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May 28, 2008

Suburbs

The other day we were discussing the social differences between Chinese and American culture. I talked to girl named Jennifer, who speaks perfect English. We went off on a tangent, talking about tv shows and bonded over Desperate Housewives. She had never seen a street like that before and wondered if all of us live like that in the states. I told her about a great place I live in Minnesota, called the suburbs, or suburbia. In the city we have mostly apartment buildings like they do here in Tianjin, but on the outskirts of the city, between the rural area, many of the towns somewhat resemble Wisteria Lane. Of course it’s not as pretty as it looks on tv, but we have the wide streets, big green lawns, and 1, 2, or three story houses in communities with about 50,000 to 60,000 people (in my area). Most of them have reputations, rich or poor, good or bad. But no matter what we joke with each other about which one is cooler, our own always being number one. Then we moved on and gossiped about the characters and all the drama that is happening, until the teacher came back and we had to sit down.
Shannon

May 25, 2008

Driving, Biking, or Walking...it's all nuts!

I traveled to other countries before such as England, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, and Canada, but I have never seen any streets look like they do here in Tianjin. In every major city the driving seems to be fast and some may choose to not follow the rules and regulations put in place for our safety, but China doesn't seem to have any driving laws. Cars just swerve in and out of traffic as they please and if there isn't enough room on the road...they hit the sidewalk. Even the designated bike lanes are filled with cars. The other new element in China are the bikes. It is like playing a giant game of frogger, just hoping to make it across the street in one piece. There are just so many people here that every mode of tranportation needs to be used. I'm kind of surprised that I have not seen a real bad accident yet. I have seen a car back into a post while driving on the sidewalk, but that is about it. Walking down the streets of Tianjin is filled with quick sprints and close calls, but I think I'm finally starting to get used to it.

Celebrities and Independence

We spent the entire day Saturday shopping, for most women this would be heaven as there were shoes and handbags for miles, except for the fact we were the only two tall blonde's in the entire mall. Golden Street, which literally is streets of shops, is just like your average mall you’d see in America; it has food courts, designer shops, departments stores, and is crazy busy. The main difference isn’t that we’re in China but that everyone has the same dark hair, but what did I expect, I’m in China!? As Cass and I walked around literally everyone stopped, stared, tapped their friends to make sure they saw us, and took a picture. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so uncomfortable being noticed, or ashamed of my physical features. Back home, if someone looked different I may look or even stare but I don’t think we would be so obvious in our gawking. We left Golden Street and went back to Asian Culture Street where the vendors all remembered us from three days earlier. It makes you realize how America really is a melting pot and to be proud of our difference as we could all almost be the same.

Sticking out like a total tourist with map and camera constantly in hand, luckily Rena (a very nice Chinese student) went shopping with us. I don’t know what we would do without her; she hails our taxi’s, orders for us in restaurants, and helps barter and pay for our new purchases. Although I love her and the assistance she is giving, it’s weird always having to rely on someone. I am very proud of my independence so having to ask for help to go to the bathroom or get water is starting to get irritating. Hopefully as we get more settled and used to the way of Chinese life I will be able to venture out and start taking care of myself again!

May 24, 2008

Giant Jogging

Yesterday I was really feeling the need to exercise. I have been eating all of this wonderful chinese food, which I will probably be getting tired of sometime soon, but for the time being I am loving it. I decided to go for a run through campus. I thought running down the crowded streets outside the hotel was out of the question, and thought that running at the school would allow me to get a chance to see more of the campus. Cassie also was feeling the urge to get out and run so she accompanied me. This is not your usual pair for jogging. I stand at 6' 8" and Cassie said she was about 6' 1". In China, WE ARE GIANTS! As a pair, we walked down the street towards the business school and grabbed the attention of many. It is an odd feeling to be so much taller than those around you. It was fun and exciting at first, but it has become somewhat of a bother having people stare at you and take your picture or know that they are talking about you. With this being the case, jogging in public probably wasn't the best idea!

