When I first started shopping at the mall, I thought that the clerks were saying "good morning" to me. And I was pleasantly trilling "good morning" back to them, even when it was afternoon or evening, and thinking how cute and hospitable they were. But I finally realized they were speaking Chinese when I heard them saying "good morning" (or something that sounded kind of like "good morning") to all the customers.
This attractive display of rice dumplings is for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival. I wonder if Chinese shoppers mutter, "What? Qingming Festival is barely over and already the Dragon Boat decorations are in the stores!"
Touring around the grocery store, we pass the meat counter, The chickens are much smaller than our Canadian birds and are sold with the head and feet still attached. Beef appears to me to be less reddish in color. I take all of this to mean that the animals have not been stuffed with antibiotics and hormones and so forth.
In the dairy section, milk and butter are available but the favorite dairy products are yogurt and ice cream. The milk is so rich I dilute it in half with water and the yogurt marked "plain" is actually sweetened yogurt, just with no added fruit. There is very little cheese and what is available is relatively expensive. You pay as much for a small piece of cheese as you would for a nice lunch out for two. There's noodles and rice, oil and lots of spices and seasonings, and a lot of snacks.
The locals are very fond of hot dogs, which they eat without a bun, sometimes on a stick. It's a favorite treat for children and there are lots of hot dogs and chubs of ham in the store. I haven't tried the hot dogs yet.
Eggs are sold in little mesh bags and getting them home unbroken can be a little tricky. There's an entire aisle of different kinds of cooking oil and lots of different types of vinegar. There's fish and shellfish and .... okay, some kind of large beetle, I think. Moving on. I'll have to return with a Chinese colleague to satisfy my curiosity about some of the items for sale here.
The cost of living is much lower here, but so are salaries. "Foreign expert" (that's me) teachers of English are paid more than their Chinese counterparts, or so I'm told.
In Western grocery stores, the "buy me a treat or I'll pitch a fit" zone is at the cash register. In this store, the center two aisles are devoted to treats for children. And instead of candy bars at the cash register, there's condoms.
As I approach the cash register, I'm humming along to the Chinese muzak. Occasionally they play English songs but usually its Chinese pop music. Just before coming to China, I heard a concert by Wanting Qu on CBC Radio. She is a native of China but divides her time between Vancouver and her birthplace and records songs both in Mandarin and English. Worth a listen!