Songs about Qingdao! 青岛小嫚 by MC沙洲 & 爱青岛 by The Qingdao Allstars

Somehow we discovered MC沙洲, a local Qingdao hip-hop artist who has songs like 美丽青岛, IN青岛, 青岛MC青岛的夏天 and 青岛小嫚, all of which feature a heavy dose of Qingdaonese。

He also has a cameo in 爱青岛 by The Qingdao Allstars, in which a bunch of foreigners sing about Qingdao in English, Chinese and Qingdaonese (so I guess we’ll call that Qinglish?). Videos and lyrics for 青岛小嫚 and 爱青岛 below. Favourite lyric:

You’re my clam, I’m your hot pepper
Stir-fried together then it’s Qingdao flavour

你是我的蛤蜊 我是你的辣椒
放在一块儿炒才是青岛的味道

《青岛小嫚》
她是个青岛小嫚 动不动就生气 不愿意了甩了脸就走人
我站在原地还不知道怎么回事 手上拿着半个冰棍儿往下滴水
今天天气不错 该出去约会 我的青岛小嫚不弱 她是个辣妹
她最喜欢吃的就是路边小吃 最喜欢干的事儿就是没事找事儿
但是我不冲她发火 她比个男的有劲儿 还老穿个小裙子化装淑女
有的时候她也会温柔似水 那说明她饿了想让我喂她吃食 Oh
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
打个啵 (Mua)
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
一块儿唱 一块儿唱
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
一块儿唱
La la la la la la (Oh)
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la 我的青岛小嫚
她买个破拖鞋要逛到晚上九点半 还老嫌我走路慢 她一个一个看
去游乐园玩那些奇怪东西 转呐转 转的我都头晕 她还不算完
有好好座不坐她让我买个摇篮 每天吃那么多饭也不怕坐断
白天上班的时候装的那么能干 下班回家就往床上钻 也不做饭
怎么那么懒 怎么她妈也不管 怎么她就成了我的心肝 我的陪伴
见不着我想她 见着我又烦 本来有个好灵感都让她搅乱

不唱我爱台妹我唱我爱青岛小嫚 爱她漂亮的大长腿和她说话口音
不化妆就出门 不愿意就打人 说她是个女屌丝她还那么恣儿
我唱歌那么好 她就跑调 去洗海澡她游我就狗刨
一个汉堡我吃饱她还得要 想去哪都问我我不认识道
你是我的蛤蜊 我是你的辣椒 放在一块儿炒才是青岛的味道
爱这里就要爱这里嫚 爱就要爱我的青岛小嫚

《爱青岛》
Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

come on every one
lets drink some fun
party all night
cheering the morning sun
spring skipping alright
waiting for the summer
fell back to sleep
cuz the winter is a bummer
ya need to be reminded
that your city is beautiful?
walk slow, watch her sunsets grow
lighting up the clouds like a rubies glow
drink your fill don’t spill your drink doh

请你开你的口
举起酒杯
先听李清say
Go with the flow
时间飞
废话甭说任何的时候
醉月如梭

像水流,no不是,像啤酒
哥们儿和朋友
饮一杯酒
不知不觉时间就被偷
喝多了
喝high了
看这个小妹儿穿得那么fly的
哦surprise了
中美关系好起来啦
希望青啤的新产品是苹果cider(赛达?)
小哥小心不要喝得那么快嘛

Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

我们来自青岛
我们热爱青岛
我们从来不在大街上尿尿
这是蛤蜊的调 这是小村庄的调
用我四方的口音唱个吆吆切可闹
我从来没去过 new york
我就去过胜利桥
跟我伙计们子吃个烧烤
我们看上去很屌 其实很表 哈大了酒就回家睡觉

我第一次到青岛(was love at first sight)
这个地方这么好
有山有海
(She be my cup of tea, I mean…)
它就是我的菜
还有青岛的扎啤就是我的最爱

外国的老巴子
听我嘻哈说一下
我想教你们
一点青岛话
牡蛎是海蛎子
蛤蜊是gala
烤肉是烤you
还有喝是哈

有蓝天碧海 红瓦和绿树
有喝的有吃的还有看的cool
你白恶银了你快白叨叨了
没见过老外说青岛话
太搞笑了

(I’m almost all out, but I got a couple more words-
They’re only for the cool kids, and not for the nerds)
叫哥们小哥,叫姐们小嫚
(And) 过来是个来 (let’s drink a BERR)

Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

Everybody singing together
What do we say?
青岛啤酒好喝
咱们干杯
哈啤酒
吃蛤蜊
爱青岛
我们一起玩

The Best Decisions We Ever Made in China (#1): ditching the laowai ghetto

Aside from personal motivations, character, attitude, and general posture toward China and Chinese people, this is the one decision that enhanced our China experience more than any other single thing we did during our first two years in China: we moved out of the foreigner ghetto and into the most average-looking Chinese neighbourhood we could find.

(If what follows starts to sound culturally patronizing, just hold on… I saved that part for the end.)

Welcome to China! the Foreign Bubble

When we first arrived in China with next-to-no Mandarin or knowledge of our city, the organization that helped arrange our visas and school placement also arranged our apartment: we had a prearranged flat in a complex occupied entirely by foreigners where the manager had good English (back in the day this was the only place foreigners were allowed to live in Tianjin). It was super convenient, especially for China newbies who are usually high-maintenance. From the standpoint of an organization facilitating foreigners’ language school placement it was ideal. But for foreigners interested in China and Chinese, it sucked.

