I recently found myself in a game of pick up sticks with my husband.  Interesting to think how people from different cultures, speaking different languages play the same game – even with a few slight rule differences. 

However, I had an interesting thought when we were playing.  My husband seldom uses stick to help to flick other sticks, instead he prefers to use his hand picking the one that on the top of other sticks.  That makes me realize that we actually have different thinking style and structure to solve problems because we have different cultures and social norms. 

A lot of employers, from innovative startups to decades old multinationals, should consider this point to actively hire foreign people as a way to help their company think through strategies, approaches, services, and products outside of the “American” box. Nowadays, new ideas are the money.  The more dynamic employees a company has, the more they can think differently and meet different niche market needs. 

If you want to be on the edge, don’t reject foreign talents… Now all we need is help from legislation reform and startup visas!

I just came back from Shanghai, where I haven’t been since December 2010.  I have a lot of thoughts this time when I came back. I feel my hometown is not so familiar to me any more.

First of all, prices are sky high. The clothing is even more expensive when the price converts to the US$.  How local young people can afford the fashionable clothing?  Even a family dining out will easily cost over RMB 1000 (US$ 160) for a table for 7-8 people.  My parents are both retired, and have minimum increasing rate about their retirement allowance (Salary) - how can they afford to live and still happy to allow me to spend their saving when I was in China? Ridiculous Inflation!  However, almost every young woman in the city are carrying designer bags, which cost at least $2,500 (RMB 15,000) - Unbelievable.

I cannot see the blue sky any more.  For a whole week, the sky was always very smoky. I cannot see any thing one day within 150 meters. One of my clients based in Shanghai told me that Shanghai’s pollution index keeps increasing.  While 50 is normal, the week I was in Shanghai the average was 150.  The photo above was taken in Hangzhou, a city surrounded by a lake, less traffic and polluted city close to Shanghai, we can not see the maintain clearly at the background. How can people live and go out for a run in this environment?  I was told that some schools even don’t allow children to do outdoor activities under high index day, but how children can grew up healthy without outdoor activities?  By the way, the index is really neat, it seems China has developed its own useful app locally - which maybe can beat some interesting idea in the US.  

Walking to any convenience stores, we can find all kinds of soft drink options, pear tea, peach calpis,  any type you couldn’t imagine in the US, rather than soda.  They even have cucumber potato chips, lobster cheese potato chips.  Those Coke and Pepsi companies really can read the local markets to develop some interesting flavors to attract Chinese people and some people from overseas.  My husband and his friends every time tried one different thing they haven’t seen in the US.

Surprisingly I feel the subway in Shanghai is very clean and the platform and the trains are so much wider than what we have in New York - I almost forgot how considerate and developed the infrastructures are.  Also, a lot of people was taking the train ride time to make phone call - that's right, the signal is good in the subway - no time wasted.  On the road, all the traffic lights all changed to huge size, it makes me think I am in a different city. 

Except for soup dumplings (my favorite local breakfast), I don’t see too much difference between Shanghai Chinese food and New York China town Shanghai food.  New York restaurants actually hire Shanghai chefs to keep the food authentic, I think it might be the time of Shanghai Chinese food to change to be fusion, new design and looking.  

It just give me a feeling this time when I was in my hometown that it is not the city I am familiar with any more. I think I need to go back to Shanghai more often and get to know more changed things about China in order to stay current of life condition and situations in China.

A lot of my friends in the US suggested that I should try English doctors rather than Chinese speaking doctors.  I was nervous about whether I could totally understand what they said regarding some more technical terminology.  But my friends said it is their job to explain to you until you understand, it is also a step of my “Americanization” process, which I will accept American Medical and Health Care system since I am in the US. 

I have to say, my initial worries were not necessary. The doctors here are so nice, unlike ones in China who are always blaming patients as if they were  unapproving parents.  Doctors in the US treat patients as their parents instead. They speak to me so gently, and very professionally explain the vocabulary to me even known by American middle-school students.  The facilities in the US are also so advanced.  I even can watch Netflix in some of the clinics. 

