2010-08-26

Chinese fruit stores

Here in Shanghai you can see fruit shops everywhere. Sometimes there are really less than 100 meters between them. And all they do is sell the fruits that are available for the season, and they seem to sell well.

The key here is to understand the important social game they play in China, and that it is totally different of what we have here in Sweden.

In China, family is everything. Also friends, colleagues and neighbors are important. You have a very wide network of friends and relatives. You call your cousins wives fathers brother for your uncle. Your cousins wives fathers brothers daughter is your sister. Blood bands that in our view is so far away that we never heard their names mentioned here in Sweden is someone that you regularly visit in China.

If anyone in your family or someone among your friends have visited you, then you have to visit them in a reasonable time period. They gave you a gift (Yes it is a rule) and you have to give something of more value than you got from them. You can see the gift they gave as a loan with interest that you have to pay back next time you go to them.

So now you can see that this thing with gifts is quite important. So what is usually given as a gift?

Well it depends on how wealthy you are. Among the really rich ones it is gold and jade. When you go to the Chinese malls you will see that it is common with jewelry stores that sell small statues made of gold or small to mid sized gold bars. Amulets or jewelry made of jade is also common. Among those who try to achieve a western way of living you can buy western food or wine (which is ridiculously expensive).

If it is the season for moon festival, then it is common to give a box of fancy moon cakes. Otherwise it is never wrong to give some vitamins or omega 3 oil pills of a good quality brand. Wishing health for your loved ones is never wrong.

Another thing is to give fancy cakes or bakeries. It is believed that this is common food in the west and that we eat this for breakfast. For a Swede this sounds ridiculous, but it is just to play along...

The most common thing to give among common people, that you don't have to impress but you wish a healthy life for, is fruits. Every family along the street will then have to boy fruits as gifts at least once or twice a week. Then you start to understand that selling fruits is a big business.

2 comments:

pel said...

Interesting. When I was younger my family acted in a very similar way - sadly that tradition is dying out with the older generation.

One question that popped in my mind was - what do they do with all the gifts? I guess it would be horribly impolite to throw gifts away or sell them.

I remember my paternal grandmother keeping a record of who gave what - simply in order to bring the gift of a previous visitor out of storage and strategically put it in plain sight somewhere not to obvious. This was only with distant relatives/friends though. I guess, for practical reasons, they usually brought cakes or coffee when paying a visit to a neighbor.

My grandmother collected /everything/ but she had a big house to put it all in - actually she had a few houses to put stuff in :)

Boywing said...

The answer of that question deserves a blog post of it's own. But I'll give a short answer.

When you receive gifts in China, you don't open it or use it to share with the guests while they are there. When the guest leaves then you can take a look at it and decide what to do with the present.

It is very common to use the gift to give to some other friend when you go there to visit. You then have to be sure the two friends don't know each others.

There are scary complications around this when it is common to give food or bakeries as gifts and these gifts might have been sent around for a while. I actually heard this story about a rotten cake... uuheeahh...

Then it is good with fruits because they have to be fresh.