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Sensory overload

China is heaven for girls who likes to shop. Yesterday was the first time I experience shop till you drop. The day started with me spending some quality alone(something we don't get alot here) at a restaurant for breakfast. Then, Laura and I went to a salon and got our hair cut. After that, it was time to shop. We went to a place called Golden Street, and literally there was shops every direction you look. Behind these those fancy glass doors, and little or no AC, were shoes, purses, clothes, and accessories. Some of the shops have two or three stores within the same street. I've never seen so many stores, people, and shoes, and purses(this is what I get for tagging along with the girls). We were at the center of attention the entire six-seven hours of time we spent there. Even though it was fun, my rods(those little things insides my eyes) need a rest for shoes, purses, and people in general. :)

Shopping Experience and Foot Massage!

Today was an awesome day! It was fun to have no time limits and explore the shopping of Tianjin. Starting at ten in the morning a group of us went to "Gold Street," which is well known for all the shopping. When we got there we started in the mall and I quickly knew I wanted to shop in the stores on the street. The malls here are more expensive and overwhelming.

Once we got to the streets I was in heaven. I could take my time and look through all the shops. The hardest part is not having our own independence with such a strong language barrier holding us back. By the end of the day I could somewhat communicate better, by signing and pointing. Once and awhile a Chinese that could speak English would say, "Can I help you." This is so helpful at times and it is so nice to talk to some people. The hardest part about being here without speaking Chinese is not being able to talk to anyone besides students on the trip.

Leon, Laura, and I ate at a noodle place, and I ordered rice. It kind of gets hard to keep eating ethnic food. I definitely crave American food once in awhile. For supper, I got a sandwich from the Paris baked goods store in the mall. It was so nice to have something, somewhat American. I do like the ethnic food but I need American food at least once a day.

After seven hours of shopping, Leon, Laura, Andrea, Jen, and me went to a place that gave massages. It was absolutely a girls dream come true. Six hours of shopping and then a massage!!! A 90 minute, amazing foot, leg, arm, and back massage for less than 20 US dollars!!!! I'll definitely be going back there!

Overall today was fun!

Center of Attention

Today I definitely felt like a minority. While at Golden St, which is a HUGE mall area, people kept staring at our group. It is hard because when they stare at me, I smile at them and they just keep on staring without a change in facial expression. I feel that everywhere we go we are being looked at, I think I was just expecting to see more Americans on this trip. It is a strange feeling being stared at, I suppose that I am just used to living in a place where it is not out of place to see someone from a different country or speak a different language.

The culture is very different, the language barrier is still the most frustrating aspect of being here in China. While I was buying shoes today the girl that helped me actually spoke a bit of english and it was a sigh of relief. It is amusing that they don't care if they match or not, their shoes definitely don't match their outfits a majority of the time. (Who am I, the fashion police?) I think as time goes by I am understanding their mannerisms better, I don't find myself saying sorry as often and I am getting more brave by the day at crossing the busy streets. Speaking of busy streets, we witnessed our first car accident today. The funniest part was that while driving on the sidewalk, the car backed into a street post! I am definitely feeling more comfortable here, I just wish I could have a better understanding of the language.

Buses in China

I have really enjoyed our time in China thus far, but I don't know what we'd do without the help of Chinese students like Rena and Lily, especially in some of the situations we have ended up in...Last night, for example, after eating at the Japanese place there were five of us that were trying to get home, but the taxi driver wouldn't let all of us get in. So Rena asked us if we felt comfortable taking the bus. We were up for an adventure...and so we said yes! The bus system here is organized chaos...we had no idea what was going on, yet everyone else seemed to know exactly what bus to get on and where to get off...

After talking with a couple people at the bus stop (Rena...not us) we found a bus that would bring us somewhat near our hotel. We jumped on and all the seats were taken so we stood holding on (at times we thought for dear life.) The best part of the ride was the lady that got so distracted by "the Americans" on the bus that she missed her stop and started yelling at the driver. Of course we couldn't understand, but after Rena finished laughing she informed us of why the lady was so upset.

Today, we also road the buses with Lily to the Ancient Culture Street and back. Again, people were taking random pictures of us and starring, but I really enjoyed both experiences. It was a little scary, though, when our bus driver decided to go into the bike lane because he was sick of waiting for the traffic light. Even though taxi's here are very cheap, the buses are significanly cheaper and at times I think faster because they are bigger and it seems as though when you're on streets in China, the biggest "thing" (whether is be car, bike, person, or bus) wins and gets to go first!

