Even after so many years being in China, there are days when I really have to remind myself to have a thick skin. This happens pretty much each time I go to our local Carrefour supermarket here. It's very convenient as I can walk to it and pick up some fruit and vegetables to cover us until I do my weekly big shop at Metro with the car.
However after each Carrefour visit, my heartrate has been elevated, I am irritible and a tad on the angry side. Yesterday, I could have punched a guy in the face - that's how angry I was! (I came home and asked Christoph if I would be arrested for initiating a fist-fight?)
How can this be good for me I ask and how can all the other 1.4 billion Chinese put up with it?
In our everyday activites, we interact with many Chinese people. Everyone is polite and helpful. When you're a tourist, they're even more helpful and are trained to be of service. But at my supermarket, these aren't the average helpful ones. I have to admit that most strangers aren't considerate of each other at all. And because I look the part - Asian - I get the same treatment as the locals.
My short shopping trip:
1. Leave our compound. Gate opens away from me. A lady on an electric bike wants to get in. She pushes her bike right up against the gate to try to squeeze in once I open the gate. How do I push the gate open if her wheel is up against it?
2. Cross the street. Avoiding the cars are ok but every scooter, bicycle and motorbike will try to run you over. A green walking man signal makes no difference.
3. Enter Carrefour. OMG... no drama and luckily not jam-packed and crowded. I pick up a carry basket.
4. Go to Fresh Produce section. Each person who is within a 1 metre radius of me manages to push or shove me aside. If I look at an apple, someone will come and stand next to me - to a point of touching - and look at the same apples. There musn't be a word for 'personal space' in Chinese.
5. Getting produce weighed. You can't do it yourself (if so, I'm sure everyone would cheat). There is only one person at the weighing station and rarely is there a queue. So you have to try to get your bag of fruit onto the scale as soon as the lady lifts the one she's just weighed. I hate that I'm fighting old grannies who I want to let go first, but they elbow and push me more than anyone else! So I stand my ground and try to get everything done asap!
6. Go to pay. With a basket I can go to the express lanes which should be good, but they are not. The express cashiers have such a small area to work in that your shopping gets dumped in a 40x20cm holding bin and you are expected to remove the items immediately, nevermind trying to pack them into a bag. I always say hello, thank you and good bye to the cashiers. Half the time they are so dazed out that they don't respond. The other times, they are so surprised that they actually smile and try to give me time to pack before they start with the next customer - who usually is standing right next to me, yes, touching and trying to push me along.
Yesterday was the usual, as above, but a man pushed very roughly past me at the cash registers. I asked him to line up but he swore at me and looked like he was going to spit in my direction.
I now figure that he was probably just hot and bothered. It was 23 degrees yesterday, beautiful blue skies with lots of sunshine and he was wearing his fur-lined winter coat...he still deserved a good beating though.