Tag 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?

MusicRant #2

by American Girl

TravelRant: 5 Kinds of Irritating Subway Passengers

by American Girl

Strangers really take an interest in me.  People say it’s my innocent face that does it.  One afternoon I was reading Evelina by Frances Burney on the subway (because nerdy English Majors read everywhere) when a man leaned over and said, “Oh my god, I’m sorry, but isn’t 18th century literature the best? Chivalry and elegance are totally dead nowadays, huh?” We then had a lengthy discussion in which he told me how he turned down a multi-million dollar deal to build skyscrapers on his people’s land (he’s Native American). My supposedly “innocent face” will sometimes result in meeting really cool people like this man on the subway, but most of the time I want to chuck my textbook at the rest of the riders who catch my attention. The following observations were inspired from my weekly experiences of meeting subway riders.

5 Kinds of Irritating Subway Passengers

1. The Wannabe Gangster Rapper. The Wannabe Gangster Rapper, not always but usually an African American Male in his twenties, enjoys the music of “I got more hoes than the ozone” so much, he feels the need to share it with the rest of the world by unplugging his iPod and turning it to maximum volume. The public is then subjected to horrible thumping and obscene verses of the same song over and over again, for not only is the Wannabe Gangster Rapper inconsiderate about the music variety he provides to other passengers, but also because this is the rap song he currently memorized all the lyrics to. The Wannabe Gangster Rapper will then spend the duration of his ride trying to convince everyone that he lives the same lifestyle as his idol by rapping loudly with the music and bumping up and down in his seat to simulate driving a Cadillac. The annoyed looks of other passengers do not discourage him, as The Wannabe Gangster Rapper usually misinterprets them to mean that they are admiring his star quality. Sometimes a Wannabe Gangster Rapper will try to sell his homemade CDs on the subway, but due to his lack of professional sales skills, will come off as a total creep. Since a Wannabe Gangster Rapper actually believes that he will land a record deal through his self promotion, when you reject him he will convince himself that you just have bad taste in music or that you are discriminating against his race, and will move on to his next target.

2. The Pitiful Homeless Person. A Pitiful Homeless Person will not board the subway for traveling purposes, as the subway will merely transport him from Point A, a city where he begs for money, to Point B, a city where he begs for money. Instead, he will use the time he bought on the subway to do two things: seek temporary shelter and take the money of nice people. Smelling like rotten fish bombs, he will enter the subway and scout out his targets, which consist of amicable women and college kids who look like they get weekly allowances from their parents. He will sit down next to them looking as sad and pitiful as possible and tell a sad and pitiful story involving government conspiracy theories, his once luxurious lifestyle, being robbed, and his dog. Since he has  positioned himself in the aisle seat so that if you get up and walk away you’ll have to touch his rotten fish-bomb smelling clothes and still you’ll be staring at his pitiful face because there is nowhere else to go on the subway, you are trapped into giving him a dollar, lest you want to listen to the Pitiful Homeless Person’s story for another hour.

3. The Teen Clique. Teen Cliques are so excited about traveling without parental supervision that they will treat the subway as their personal party bus. This includes trying to impress their friends in the most obnoxious ways possible. A member of a Teen Clique  will continuously try to outdo another member’s “adult” knowledge through crude jokes, such as calling each other “gay” or comparing window stains to semen. Comments are always followed by the kind of over-the-top laughter that could only mean that the teenagers have no idea what their friend just said. Additionally, members of Teenage Cliques also attempt to imitate the professional stuntmen they see on TV by swinging and climbing on the subway railings, while everyone else on the subway is  secretly wishing they would slip and bang their heads.

4. The Rowdy Baseball Fans. Once in a while you will board the subway and realize that you are the only person not wearing A’s attire. These Rowdy Baseball Fans are going home after a long day of yelling in a stadium at their favorite team and are busy man-bonding by rehashing the details of the game. When dealing with Rowdy Baseball Fans, never mention your love for football, soccer, tennis, any other sport, foreign countries, or God forbid, the rival team unless you want to see some serious blood and spit.  Instead, ask them how the game went. This will prompt a Rowdy Baseball Fan to yell out “We OWNED them!”, followed by  a chorus of loud cheers and high fives. Beware as some members of this mob have a tendency to punch your face for no reason because they are too drunk and see rainbow spiders coming out of the walls because they are too high.

5. The Mother Who Needs a Day Off. The Mother Who Needs a Day Off made the brilliant decision of bringing her four ADD kids on a shopping trip and is now regretting it.  In tuning out their screaming  and spending the rest of her time on the subway dreaming about a tropical vacation, The Mother Who Needs a Day Off unfortunately leaves the public vulnerable to her little monsters. The children not only take up all the space on the subway running down the aisles and switching seats every five seconds, they also decide that right then is the best moment to have a tantrum. When one child begins to cry, all others think that it’s a good time to join in too. Unfortunately many elderly passengers encourage the mother’s lack of responsibility by telling her that her kids are “adorable at this age.” When you glare at the mother for refusing to do the right thing (slap all of her children and threaten them with no supper) she has the nerve to look surprised and annoyed.

What other subway passengers do you meet?

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!



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:
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…