Learning China

I’m just about to end a one and a half year long-term assignment in Shanghai (for Ericsson, setting up a Wireless Innovation Lab and Demo Center - yes, the WILD Center!). I had never set foot in China before signing up, but I’ve absolutely loved the people and the culture, and it’s been an amazing learning experience. This is just one small example that I want to share.

At some eateries you’re expected to write down your order yourself on a piece of paper. Like most foreigners in China I’ve focused on learning spoken Mandarin. Thanks to the Pinyin input method, you can write characters electronically as soon as you know how to pronunce and read them (no need to learn the strokes and the fine motor skills required for handwriting). So handwriting quickly became a “someday, maybe”.

Which of course means writing down the order on paper is a challenge. I can (barely) explain what I want verbally though (“eggplant, tofu”) so I asked this guy to help me out.

Boy helping to write down the order

Moments later, I learned that things don’t have to be so hard.

Close-up of handwriting

(If it’s not clear from the photo, he just drew pictures of an eggplant and tofu(!) and so on, since apparently he too was unsure how to write the characters)