Stacy in China 2

I am going to attempt to use better English in this blog. My mom told me that I was writing terribly and at times I find myself speaking in broken English! I am trying hard to not speak in a limit of English words in order to help the Chinese students become more fluent! Today was another great day of shopping! I really enjoy the shopping here but to be honest I am beginning to get sick of it... I barter for everything at the little shops and even a few times in a mall area! I wonder if when I get home I will feel the need to barter the prices?

I am starting to feel a little annoyed by the amount of people of people who point and seem to talk about us! I have had a number of people take my picture and a few have even came up to me and asked for my picture. Now I understand how celebrities somewhat feel like!

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Chinese Basketball

Today was an exciting experience for several of the guys in the group. Jun, one of the students that studies with us invited us to play basketball with his friends on campus. We arranged to meet him and some of his classmates today at the hotel lobby. He called Morgan, and asked if we would like to try a chinese pork pie. The pork pie is similar to the chinese version of a hamburger. We decided to eat lunch and then meet several other of Jun's classmates at the basketball court on campus to play some games.

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May 23, 2008

Paris Baguette

Last night when we arrived at the the hibachi it was full. Laura, Stacy and I went to scope out the food court. We contemplated some of the Chinese food, the KFC, and the Pizza Hut. Stacy and Laura got a chance to see how fancy/expensive the inside of the Pizza hut is here. We ended up stopping at Paris Baguette and I selected some delicious sausage pizza bread. We brought it back to the hibachi place and it had clear out enough to sit down. We didn't think we could bring the food to the other restaurant, but that is one cultural difference here. Jason said "of course" we could bring the pizza bread to the counter. We enjoyed a couple beers and had a good show with

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Pool & cultural differences

It is saturday morning, and me and the guys are meeting up with June one of the chinese students for a tour of the campus and some basketball. We have done so much already in just the first week, and yet we have 3 more to go. I am very interested in the cultural differences we have been introduced to, and are doing our first paper/project on. I have been taking any chances given to make friends with some of the chinese students in our class to hang out with them and get an idea of what their common habits/interests are. Lu came over to the hotel last night and hung out with our whole group, which was a great learning experience for us and for him. It is very difficult knowing none of the chinese language, but most of the students speak well enough to hold a conversation as long as you speak slow and eliminate large/complex words and slang.

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Chinese TV

I talked with Michael (sophomore at Nankai, Financial Management) today during badmitton and we discussed the media differences between China and the US. I aksed him if he had watched any American shows and he said he watched Desperate Housewives and Heroes. I also watch Heroes and we talked for a good half hour about the characters and plotlines, and how excited we were for season three. I also asked about movies in China and he said that they were very popular, but very expensive for a college student. To follow up I asked if they had any discounts or movie nights on campus like we do in Duluth, and he said no, but that having that kind of opportnity would be very beneficial to students on Nankai.

Sports and Taxis

Today we played Table Tennis (ping pong) and badminton with the Chinese students. We found out that even though Americans may be more active in the sporting lifestyle, the Chinese have skill and are very adept in what they like to play. Badminton and ping pong are two "sports" they enjoy playing in their free time, and both men and women can play them. One girl asked one of us what sports we were interested in, and an American girl responded "soccer, football, etc" and the Chinese girl was very surprised. She said those are sports for men and boys only. Women are treated as the weaker gender, which they typically are, but I am all for strong women. The US doesn't neccessarily stereotype women as the weaker sex anymore, but China definitely does.

Tongiht we took a taxi home from the restaurant we ate at. The taxi driver did not speak a lick of English, but he motioned that he understood some. I apparently said "ni hau" with a good accent, because he kept trying to talk to me in Chinese. Then he said something along the lines of "apparently all you know how to say is ni hau" but it was all in Chinese, so I nodded in agreement. It was an interesting cab ride, but even with all the traffic and almost no traffic laws, I feel more safe in a taxi here than in the states.

