Nancy Snow in China

Smiling Nan in Anshan, China

Hurts So Good

Lesson Three in Snow's Job

October 8 , 2007

By Nancy Snow

Nancy Snow, associate professor of communications, is a visiting senior scholar and professor in Beijing, China, through November. She is teaching a graduate course in public diplomacy at Tsinghua University’s School of Journalism and Communication, as well as working on joint research projects with Chinese faculty. While overseas, she will be sharing her experiences.

Lesson 3: When in China, take a break. 

No Culture Shock?
Last week I promised to begin with Chinese foot massage but I must share a “made my day” moment with a student that occurred Tuesday, the 2nd of October.  It’s China National Holiday this week (China’s Golden Week) and I was eating my lunch in one of the 10 campus eateries here at Tsinghua University when a student recognized me from class.  He offered to show me where I can use the walking machine (treadmill) since all this Chinese food is beginning to show. 

Then he asked me how long I’ve been in China.  I told him “three weeks” and he said, “But you have no culture shock.  You act like you’ve been here a long time.” It’s true that I felt immediately at home when my plane landed at Beijing airport.  I can’t explain why that feeling occurred but before I left the United States I just knew that I would love it here.  And when you love what you are doing and where you are doing it, it’s hard not to come across a bit more comfortable with your new surroundings.

Beijing, China

I’m the first to say that not all is “just like home” nor would I want it to be.  For some, it might be a bit hard to share food where the chopsticks from each table companion keep going from the mouth back into the dish.  It hasn’t concerned me but I have thought a lot about how individualistic Americans are used to eating from our own separate dishes.  I grew up with four hungry brothers who made me become very self-interested about getting my own plate and enough helpings.  Now I find that it’s enjoyable to eat communally.  The focus is more on the conversation and the clinking of glasses.

I know, you think I’m just in my honeymoon period, don’t you?

Foot Massage
I’ve been indulging a bit with the Chinese foot massage.  As a Double Fish (Pisces) I’ve often heard that we are ruled (or burdened) by our feet.  The first time I had the massage was Saturday, the 22nd of September and I haven’t been the same since.  I was invited by a Chinese professor to join him for a foot massage at the hotel where he swims and works out.  Don’t read anything into this social outing.  It was very friendly and above board.  In our case that board was flat and green.  We played ping pong three times before getting the massage and I’m happy to report that the U.S. beat China three times. 

I was intrigued by the set-up for massage.  It is a very entertainment-oriented environment.  It can range from sitting in plush couches watching a giant screen TV to asking for a private room where one can presumably smoke (not this one.)  Or it can be like a nightclub experience.  In fact, the very next Saturday I did go to a nightclub where people were watching a Vegas-style cabaret as they received both full body and foot massages.  It was so loud that I elected to use a private room with my two female friends.  I suppose there are other massages that include extra services if you know what I mean, but generally speaking the foot massage is a widely accepted form of treatment that fits into the traditional Chinese medicine category.  The hotels charge more than private Mom and Pop type massage centers.  Where we went the first time was Jade Palace Hotel in the Haidian district near the university and it charged 130 yuan ($17) for a full hour. 

This massage is not for the faint of feet.  The massage therapists work very hard.  This is a deep tissue massage, with a lot of pulling of toes, heavy stroking and pressing on the legs. I thought that I might even become bruised from the workout but I was spared.  I will say that my legs and feet felt stimulated afterwards.  The hurt was, as John Mellencamp once said, “so good.”  

Beijing Olympics Talk: How to Handle the US Media
For the second time in one week, I flew to a Chinese city (Shenyang) to speak with local officials about the U.S. media.  The northeast Liaoning provincial town of Anshan was our location and we stayed at a gorgeous mountaintop resort, very remote but peaceful and quiet.  This time the topic was how to handle the U.S. media during the summer Olympics in Beijing.  While I had a lengthy PowerPoint (known here as a PPT) of some 35 slides, I barely made it past slide 14 because I decided to take the interactive approach.  The Chinese love specific examples, case studies and role playing scenarios.  We talked about how they might handle the media from both a partnership and crisis communications model.  I recommended the partnership model where they try to build mutually beneficial relationships based on trust and credibility.  While this is a tall order indeed, I believe that the eyes of the world will be truly amazed at China’s positive changes, including our own press.  I also thought that the U.S. media would be motivated to tell the whole story, whether good or bad, and that the Chinese need to be focused on accountability, accessibility and technology.  Plus, they need to feed the media (literally and figuratively) because all the journalists I know love their comfort food and drink.  The favorite beer of the Liaoning province is Snow beer (burp).  Here’s the proof:

Snow Beer

Becoming a Chinese Foodie
This country is a very dangerous place to live if you enjoy eating as much as I do.  I’ve tried it all from abalone and octopus to mussels and squid, to a little fish that looked like a small noodle save for the black dot for an eye.  My Chinese translator called it a silverfish, which doesn’t translate to Bon Appetit in either English or French.  I’ll just go for broke and call it a noodle fish.  Whatever their name, I tried the little critters because she said they were a Chinese delicacy and I like to give it the ole college try.  While that taste testing was not my favorite, I’ve found the Chinese food to be quite delicious.  My friend wrote and said, “Did you slip up and ask if anyone would like to go eat Chinese food?”  In fact, there is so much variety here that it is not unusual for my Chinese friends to ask if I would like Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Korean.  There are pizza restaurants, burger joints (and not just McDonald’s) as well as Mexican (or so I’ve heard) not to far from my campus.  I order “greens” regularly which refers to a salad.  The Chinese are liberal with the cucumber offerings, love Thousand Island dressing (Good Seasons must be making a killing), and integrate good eating with socializing with family and friends.  All this writing is making me hungry.  Gotta go. 

Next Time: Grassroots Democracy, Chinese Style


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