my favorite treats, didn't help one bit.
‘Méiyŏu' to the very simple but crucial item you're looking for in the supermarket.
You need a magnifying glass? Nope, not there. Try the stationery store on the side of the road. You're seeking a specific tool required to open the hard drive on your MacBook Pro? Sorry, the shopkeepers have never heard of it. And let me guess—you're hungry, too lazy to cook, and want a mouthwatering microwaveable snack to get by? Are you freaking kidding? China ain't America jack, microwaveables aren't popular in the country at all.
You’d think that in the country where everything is made there’d be at least several massive, futuristic, supermarket-like chains superseding Wal-mart or Target that are equipped with aisles on top of aisles of any and everything you could imagine. But there isn’t.
How about one more...
‘Méiyŏu' to the tissue you need in that pivotal moment you're at a train station or tourist spot, have just eaten some KFC, and now desperately need to hit the toilet. Yep, you've forgotten the 'golden rule' of China; that is, always carry a small batch of emergency tissue, especially when traveling.
Restrooms in China are rarely equipped with tissue—some may have tissue dispensaries available for a small fee (1RMB)—but even if they did, in a country of some 1.3 billion people you can expect items like tissue to disappear faster than you can read this article.
So, is ‘Méiyŏu-gate' clearer now? And unfortunately, it doesn't just end with these examples. It happens at banks, in the clubs, at work, and it can even drive the humblest of individuals to all out lunacy—trust me, I've seen it happen.
China is a remarkable country brimming with rich history, culture and traditions, wonderful people, incredible food, amazing travel destinations, and fascinating opportunities awaiting at every turn. Yet, it's minute, incredibly annoying, and energy-draining issues like ‘Méiyŏu-gate' that tend to strip China of its awe-inspiring grandeur and make living in the country feel unbearable at times.
In the end, more rules and changes must be implemented across the country to revamp its economy and prevent things like ‘Méiyŏu-gate' from occurring as China steadily opens its doors to the world and emerges as a powerful leader on the international stage. This should also include addressing top pertinent issues for expats, tourists, and businessmen in China such as etiquette, traffic safety, food quality, and scams, that I’ve seen convince people of never stepping foot in the country again.
But I don’t know, maybe I'm digging way too deep into ‘Méiyŏu-gate'. Maybe I should just move on and accept this part of the lifestyle as an integral part of Chinese culture. Or maybe I should finally ‘walk the walk’ and book a seat on the next flight back to the States where I have a higher chance of being struck down by a bullet than I do hearing "Sorry, we're out of fries" at Mickey-dees.
Nah, who am I kidding? I’d rather suck it up and stick to where I’m at taking my chances ducking and dodging restaurants that don’t fit the bill. But in the meantime, dear China, will you please just do me a favor and try to hold the ‘Méiyŏu?’
Travel Blogger. ESL Teacher. Optimistic Millennial Adventurer! -->
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