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The Chinese Culture which surrounds Food

Excerpted by Tjan Sie Tek, from “Blondie in China: What I miss about China,” 21 June 2020

It’s not just the food that I miss in China. It’s also the culture that surrounds food and how food is such an integral part of Chinese culture and day-to-day social interaction as well as conversation. I would say a good 50% of the conversations I have with my good friends in China are about food about what we want to eat what we ate yesterday what we want to eat next week. What we’re planning on eating for our birthdays is always the top of the list of good conversations topic.

I just love how in China food really brings people together. There’s no doubt about it; even the way that Chinese eat, the eating custom, which is to share everything put in the middle of the table. Everyone’s helping themselves. It’s a shared thing that you do with friends that you do with family. You don’t have your own portion that you eat by yourself. It’s a shared experience. If you have been in China, you’ve probably gone to a Hot Pot restaurant and enjoyed sitting around a table, having the best time, eating your guts out with friends. It’s such a social activity or meeting up with a group of friends after a big night of partying at 3:00 a.m.

… It is basically the barbecued meat that you eat on the street, that you have these little plastic chairs that you sit on and you put it on with a big group of friends. You eat, you drink, you love, you be married. It’s just so much fun. I really missed this element of being in China.
About the very wide differences between food prices in China and those in Sydney, Australia
Another thing which I really miss about China is food and drink are a lot cheaper.

Let’s do a little comparison here. I’ve just come to get myself a hot oolong tea to you from a local milk tea place. It’s the same thing that I would order when I’m in China. This would cost me anywhere from 10 to 13 RMB which is like two (Australian) dollars, or two and a half dollars. This cost me $5, and the same with food I would generally say there’s a three to five-time markup on any dish that you get in Sydney compared to its prices in China. Here (in China), for example, a bowl of rice would cost you three RMB and, and (in Sydney) it cost you $3. That’s essentially a five-time markup. The other day, I went into a Taco Bar and had a compound chicken. It cost me $28. In China, I could probably get that at 28 RMB; again a five-time markup. Things are just a lot more expensive here (in Sydney) for essentially the exact same thing. I miss is cheap. Taxis so much in for me from my Sydney standpoint.
Taxis are just ridiculously cheap in China.

They are just ridiculously cheap to the point where I can cross the entire city of Beijing for the price it would take me to go one suburb away in Sydney. It’s absolutely ridiculous here the price of taxis; Probably the same for a lot of other Western countries: taxis are so expensive. But in China you can just get into a cab, go where you want, do what you want, if you just feel very mobile….

The things I’m really missing about China is just walking around and getting that energy that only in China Vibe. Honestly, you can walk in a straight line in a tiny City for hours and not be bored. Also, the cities are really, really cute. So you can literally walk in a straight line in a tiny City for hours and not even be halfway through it. If you’ve been to China, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is vitamin, energy; walk around that you’ll always be pausing: interesting things; food stalls, people singing, people dancing….

Tjan Sie Tek
A former licensed stock market analyst and investment advisor with 20+ years experience with M.Sc. in Finance from Leicester University; now a Chinese, US and Indonesian macroeconomic and financial analyst, CEO of Center for New Indonesia (CEFNI).


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