While most of the annual Spring Festival migration is from big cities to the small cities and the countryside as workers, students, and whoever else was able to find a plane or train ticket leaves their jobs for a week to spend the holiday with the family back home, I have noticed over the last few years that there is also a little reverse migration, mostly the parents and older relatives of younger city dwellers coming to check out the metropolis in which their son or daughter lives. In Shanghai it’s rather easy to find these people because, quite simply, they stick out like sore thumbs, their raw Chinese-ness in contrast with an increasingly international metropolitan city.
Yesterday I ate at McDonalds near the Hongkou Football Stadium, and I was seated next to a pair of older women who, while waiting for their food, engaged in watching my every move as I ate my lunch. A few uncomfortable minutes later, a young man came over with three chicken sandwiches and three cups of Sprite, sat down with them, and they all started to eat.
About two bites into her sandwich, one woman turned to the younger man with wide eyes. “What flavor is this?”
“It’s chicken, mom.”
“It doesn’t taste like chicken. What flavor is it?”
“It’s the sauce, mom. I don’t know.”
“Well, I don’t like it.” She then proceeded to take the bun off, and scrape all of the sauce off both the bread and the meat. A few minutes later…
“What vegetable is this?”
“It’s raw. I don’t like raw vegetables.” Off went the lettuce, leaving chicken, bread, and cheese. A couple bites later…
“What’s this yellow stuff?”
“Aiya, cheese, mom!”
“What?! Chinese don’t eat cheese.”
“Yes they do mom.”
“Well… I don’t.” She stripped off the cheese, leaving just a naked piece of meat and some bread. She finished that, and grabbed her drink, and took one sip…
“Ah, this drink is cold!”
I’ll bet that guy won’t shed a tear when she gets back on the train home.