February 1, 2020

I hope you get lots of Valentine’s Day cards and gifts!  As a young person, it was always my impression that getting Valentine’s Day cards (or not getting any cards) caused drama! Good drama when you learn who is sweet on you and bad drama if you are rejected.  I have lots of memories of both.  The Valentine’s Day holiday is “Chinese to me” but I have always gone with the flow.  When I grew up, if you didn’t know the answer to a question, you would plead “It’s Chinese to me.”  When I was a child, my mother would often remind me that I needed to clean my plate because of all of the starving children in China.  Feeling guilty, hoping to somehow save someone in China, I would eat whatever was left on my plate.  Also, as a kid I remember hearing actors in old black and white movies say things like “A slow boat to Shanghai” or “We’ve been Shanghaied.”  I can also remember when poor quality items were associated with Mexico, Japan, China and other far away areas.  I grew up in the era when American cars were land barges with lots of tailfins and chrome.  When foreign made cars first came to the United States, automobile experts said no one would want those “poorly made little cars with lawnmower engines.”  Boy, were they wrong!  Hello Honda, Lexus, Kia, Hyundai, Toyota and others!

Prior to a recent business trip to Korea for KAI’s annual Christmas party at the Korea site, I asked my wife, Barbara, where she would like to visit en route.  She had no suggestions, so I came up with Shanghai, China.  When asked why, I told her I had no idea other than the movies that I can recall that referenced Shanghai.  To our amazement, we had a wonderful time and became a whole lot more educated about China (which didn’t take much).

We were amazed at how secure and clean Shanghai is as a modern city.  It was very clear to us that rules are strictly enforced.  There seemed to be cameras everywhere.  I suggest that you consider visiting there if you ever have the opportunity.  One of my favorite memories of China is what our 30ish female tour guide shared regarding what a Chinese maiden seeks in a spouse.  She happened to be happily married with a young child, but this is what she said Chinese women look for in a male spouse:

  1. Integrity or good character
  2. A good job with good career potential
  3. A car (only 20% of people in China have cars)
  4. Credit cards
  5. The ability to cook (so the Chinese wife can watch her soap operas)

It didn’t really surprise me that the Chinese list would be what is pretty much a universal list.  I would like to believe, and I am inclined to believe, that the number one trait on the list, integrity, also includes some sort of spiritual side.  I was pleased to see that everywhere we went in Shanghai we saw signs of the Christmas season.  It was also noted that there were very few non-Chinese people wherever we went.  We also visited what was deemed to be the world’s largest Starbucks, where I had a rum and Coke!

Our guide confided with a big smile on her face that anyone over the age of 30 who is single is referred to as a “Left over.”  She said she has several college aged friends who fall into this category.  To help solve being a “Left over” there are “Saturday Marriage Markets” where parents take their single sons’ and daughters’ resumes, complete with their photos, hoping to find a spouse for their “Left over.”

She also reminded me that being “Shanghaied” used to mean that when sailors were needed, ship captains would fund a night of drinking for sailors from other boats.  The sailors would drink until they passed out on the captain’s boat.  When they woke up, they found themselves out at sea on the captain’s boat, serving as a crew member.  Therefore, the term “Shanghaied” came about due to this once popular recruiting process.

Our guide also explained that only recently the government’s policy on children had changed.  It used to be that a couple could only have one child.  Now they are allowed to have two children.  She said that her husband is a violation of the old rule.  His parents already had a child so when his mother became pregnant with him, the mother did not leave the house for nine months.  When it was time to have her baby, they went to the hospital for the delivery.  After he was born, a government official came to complete the paperwork and discovered that he was the couples’ second child.  As a result, they were fined the equivalent of $200 USD.  They had no funds to pay the fine, so the new parents sold their television set and used the funds to pay the fine.

I found it amusing to learn that when kids in China dig a deep hole, they are told if they dig deep enough, they’ll find New York.  I guess you can say the cards got turned on us!

The world has become a lot smaller with travel and the internet.  The Gallup Poll did a global survey a couple of years ago and found that everyone in the world wants the same basic things: shelter, security, health, wealth, good relationships and most important of all, happiness.  The older I get, the more that I learn there are not many things “Chinese to me” these days!

By the way, some “leftovers” are better than the first go around!

Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.