Sometime, as a foreigner, if you don’t have the courage to try the local things, you will never know if it is actually pretty good for you, or better or much better than you had experienced in your own country.  If you never tried daily things and step your toe into the “water” to test it, you will never get the chance to know what really a local people will do; thus you will never belong to the local society. 

Several days ago, I saw the movie Les Miserables, wherein the major character's name is Jean Valjean.  I thought I watched Les Miserables movies and cartons in mandarin version several times as a child – so why his name doesn’t ring a bell.  Suddenly, I realized the character I saw in mandarin version sounds like “Rava Rean” - seems like different name.

I suddenly felt unfair for me as a foreigner. Even though I have read and watched about a lot of master pieces in mandarin, when I talk about people’s name or locations in Chinese version with my English speaking classmates and my husband or other people from other countries, they will be totally lost, not understanding what I am talking about.   Besides the language boundary, there is also the cultural differences. As one time I talked about “xi qu ke ke (希区苛客,Alfred Hitchcock)”, even I said he is the master director of detective/scary movies, my husband still didn’t get it who I talked about, he asked me to name his movie names, I couldn’t either.  Because the movie name translations are totally different.  I went to the details about the movies, my husband got more confused.  I suddenly feel I am in the “lost translation.” I have to go home and use google translation to continue the conversation. 

I feel that my education in China except Mathematics are almost wasted in the US. I couldn’t use my cultural knowledge to have conversations or play any knowledge games with Americans.  Plus my elementary school level of English and grammar, I often feel fooling, not cultural at all, regardless I am passionate about and spent decades of my life learning about music, opera, impressionism painting and modern art.

Why in China does everything need to be translated and learned in Chinese, especially foreign names? How come names cannot be identical to the names in the original language, so people who go abroad have some common “culture” to share and can talk.  In the movie, leave the original name underneath of the Chinese translation.  On the text books or novels, put the original “Real” names beside the translations.  Why not teach Mandarin and English together, so when we come to the original countries, we can realize and identify what they are talking about and join the conversation with a common knowledge we learn.

Wake up people, as the world becomes more globalized, education needs to be globalized too.  Otherwise, even though we’ve learned a lot in Chinese, we still look like idiots without any culture basis.   For the foreign people living in the US, too often we end up hanging out only with the people who came from the same country, have common “culture” to talk about things happened before we left the countries. It is Les Miserables!!

We have just survived the biggest hurricane - #Sandy – that New York City has seen in 108 years.   I can’t help thinking about several important things after the hurricane.

  1. Have to have a smart phone
When the power is off, I don’t know what is going on and how bad the results are.  Not only I can call my mother-in-law in Santa Fe to ask about New York updates, but also I can open @Aereo website to watch news from the live streaming TV, check out Twitter to see updates from all over, as well as post status and pictures to report our safety to our family and friends.


2.  Power is an essential energy for life

No power, no internet, hot water, and heat, and even our stove was finicky.  We suffered 3 days of life without power. It is so inconvenient.  We needed to go to friend’s place to charge the devices and get internet.  Fortunately, we have a dog, Oliver, who can keep us warm in the dark.

3.   Serve for the People

The city needs to have government and all infrastructure workers to support the citizens.  When the hurricane came, government officials always updated the status and advocated people to listen to the instructions in different channels.  The traffic policeman stayed in the entrance of the FDR overnight during Sandy to make sure no one went on the highway.  Firemen came in 10 min when a manhole had been blown away by the explosion caused by the burning down of the power station . Two days after hurricane, the power companies came and took 10 hours to repair and brought us back to a bright world. Amazingly, MTA (mainly subways) is partially up and running after three days, despite so many stations had flooding.  

4. Supporting systems are the keys to survive and recover

Startups who have power are tweeting out messages to welcome others without power to work in their offices.  Friend of ours told us, his home is our home, feel free to shower and charge our computer and use internet.  The hurricane makes people closer to each others to fight the disaster and solve the difficulties together.

5.  Real Estate Choices in NYC

Now I know which of part of the town and how high the buildings are safe from hurricanes, it will reflect people’s choice of rental and purchasing.  However, a hurricane like Sandy is only once every century -hopefully- I can use the hurricane blackout area as an excuse to negotiate with the rental price (as we’re hoping to move in December).

