The restaurant is alive with activity. Loads of Chinese young people are hanging out here and the mood is very festive. Is it the latest hot bar or perhaps a fashionable coffee shop like Starbucks? Hardly. It’s KFC… the same place in America that’s home to fried chicken. Yes, in many cities I’ve visited in China, KFC is quite popular with the kids.

This most definitely is a surprising sight. In America, KFCs are relatively popular but they’re hardly a hangout for either young or old. That’s why I asked some Chinese colleagues what’s the attraction of the dear departed colonel’s place? They feel to some extent it’s another example of curiosity in American culture. McDonald’s has been in China for some time now. Basically it’s another opportunity to sample the foods that Americans like. But at the same time Pepsi which owns the KFCs made a smart move by introducing a menu with an Asian feel to it. So along with the “finger licking good” chicken, Chinese customers will find such things as rice-based foods, red beans, and congee (a porridge like dish). The chain also caters to young people’s hours since many of the locations are 24 hours.

If you don’t have the time or the mood to travel there the colonel will come to you. Bicycle delivery carts are part of the landscape at some locations. In Zhuhai where I live, the fleet numbers at least 6 bikes in a KFC located in a mall.

When he was alive I bet Colonel Harland Sanders never envisioned that some of the folks enjoying his Southern style chicken would be in Southern China!

SALUTE YOUR LOCAL…..BUS ?

Our next cultural difference has had me curious for more than a year. But it wasn’t until recently that I cracked the case. Every day my colleagues and I travel on a bus which takes us to United International College. Quite often when the bus leaves the grounds of our apartment complex the security guards salute the bus. It happens again when the bus arrives at the college. It would be nice to think that the salute was directed at the many Americans aboard but I knew that was not the case (although the guards are always polite towards us) Then I began noticing the gesture all over Zhuhai almost every time a bus and security guard encountered each other. It was time for answers.

A colleague informs me it’s a tradition connected to training in the People’s Republic Army. Basically it’s a sign of respect. Buses in theory are transporting people to locations where they’ll be doing something worthwhile whether it be working or attending school in most cases. So I guess the UIC professors do qualify in that category because we’re teaching the young people who are the future of China.

When I think back to all the abuse school bus drivers had to take when I was growing up, I guess it’s fitting that the next generation of drivers should be saluted!

SAVE THE DATE…IF YOU UNDERSTAND

This is a curious sight every time you see a date. Recently , my college’s website was promoting an event on 5-11-11. I immediately wondered why they were sharing information about something that was long since gone in May. Not really. In China they put the day first, followed by the year. It takes some getting used to. My problem is I often sign documents for both the U.S. and China. The “backwards” date would cause a bit of confusion back home…especially if there’s a deadline on the document. We know financial institutions love to hit you with late fees. So to be sure I don’t get confused and use it for the wrong country I’ve gotten in the habit of writing out the full month involved… along with the other information.

Now that I’ve lived in China for over a year, I take almost all the l differences in stride. But I’ve noticed the newcomers to UIC this year sometimes look quite perplexed. So I immediately tell them “cultural differences”!