Cultural Difference: Raw Onions > New Car Smell

I spent the first half of January travelling China with my father and younger brother who were kind enough to fly across the world to see me. We visited incredibly picturesque destinations including Guilin, Zhengjiajie Avatar mountains, Yangshuo and Shanghai. (More to come on those places soon!) All of China is very cold right now, so I needed to return to my apartment in Yongchuan for a bit of laundry and repacking before the next leg of my trip. I happily replaced long underwear and thick sweaters for bikinis and sundresses before heading off to Vietnam.

On my last night in Yongchuan, a few Chinese friends invited me out for dinner and drinks. The director of the foreign language department picked me up in her brand new Audi SUV and I quickly noticed a tray of chopped raw onions under my feet in the back seat.

If you’ve been following my posts, you may notice an inconsistency here since I’m constantly alluding to the poverty in China and now I’m mentioning an Audi SUV. Let me clarify – cars in China are not the same as they are in the states. The Audi SUV lacks a navigation system, CD player, bluetooth, steering wheel controls, automatic windows, etc. It seems that vehicles are especially manufactured at a lower level of luxury for a less affluent consumer base.

Anyway, I was sure the raw onions must be there by mistake so I was quick to point it out. You can imagine my confusion when the response was, “Yes! New cars have a terrible smell! This is the best way to take it out.”

“What do you mean, take it out?”

“The smell is terrible for the baby and my father-in-law. The onions smell better. In fact, I need to add more.”

WHAT!? I explained that Americans will pay extra money at car washes to get the new car smell and will try to keep it as long as possible. She just shrugged and said, “different culture.” Oye vey.

We arrived at another colleagues home for dinner. He lives in a 5th floor apartment with his father, mother, wife and 3-year old son. His father prepared an enormous meal for ten of us. After dinner, we headed out for a standard Chinese Saturday night: KTV.

Every city in China is filled with KTV locations. They are upscale karaoke bars filled with private rooms. It’s probably the most popular weekend activity for Chinese people. Tone deaf or not, these people love to sing, but their favorite karaoke song choices are usually slow love ballads. It’s a far cry from the drunken renditions of Journey and Britney Spears we’re accustomed to. Check it out…

And with the completion of this wild, onion and karaoke filled evening, it was Goodnight China, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM. Stay tuned!

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