Sunday, June 19, 2011

In RMB we trust

I arrived in Beijing at 3am on Monday because of delayed flight. I argued with the cab driver about the price because the flight attendant told me it should be 80 RMB and the driver quoted 100 RMB (for reference the current rate is $1 -> 6.5 RMB) so I was arguing with him over $3. I may have been sleep deprived. And in the end it was 85 RMB, because it was metered, so no negotiating was required.

That night my colleague took us to a faux silk market because the real one is far too touristy at this point. I was so excited to practice my Mandarin skills that I attempted to negotiate in 普通话 (Chinese). We came to an impasse at 100 RMB for three scarves. She wanted 110, so finally I attempted to offer 105, I chose to literally translate, a rookie mistake! I called out 一佰五, and they broke out into laughter and said Yes! Turns out I offered 150 RMB. So now I know that 105 is 一伯零五. That extra character representing zero.

Clearly my negotiating skills need work. The first thing I need to do is look Chinese, then I need to value small sums of money more than time and begin enjoying the exercise like a game rather than a transaction.

Thank goodness I have other endearing qualities, because I also managed to make a fool of myself by throwing something squishy on my new colleague at dinner. I am not a novice at chopsticks but this thing was slippery! I then watched the pros and saw them using spoons to pick it up. That night I ate wasabi duck feet and drank warm corn juice. The corn juice grows on you, the duck feet should be avoided at all costs.

On this trip I jumped in and ate fresh fruit and even sushi. Either they have cleaned up their water supply since my last visit or my stomach is tougher than average. Of course the smog and cigarette smoke probably took about a month off my lifespan, all in the name of progress!

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