Dr Mike J Smith
So far this week I have found the Chinese to be warm, friendly and very hospitable. They are genuinely interested in talking to you, finding out about western culture and discussing their own. Indeed I was surprised to hear that the Chinese will often talk to westeners to practise their English; so far, whilst many Chinese have been initially shy, this has been true. In a country where the language is so different, I can understand the desire to practise with "native" speakers. Certainly food is a major part of Chinese culture and, indeed, our host observed that many westeners believe the Chinese eat too much! THe working day (in the university) was from 9-11:30, then a 2-hour lunch/siesta, and finally 2:30-5.00. Very different from the rushed London life I lead; indeed all the students and staff live on-campus.
The Chinese "banquet" is also very important as, I believe, it allows the Chinese to experience high quality food and a pleasing environment. Many restaurants will have private rooms with circular tables that you can eat at. In the middle of the table is a "lazy susan" upon which all the food is placed. And, for a more formal banquet, expect 10-12 individual "dishes". There is plenty of choice and the food is very good. My chopstick dexterity has certainly improved since eating here!
After the banquet yesterday we played table tennis for a couple of hours. The Chinese are very good sports and whilst they can clearly demonstrate that they are far better at table tennis (!), they like their guests to be given both opportunity to play and the feeling of doing well. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.