And speaking of learning about the culture…
On the plane trip to Thailand, I was seated in a row with two ladies. In the middle, a happy, easy-going Thai lady. Near the window, a slightly middle-aged Chinese woman with a hairstyle roughly similar to that of Ziggy Marley.
Midway through the flight dinner is served, a choice of duck with rice or pork with rice. I was going to ask for rice with rice, but thought that might be a little culturally insensitive. But anyway, as opposed to most flights in America, they actually gave us metal silverware to us. A spoon, fork, and a knife. Just the joy of real silverware made my pork with rice experience so much better.
Apparently my Chinese row-mate was also overwhelmed by using such fine utensils! As the stewardess returned to collect our trays, I noticed the Chinese ladies tray had a lot less garbage than mine. My first thought was that this was due to me being an American and our tendency to create mass amounts of waste. Then I realized the truth after the stewardess asked, "I'm sorry Miss, can you please return the silverware as well?" The Chinese woman, looking aghast at being asked this question, fluttered about until the stewardess calmly said again, "Yes, we need to collect the silverware." Knowing the jig was up, the woman reluctantly handed back the silverware. I attempted to not make any more eye contact with the woman, but couldn't help but look at her straight in the face when the stewardess then asked, "We need the plates and the cups back as well."
So let's quickly recap, this lady attempts to stash away a dirty knife, fork, spoon, glass, and two plates into her purse! Being in China for so long now, I am no longer shocked by this action. I was in fact thinking, "Well, it really is the airlines fault here, it's not like they actually wrote out instructions to the passengers saying they COULDN'T keep them…"
So now that my once proud Western logic has been replaced by a more Chinese take-advantage of an opportunity pragmatism, I will soon be on eBay selling the closet hangers, drapes, and strongbox safe taken from my hotel room.