Food

As someone who is not the biggest fan of Chinese food, this past week has defiantly been an experience. I knew from the beginning I would have to suck it up and eat or starve but, I have actually enjoyed all the meals we have had. Our first dinner at Goubuli was almost a turn off with the duck tongue, shrimp with the head and all the legs, room temperature ribs, etc. but it has gotten a lot better since. Tonight we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant; it was the best meal to date. It is located in a Food Court in one of the malls on Golden Street. It is step up in a horse shoe shape with the grill in the middle where they cook our food. I actually feel this was the first meal we really ate together as we were able to see everyone and comment on all the mini conversations that were being carried on.

When ordering, if they ask if you’d like to add the sea food, don’t add it! Having a huge great meal, the only draw back was the three little gross baked black anchovy looking fish that were added as the ‘sea food’. I’m still shocked over the culture differences in what is considered a delicacy, like dog at the Korean restaurant, and what I would assume as sea food when ordering. I still have an open mind and would like to try everything at least once, but with a McDonalds or KFC on every street corner, I am proud to say I haven’t eaten there (yet) and that I am going to hold out as long as possible.

Blog 1: The beginning

The first few days in China have been awsome. The flight was a little long, but i guess what do u expect when u r traveling to the other side of the world. One of things that I find most fasinating and different from the states here is the traffic. I mean it is nuts here. With all the bikes, cars, and people it is like a battefield and yet there never seems to be an accident. I love looking out my window and just watching all the people. Being in the taxi is even better cause everytime is like being on a rollercoaster and u never know what it is going to be like. Also the signs telling drivers what not to do are hilarious. Too bad we didn' t have them in the states. The way they drive is just like how the feel about lines, they just crowd. There will be like 5 cars in what is suppose to be 3 lanes. Throw in hundreds of people on bikes and walking and u got some entertainment. Also, i have never heard horn honking so much. And i think that these people need to buy stock in DW40 cause the way the bikes sweak when they break is like nails on a chalkboard. But off to enjoy the wonderful world that is China. Later.

May 22, 2008

Korean influence and Numbers?

China is growing extremely fast, partly because of foreign investment. Over the past few days of touring around the city, we've observed many development project by Korean companies. Also Korean restaurant is very common in Tianjin. At these restaurants you could try food you'll never ever have a chance to have in the States.

I've been Chinese for as long as I could remember, but the supersitions in phone numbers and such still surprises me. The other day we were at the China mobile store where we could select our cell phone numbers. I was surprised how willing people are to spend more money on numbers that contain digits that are suposing good luck.

A Separate World

As I lay here and contemplate the mysteries of the universe, or rather just relax and quench my thirst a little, it really strikes me how unique China is from the United States, but at the same time there are so many similarities that I don't feel like I'm halfway around the world. During both yesterday and today in our introductory lectures given to us by Dr. Li, we have had the opportunity to converse with Chinese students that attend Nankai University. Our main topics of discussion so far have been about trying to understand how an individual in each culture acts. Needless to say, it will definitely take more than a month to absorb everything that could be said.

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Stacy in China

Wow... that is one word that explains my experiences here! I am having such a great time! I have had the chance to try so many new things! A couple nights ago I tried duck tongue... which may explain why we went to eat at TGI Fridays for dinner the next day! I (corn studded) don't know though what I do without all of the people who are here! The group that we are with is super awesome, the individuals from the university are soo helpful and nice, and we have such a great professor! It is so crazy to get so close to everyone right away! I am so happy to have you all here!

Anyways, although I had may quick homesick motion I got over it really quick once I heard my moms voice. Some of the other great things that have happened are the lectures, the shopping and the people of the country. We have a had a chance to speak with Chinese students about all different types of things. It is amazing that we have so much in common. There are a lot of differences that exist between the two cultures of people but in the end we are all people and we all just want happiness. I am still so interested to learn more about their every day lives and what they want in their futures... I find that they are such kind and generous people and possibly the individuals of our country could take a page out of their book.

I sometimes forget that we are in China, which is sooo hard to do due to the differences. But one thing that will continue to remind me that we are in China is the language barrier. Very few people speak english here and the english they speak is very broken. It is kind of frustrating not being able to speak on my own!

I can't wait to see what the next few weeks bring me...!

God Bless and I miss all of you at home!

Dog...

