Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fruit Culture Shock

It's the season for picking plums, so my school had an event where we took the students (adults) to go out and pick them.

I had no idea how much of a culture shock it would be.

For starters, I was the only non-Chinese person there, and I'd never picked plums before. I'd never even eaten a plum before. Yeah, sure I've had plum-flavored stuff, but I don't think I'd ever just straight-up eaten a plum.

And also these plums are green. Because China has tons of fruits that I have never seen before.

Green plums. Image source.

So we got off the bus, and there's a roadside stand there where you can buy baskets of plums and yangmei berries and also sample them, and the students pretty much all pounced on them and started grabbing fruit and eating it.

Yangmei berries. 杨梅。 Image source.

Pretty much what American children would do if someone was giving out free candy. Except these are Chinese adults. Chinese people just love fruit. It's mind-blowing to me.

So we went into the area with the plum trees, and we all were given a plastic basket, and everyone started going at it. Chatting and spreading out among the plum trees and picking as many as they could- looking for the softer ones, and so excited when they found a big one.

If those trees had been growing chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, I would have been doing exactly what my students were doing. Also, man, as soon as I get back to America, I am making a freaking chocolate cake. Cake in China tastes like foam, you guys. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, because the Chinese bakeries aren't sugarcoating it either. Oh and did I mention, cakes in China always have fruit on top. Chinese people LOVE fruit.

So anyway, I was still trying to eat the plum that someone had given me a few minutes before. One of the students showed me how to peel the skin and eat it and spit out the pit, and I was still trying to decide if I even like them or not.

Meanwhile the old woman working at the plum-picking place is dumping plums into my basket because she sees that I am obviously slow (and white) and need help. You know, in China we don't have personal space- in America, you'd have to ask permission before putting stuff in someone's basket.

(Actually, I think I only picked one or two plums, and the rest were put in there by other people who assumed I needed help but totally didn't ask me. I wasn't even sure I wanted a basket full of plums.)

OH ALSO did I mention plum trees have branches that grow outward at a really wide angle, and they're close together so you have to crouch down and walk around like Quasimodo- you can't stand up straight. That drove me crazy! But everyone else was on a mission to get the best plums and didn't seem to mind. Again, just like me going after the cupcakes.

(And on top of that, the place was full of mosquitoes who thought I was delicious, and I was wearing shorts because it was a hot day, and maybe sometime later we can discuss Chinese fashion and how everyone else was wearing pants/shorts/skirts longer than mine.)

So then it was time to go, and all the students have full baskets of green plums, and mine is half full, and everyone's like "Perfect Number, why do you have so few???" and man, I was kind of annoyed at that point because of the culture shock and feeling like everyone was trying to force so much bizarre fruit on me. Actually at one point I was rude- so, watch out for culture shock, kids, because it can put you in a bad mood and then you'll end up being rude to people. But after that, I tried my best to just explain myself with a laugh- "I don't know what I would do with so much fruit"- and then the students can just marvel at how strange I am and it's fine.

Fruit. So much fruit. Chinese people love fruit.

It's common for my Chinese colleagues to show up at the office with some kind of strange fruit I've never seen in my life and then put one on everyone's desk. (Incidentally, that's exactly what happened when we got back to the school after this outing.) Usually they don't ask if you want it or not- because in Chinese culture, you should say "no" regardless, just to be polite. Plus, I mean, everyone loves fruit, right? Like if I was giving out oreos. I mean, everyone wants an oreo, yes? (Nope, not in China.)

And it really makes me feel stressed out when my colleagues do that, because man, it just raises so many hard questions. What is this fruit? Has it been washed? How do I eat it? Do we eat the skin or not? Does it have a pit I have to spit out? It's gonna make my hands all juicy, isn't it? It's just so complicated- that's why I don't usually eat fruit. Just apples and bananas, because those ones I can understand.

A couple years ago when I was traveling in China, the family I stayed with would eat fruit every night after dinner while they watched tv. So much fruit. Apples and oranges. Every freakin' night. SO MUCH FRUIT. How can anybody eat that much fruit?

(Which may explain why fewer Chinese people are overweight. They think fruit is a dessert.)

I suppose it's good and healthy, and I should start eating more fruit too. But man, to me it's just so WEIRD.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, I would love China. Fruit is so tasty! Plums are here in the US too, they're just purple instead of green. I wish I could ship you a chocolate cupcake. :)