6.  How to win businesses

The bread counter of our grocery stores was vacant one day before the hurricane, Duane Read looked like it had been robbed, even didn’t have bottles of water and soda in the shops.   If they had just-in-time operation, they could have had ordered more items from suppliers three days when the hurricane was announced. On the other hand, after the hurricane, those who opened their businesses the next day won a lot of business.  People were in line of coffee, restaurants and even frozen yogurt.  Linkedin CEO Reed Hoffman also tweeted about using @Airbnb to solve the temporary living problems.

I have experienced a lot of huge typhoons in Shanghai, but none of them are bigger than Sandy.  It could be my first experience.  I have to conclude New York City is so much advanced and efficient, which makes me love New York more and more. 

Do you have any thoughts after Hurricane?

“Life is about experiencing all kinds of different things.” I told my parents about my definition of life when I persuaded them to allow me to study in the US. Since I moved to New York City, I have dramatically experienced new things that I never could have imagined.

My first dental appointment in the US made me feel so loved and cared.  The doctors are not bossy like Chinese ones; in fact they treated me like a princess. They have micro oral vacuum to always keep your mouth dry, so I don’t need to spit my blood all the time.  During the painful deep cleaning section, I can watch some Netflix movies to distract my attention. @Fazworks said I need to change my view to hospitals and doctors as it is a service industry.

This summer, I went to public free swimming pool one block down from our apartment.  When I swam in the narrow lane at the side, the guard reminded me whether I was aware it is a speed lane.  When I swam in the middle bigger zone and went back and forth, he came to me again and said I should swim in counter-clockwise-circles – I feel that should be the a great ideal of order - I love it.

I also have experienced a lot of free things or cheap things in such an expensive city. The free Yoga every week, free running group,  $5 career network meetup events, $25 @Skillshare Marketing cohort analysis class has washed my brain. I also did my first facial in the US during the $50 Spa week package. The facility is awesome, especially the bed can be adjusted to up and down, but I don’t understand why they use their nails to squeeze my blackhead rather than with a tool.

Today I will experience a massive hurricane, my first since I came to the US.  City transportation will be shut down, and it is also possible that we won’t have electricity and of course internet for a few days.  People are buying groceries crazily to prepare to be stuck. In fact, I might have not experience the blackout for about 30 years, will see how we can survive, but we’ve downloaded some TV episodes to our ipad to make sure we still have something fun to do.

I am so fascinated that I have experienced more and more new things over just a few month, even though I have been in the US for 3.5 years. Compared to what I have experienced in Shanghai, I feel unbelievable and even culture shocked.  At the same time, I also feel so lucky to experience all kinds of things that most of the Chinese people won’t even get a chance to imagine. To me, I am so satisfied to realize more and more my dream, my meaning of the life.

What does “Practice” mean?  I thought it means do exercise by following a model.  Such as practice piano, practice acting. 

For a long time, I couldn’t find a verb for Yoga.  I always said “do” Yoga, because in Chinese “doing something” means an action.  Though my husband said it is wrong, I said sometimes we do say, play taiji, do exercises, I obviously couldn’t put play here.  But, attending some from yoga class here, now I realize Yoga can be practiced. 

When I ask one of my colleague what she did before, she said, “I practiced law”.  I thought it is so interesting.  I thought the meaning of “practice” here may be “following a model” mean, but it doesn’t have the major exercise component.  I couldn’t help thinking it is funny to treat an occupation as always “practicing” something, rather than “do” something.  Do lawyers always repeatedly have an "exercise" on law. I really couldn’t figure it out.  Maybe my lawyer friends can put comments underneath to explain to me.

Very interesting English, as I live in American longer, I realized that a lot of times, our education is not so effective to learning a foreign language.  A lot of people got high scores in English, but they barely talk, they seldom have American friends to introduce them some American different cultures and the real language they actually speak.  They pronunciation is a great example.  I thought I am from Shanghai, had 12 + year English study and always speak English in the family and work regularly, my English is good.  But I still get pointed out all the time from my American husband that my “r” and “l” are messed up.  Only the environment and the people you communicate are the keys to understand the language better.  

So Chinese, no matter you are in China or in American, go out to hang out with more American friends to learn, understand and speak better English, if you really want to improve it.