Today was filled with new experiences. We walked around the Asian market, which was filled with unique items. But the most unique experience of the day was within the last hour. I ate dog at a Korean restaurant. Leon said it was wolf, but I cannot help but feel guilty about eating dog. I have a dog (sorry Harley)! The majority of us tried it., the spice was good but it was stringy and tasted like an animal (like deer meat or whatnot). I just narrowly managed to escape getting run over by several bikes within the past 5 minutes, but all else is well.

Korean Dinner

Tonight was a wonderful experience while visiting China! The group dinner at the Korean restaurant next to the Hotel added to the cultural experience of visiting China. Not only are we learning about the chinese culture, tonight we were exposed to some new cultural customs from Korea. This included the barbeque dinner style, the preparation of the meal and the pre-meal appetizers, to the selection of foods (dog included), to the after dinner treats. It really helps having such great guides in Jason and Reena. Reena has helped so much, as has Jason, in allowing us to get the most out of our time in Tianjin. Another cultural experience came when our group threw in some additional money expecting to tip the server, but when Reena said it was not necessary we decided to try and give the money to her to show our appreciation for her help that evening. She REFUSED diligently, saying that it was her "honor." This just shows how the chinese culture is much different than the one we come from.

After a few days in China

It is hard getting used to the air being so thick, so i have been battling a cold or something. I have seen some pretty amazing things between their architectual differences/similarities in design, and the complete lack of single housing units. Everything is an oversized apartment/condo complex. It is so cool traveling around and seeing these differing qualities in the design of a city. I like how colorful everything is, the food, the buildings, the clothing, its all very bright and vibrant with contrasting colors more noticable and regularly observable in their culture. I really enjoy the food, but i know that a lot of what we are being served is a more americanized version of the chinese customary food. Class is cool learning lots just talking with the students about common/differing interests and tendencies.

5/22

The people feeling homesick suggested we go to TGI Friday's last night, so we did. We got a banquet room and overwhelmed the staff. The flair was tremendous, my favorite was the Marilyn Manson pin on the main waiter helping us. I got a sim card for my phone yesterday, so I called my house to say

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May 21, 2008

First day of class in China

Today we had our first day of class at the beautiful new business school, it was build only three years ago. We met the Chinese students we will be studying with, all of them are very friendly. Some speak better English than others so some are hard to understand. We discussed cultural differences betweens Americans and Chinese students. Most Chinese students had never heard anything about the war in Iraq which is so interesting because for American students that is all we hear about. However, I did not know much about the conflicts between China and Tibet and that is the hot issue for the Chinese. We also discussed how Chinese people keep their emotions very hidden, they are reserved people. They have a very easy time reading Americans because we put every emotion on the table. Chinese people can read us Americans even when we don't say anything. The first day was very fun and I'm excited to see what the rest of the week brings!

Thoughts on China Thus Far...

China has been very interesting thus far. I have eaten some of the most unique things ever some of which include sea urchin, duck tongue, shrimp and sushi, some of which I liked and some of which I did not. Some of surprising things I have encountered about the Chinese culture are the following; the people are very friendly, the bathrooms are hard to get used to, bikes are the way to get around, and the city is surprisingly safe. I really enjoyed the lecture yesterday learning about the differences in culture and the way our culture deals with things differently then the Chinese. Also, I really enjoyed talking with the Chinese students and learning about their viewpoints on different world issues. I look forward to the next lectures! I had a great time yesterday touring some of the interesting areas of Tianjin, especially the rose garden. It provided some great laughs and photos. Thus far, I have really enjoyed the trip and look forward to what is to come...

Life in China

Tainjin has been interesting so far. Our first hotel was quite the experience, the first night Krissy and I decided that it would be better if we just pretended that we were at camp. Luckily, we were able to upgrade hotels and now we are all sleeping better. The people around here drive like crazy, I am surprised that there are not more accidents. I wish I had my cruiser bike here to ride, maybe one of these days I will rent a bike for a day, but I am also afraid that I will be crushed by a car/bus. I miss cold beverages, especially cold water. Everything here is warm (warm beer=not so satisfying). The weather is hot and sticky, you really cannot make it more than one day without a shower. We had our first lecture yesterday, it was fun to meet the Chinese students. We were able to talk with them about differnent cultural perspectives. I feel like a very ignorant American here since I do not know much of the language. I think it would take an eternity to understand all the Chinese characters. The food is good, I have been somewhat adventurous, I have tried duck tongue and duck egg. At one restaurant the other night I ordered bullfrog, but they never brought it out. The first couple of days I struggled with chopsticks, but now I am getting the hang of them. It is interesting being the minority too, people are always looking at us. My dad would be proud, I get up really early, I was up before 6am this morning so I do not waste the day. The only other things I miss besides cold beverages is cheese and being able to run outside.

