Monday, December 8, 2008

How To Please...

...The In-Laws

Being in a multi-cultural relationship myself it is always interesting to see/read how other people deal with it…. This is one of the funniest things I read about cross cultural relationship in China.
I’ve copied the entire post just in case the link doesn’t work. It’s a MUST read.

The following event happened last week. I retell it only because it’s one of the funniest stories ever. Last week was Chinese national holiday. Everyone in China, besides people that get paid under the table, people that want to make overtime pay and people in the service industry have the entire week off. I could write an entire article just about my opinions on everyone in China having a forced holiday at the same time but for the sake of this funny story, I will let it go. You know where I stand on that.

I work for Tapulous and like everyone else in the world, we don’t do that (take Chinese national holiday vacations). So although my friends were off and JJ was off, I was still a working man. On Wednesday, JJ decided to invite her parents over to the apartment for lunch. They arrived early in the morning and stayed for the rest of the day. The ayi (our housekeeper) came for lunch and cooked for everyone. The tension in the house always rises when Mama and the ayi are in the same room. They have a sense of competition that they both will not admin and they are constantly watching over each other, asking me who’s food is better, who does a better job at one thing or another. It’s quite funny.
Anyway, as I said, it was a working day, so I spent most of the time in my office, secluded from the others. As evening approached, we debated over whether or not they should cook, I should cook or if we should go to a restaurant. I finally suggested to go to this new local place I found with my friend George a few weeks ago that has some killer fried eggplant.
We ate dinner and had a nice meal. The restaurant is about a ten minute walk from my apartment, near the big Cloud Nine mall beside the closest subway station. The food was good and considering the location, the prices are really reasonable. I made sure to pay for the meal, since Baba always tries to pay for meals whenever we all go out. When we finally finished it was relatively late, like 8pm. They wanted to just walk around in the mall, so I obliged and we did that for like an hour until that got old. We debated some more about what to do, since it was starting to get late. I suggested to go get a massage and after more begging, they agreed and we went to the massage parlor near my apartment and got an hour back massage, which ended up being so so. I was not too impressed with this place this time.
By the time the night was finishing up and the massage was over, it was quite late, around 10:30pm. The parents live in a slightly remote part of Shanghai, only accessible by bus or taxi, and they always refuse to take a taxi because its too expensive (even if I offer to pay). I told JJ to tell them to just stay the night at our house, that made the most sense and it was totally fine by me (and of course by JJ). We do have an extra room and I did buy this couch bed for this very reason. So it only made sense for them to stay, especially since it was holiday and JJ was not working.

Here comes the kicker. They were at first totally against it. Why, you might ask? Well it was not for the normal reasons you might imagine, such as ‘we don’t want to intrude’, ‘we have plans tomorrow morning’, we simply want to get home’, ‘we don’t like the couch bed’. None of these things mattered to them. Instead, the issue at hand was literally:
We don’t know if we want to stay because the toilet paper I buy is too soft for them and they really don’t like using it.
Now lets get the facts straight. I am not a freak or anything. I buy what I consider to be normal toilet paper, you know the middle-of-the-road priced roll you buy in packs at the store. I don’t even go top of the line (because I’m too cheap). So what in the world could be wrong with my toilet paper?
Well, it turns out they really cannot use the ‘Western’ style toilet paper. They only use the toilet paper sheets that are a darker shade of brown, more rough and stacked on top of each other. A good comparison would be the toilet paper you’d find at a public restroom in a gas station, you know, the ones that require a key and have the toiler paper dispenser that spits out paper that resembles paper towels more than toiler paper.
So not only do they prefer to use this kind of toilet paper, but they went to the extreme of this opinion and considered traveling an hour on a bus all the way back home at 10:30pm to avoid using my ’soft’, more expensive toilet paper, if, heaven forbid, they needed to take a trip to the WC. Fortunately, they are not just totally insane (I say that with the best intentions). They decided that if they could find a local convenient store that sold their ‘favorite’ style toilet paper, they would agree to spend the night. And what do you know, they found such a store, purchased a little travel pack and was ready to go.
Now I respect cultural values, tradition, holidays, beliefs, all that jazz. But this to me was an altogether new level. How could one actually prefer the toilet paper that I (and I assume most people in the US) despise? Can you imagine actually buying that crap at the store? Can you imagine actually buying that crap at the store in a toilet paper section that sold shelves and shelves of ‘comfortable’, ’soft’, ‘rolled’ toilet paper? Now can you imagine actually not staying at your child’s apartment at 10:30pm because they only buy the soft toilet paper? LOL. Oh my god, that cracks me up just thinking about it.
I guess that proves that no matter how ridiculous and strange something is to me, tradition is always all-powering.

Wonder if I have the same problem with my in-laws. Cindy/Phil, Don/Patty do you like the toilet paper when you come visit? Any other things you might want to tell me after 10 years (well technically 17!) and since we are going to stay with the family in the States over the Christmas Holiday, I want to state right now that I don’t have anything to say about THEIR toilet paper!

And you, do you hang it the right way or the wrong way?