Category Archives: Culture

Chinese Superstitions

by American Girl

If I had seven years of bad luck every time I broke a mirror I would be long dead before my bad luck debt is paid off.  A gigantic klutz such as me cannot really afford to be superstitious about many things. The only superstition that I am inclined to believe in involves sleep and doorways.

I have an insanely superstitious Chinese mother. I laughed everything she said off until my freshman year in college. When I moved into my dormitory, my mom took one look at the room and told me sternly that I was not allowed to sleep with my feet facing the doorway. The fact that the door had a full length mirror made it double bad luck. I thought she was being nutty so I forgot about it.

Then I got really sick. Food poisoning, the flu, cramps, the whole deal. It lasted for two weeks until my mom brought me a screen which blocked the foot of my bed from the doorway.

Coincidence? Probably. But I’m sure as heck not going to go around sleeping with my feet facing doorways and mirrors again.

The following are superstitions that my mom has repeatedly tried to nail into our family’s heads from my childhood.

1. Do not sleep with your feet facing the doorway or mirror, as all your good luck will flow outside or be reflected away.

2. Eat all your food, or every grain of rice that you leave in your bowl will become moles/pockmarks on your future husband’s face.

3. Never stick chopsticks upright in a ricebowl. The dead will be offended as this is the way their food is served.

4. Always knock on hotel or unfamiliar room doors before you enter to stay the night as it is a polite way of warning the spirits of your presence.

5. Do not give clocks as presents. The Chinese word for clock (shi) sounds like the word “death”.

6. Do not give umbrellas as presents, as this will cause the receiver to have an unfortunate day.

7. If your eye twitches, you or someone you know will be put in mortal danger. (I almost got hit by a car once and when I told my mom she screamed”I knew it! My eye was twitching, my eye was twitching!”)

8. Do not sweep your house on New Years because you will sweep all the luck away.

9. Marry a man with a small nose and have a poor life.

10. Holding your chopsticks at the far end will cause you to move very far from your hometown for marriage.

11. Pregnant women should never use glue as it signifies a difficult birth.

12. Dropping your utensils during a meal means you will be forced to treat guests for dinner some time in the future.

13. Always greet guests in the living room. Never greet guests in the bedroom, as this will cause them to become sick.

14. Never go straight home after a wake or the dead will follow.

15. Do not have turtles as pets as this will slow down one’s business.

16. The noodles in a soup symbolizes longevity and should never be cut, lest the eater wants a short life.

There are also many Chinese superstitions involving Feng Shui and numbers, but I’ll get to those another time. What superstitions run in your family?

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My Favorite Toothpaste

by Penang Boy

Try to guess what my favorite toothpaste is? No, it’s not Colgate. No, It’s not Crest either. It’s……… DARKIE! Ching!

Yes! It’s offensive. It looks disgusting but it is actually a great toothpaste. I used it all my life. (Unless you count the first 2 years in US. I forgot to bring my childhood toothpaste!) Darkie is a very popular toothpaste in Asia and contrary to what you may think based on the aesthetics of it, it actually tastes good! Ask American Girl. She acknowledges that it tastes good after you brush. YUM!

Why don’t they sell Darkie in US? Well, maybe because Darkie is offensive and racial. Well, it’s fine, we’ll just change the name to Darlie! That sounds flowery.

That’s what the manufacturers did anyway. You know what? I want to import it to US. Maybe I should try selling the 15 Darlie toothpastes that I have imported from Penang the last trip back home.

My sister actually requested that I buy some cause she NEEDS to use Darlie. I don’t mind Colgate actually but I would actually prefer Darlie.

If I ever import Darlie at a mass scale, I would love to have a celebrity endorse my toothpaste. Who could I have endorse Darkie…. hm….. I know!

Will.i.am.!

 

For more info on Darkie, Wiki it!

Note from American Girl: Penang Boy isn’t kidding. There really is a brand of toothpaste named Darlie (formerly Darkie) and it is THE toothpaste to use in Asia. The Chinese name for the brand translates to “Black Man Toothpaste”. Unlike the U.S., there are no negative connotations in naming something “dark” or “black” in Asia.  Darlie uses a racial caricature, yes, but it’s also a brilliant marketing ploy since I’ve known many Taiwanese who fervently admire the “shiny white smile” of black people.  Seriously though, you’ve got to use it.  It tastes like clean candy.

Update: Thanks to MH! Awesome funniest commercial EVER!


American Girl Learns About the No Refund Policy


American Girl is talking on the phone with Penang Boy, who is in a Singaporean airport.

Penang Boy: I tried to board the plane 40 minutes before my flight and the stuck up lady at the gate turned me away! She said the gate already closed and it was too much paperwork to let me on. What the hell? The sign says “gate closes 10 minutes before flight! And guess what? They don’t have customer service here. You call one number and it just tells you flight time and purchase info. 
American Girl:
Are you serious? Can’t you complain to the front desk?
Penang Boy:
You don’t understand. In Singapore consumer power doesn’t exist. People just take whatever shit is given to them. Nobody will help me.
American Girl:
You’ll get a refund at least.
Penang Boy:
No. Refunds don’t exist in Singapore.
American Girl:
WHAT?! WHAT KIND OF GOD-FORSAKEN COUNTRY IS THIS?
Penang Boy:
Once you swipe that card it’s gone. The best they could give you is an exchange and  it will take me at least two days of persistent arguing with this airline to get it.
American Girl:
You should go back and cuss at her face for not doing her job.
Penang Boy:
That will only make me more angry. That’s why I LOVE the return policy in America.
American Girl:
So how come the U.S. has refunds on everything?
Penang Boy:
I think it’s a rights issue. People feel they have the right to undo what they did in case they don’t want to do something.
American Girl:
…Hey! Is that why I always see you trying to return everything here? (laughs).
Penang Boy:
Why are you laughing?
American Girl: Nothing…you’re cute. Anyways I’m sorry that freaking sucks.
Penang Boy: I can’t wait to get out of here.
American Girl: I still think you should go back and punch that witch in the face.

American Girl Learns About Tamarinds

We are in a Malaysian Restaurant.  Penang Boy’s sister just ordered fish head curry with tamarind.

American Girl: What’s a tamarind?
Penang Boy: I explained before remember? It’s a tropical plant. The seeds that come from its trees are sweet and sour and are used to flavor some Malaysian dishes. And Mexicans also use it for candy.
American Girl: The reason I keep asking is because it sounds so familiar! Is it those Chinese candy things?
Penang Boy: No.
American Girl: Is it those green things?
Penang Boy: No. That’s okra.
American Girl: Is this a tamarind?
Penang Boy: No. That’s a bean!
The food arrives.
Here, this is fishhead curry flavored with tamarind.
American Girl: So what is a tamarind?
Penang Boy: Sigh…this girl…

Penang Boy Learns About Cracker Jacks

Penang Boy: Hey that’s Cracker Jack! Your favorite cheese!
American Girl: What?! Cracker Jack is not a cheese.
Penang Boy: Didn’t you say it was your favorite cheese?
American Girl: Uh…you mean Pepper Jack?
Penang Boy: OH!!!
American Girl: (laughs very hard)
Penang Boy: (laughs)… so what’s Cracker Jack?
American Girl: It’s an American brand of popcorn and peanuts with caramel on it. You know, (sings)
Take me out to the ball game,
take me out with the crowd,
buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I ever get back-

Penang Boy: You really don’t care if you ever get back?