The Journey and First Day

The NW flight from MSP to NRT used a relatively dated 747, while the flight from Narita to Beijing used a newer Airbus. While this choice probably had more to do with capacity and economic efficiencies, I couldn't help but to think that the higher growth routes in Asia were getting better equipment that the older planes of the US thus encouraging greater repeat business, perhaps. Though relatively expensive, the sashimi at the Narita Airport in Tokyo seemed more fresh and diverse than that of which I have eaten elsewhere. Having just arrived at the hotel, of whose name I am uncertain, at Nankai University in Tianjin, China after over 20 hours of traveling by air (17 of which were spent in the air) and 2.5 hours by bus, we checked into our rooms with almost everyone sharing a room. My initial impressions of China were of a new airport, a relatively expedient immigration/entry line with an adequate focus on customer service given the buttons to be used to rate your interaction with the younger agent. Jason, the chosen "English" name of the representative of Nankai University, lead us to the bus where the luggage space beneath the bus was inadequate, by US standards, thus necessitating the placement of luggage in the aisles and seats of the bus (a blockage of the aisles would have surely violated some US safety rule). The two and a half hour nonstop bus ride was somewhat uncomfortable given the bottle of water I drank immediately prior to our departure. The trip smelled like driving through Gary, Indiana as a child, prior to Clean Air Act Legislation(s) that began in the US in the 1970's. The campus was gated with a guard. The hotel had granite and marble in the lobby where the two female front desk workers slept on couches with blankets. The rooms were not very attractive with marked up walls, stained and ripped carpeting, and hard beds. At the request of my roommate, I had accompanied him, via taxi, to McDonalds to get some food. McDonalds seemed to be full of younger college students studying, primarily. I had a relatively dry fish sandwich which, in retrospect, probably provided me with more mercury than I may have wished to consume given the ubiquitous air pollution. We were up for breakfast a few hours later and off for a walk around campus. Though the hotel kept our passports, we were able to change money using the copy that I had brought with me. The group attempt to obtain cell phones and SIM cards failed our first day as no one had the passports required to get set up with service. We moved to a cleaner and more updated hotel later that afternoon outside of the University walls. Rooms lack any dressers, thus most students are placing their cloths on the floor or living out of their suitcases. Shopping at Emart was warm given the power outage. Dinner was at an established restaurant in town with lots of history. The service was abundant and the decor was fabulous. The food tasted good to me, though some students complained that it was unremarkable. The assistant dean of the Nainkai Business School joined us and gave us some history of the University as well as a brief introduction of the importance of table position at dinners and the expectations of toasting, etc. This was interesting and paralleled information garnered in the book on Chinese etiquette. Following this diverse meal, which included spicy duck tongue, we went home and most of us slept well given the length of the day and full stomachs.

So far...

The culture is so different from our own that it's almost hard to function, at least for me. I am so used to ignorant, rambling, rude, and individualistic Americans that it's hard to get used to a culture that treats bikers the same as people in cars, and houses millions of people per square mile in apartment buildings that almost touch the sky. So far we have made some friends with business school students at Nankai University, but we have taken especially to a girl named Rena, and I do not know how to spell her name. She comes with us when we go shopping, eating out, and to our lectures. She is extremely helpful, and we appreciate her willingness. We also met some people from Cameroun and Ghana in a rose garden today, they spoke French and English, so that was fun to get pictures with them. We ate at TGI Fridays for dinner, which was a cultural experience even though they serve American food because they do not have staples like Ranch Dressing. The Chinese people do not like Cheese, which is just going to kill me because cheese is my favorite food. It's all part of learning the culture, though, and I will learn to cope through my cheese cravings.