Ditching the Laowai Ghetto: hunting apartments armed with Chinglish

We’d come to China to study language and culture, and we’d decided before we even arrived that we’d be moving out of “洋人街” ASAP. It was inconvenient for language practice, and besides, going to a foreign country and living unnecessarily isolated from your new city’s regular people seemed really lame. So after about two months of classes we took a vocabulary list of apartment words, a map, and went and squinted at the scrawled 汉字 on the papers tacked to boards outside the little first-floor rental agencies tucked away in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

We knew what we wanted: an average neighbourhood (“average” as defined by locals, not foreigners) with a lot of outdoor community life and an apartment we could tolerate and that our neighbours, teachers, and local friends wouldn’t feel strange in. Surely, we thought, that isn’t too much to ask. Foreigners from one of the international schools told us we wouldn’t find “anything” (read: “livable”) for twice the price of what we eventually paid (also twice the price of what they said was the average Tianjin salary). We went with what our teachers told us instead, quickly realizing that foreigners can spend years in China and still know next-to-nothing about it.

Of course it was awkward pointing at a circle on a map and mispronouncing vocab words to rental agents who had maybe never talked face-to-face with a foreigner in their lives, but we managed to have three apartments shown to us. I wanted the first one, but the landlord balked when he discovered we were foreigners (that’s when we learned what “他有事” really means). The third location was perfect — better than we’d hoped. We incurred some 关系 debt because we had to ask a local friend (the boyfriend of a fellow foreigner) for a big favour to come with us to the contract negotiation and signing. It went smoothly, so we borrowed an electric 三轮车 and moved in.

The Benefits: people, people, people

Rather than bring local Tianjiners into our cultural space, we wanted to meet them in their own world where they were more comfortable. The single biggest benefit that living in this kind of neighbourhood gave us was exponentially increasing our daily opportunities for interaction with average, mainstream locals more on their turf than ours. We couldn’t come or go without speaking to someone, and usually more than one. The old boys club that hung out on the bike repair corner regularly included me in their Chinese chess, outdoor meals, and teasing. Families would invite us into their homes on the various big holidays. The only person we met in that neighbourhood in two years who had any amount of English — besides one charming but mentally handicapped man who would yell “I love you!” at us — was a university student three floors down who became a language exchange partner. It was a laid back but crowded, active community where language practice opportunities with everyone from laid-off factory workers to university professors were immediately available in excess of what we could handle. Those neighbours taught us more about China and made China more interesting, alive, and lovable to us than any books or classes ever could. Even on the worst days, we never regretted our decision to live there.

A few months after moving in our teachers, in their more candid moments, would sometimes confess that they felt extra awkward and distanced when visiting their foreign friends’ apartments for two big reasons. First, the furniture, decor, food, and even the way they were received as guests all felt foreign. Second, although the foreigners were taking a step down in living standards, to the Chinese their apartments just screamed wealth and economic privilege. In addition to the unavoidable language and cultural barriers, these foreigners, through their lifestyle choices, were emphasizing another gulf of distance between themselves and local Chinese: economic disparity.

The Downside: our economic elitism

The economic privilege in which most of us were raised (speaking globally here) gets us in two big ways. The first is largely practical, physical, external. The second is intensely personal.

Physical Annoyances & Inconveniences
My mother would be appalled if she saw that apartment. The whitewash was peeling and rubbed off on your clothes. The kitchen was the size of a closet. The toilet was in the shower and the exposed plumbing both precarious and temperamental. The sewer gas that came up the drains in the evenings smelled so bad it woke us up at night until we devised an overly complicated water-bottle-in-a-plastic-bag-hung-from-a-nail method for mostly-sealing the bathroom drain (plumbers don’t do U-bends in Tianjin). The windows let all the coal dust in and the layout of the place didn’t make sense to us. The electricity often shorted out and we had long extension cords running everywhere. There was only enough hot water in the winter for fast showers. I wore a toque to bed the week before they turned on the heat. In the words of younger versions of my little sisters: it was totally ghetto. But we would choose to live there again, no question. It was totally worth it. That apartment was slightly better or slightly worse than those of our neighbours, depending on the neighbours, and close enough to what they knew that our Chinese friends and neighbours felt much less awkward when they visited than they might have otherwise. I mention these things to give fair warning: if you aim to move into an average Chinese neighbourhood chances are you’ll be getting an average Chinese apartment. Count the cost, because not all foreigners are willing to pay it. Also, the neighbourhood and apartment described here, while unremarkable for that district of Tianjin, is still probably well above average for most places in China.

Uncomfortable Personal Discoveries
(Warning: confession/soap box/rant/sermon ahead.)
Whether it’s right or not, what’s a huge step down in living standards for the average foreigner is normal for the average Mainlander. If that embarrassing, awkward and unfair economic truth makes you feel uncomfortable and maybe even vaguely guilty, I promise I know how you feel, but I don’t apologize for bringing it up. That’s what we get for being the economically elite six percent of an otherwise much-less-privileged world. Keeping the hoi polloi at a distance so that we’re less poignantly reminded of this stark economic reality and our consciences are less likely to be called out does not make it any less real — but living in an average urban Chinese neighbourhood makes it harder to avoid.

If you’re a thinking, reflective person at all then living significantly below the comforts you’re accustomed to brings special challenges. Basically, you begin to discover how much of a pampered, manicured, whiny, elitist snob you are who has tragically confused unwarranted privileges with basic entitlements. When you get genuinely frustrated and upset about how sub-standard everything is, then you can enjoy the guilt that comes with realizing that you can’t handle what’s more than good enough for most of the world; for thinking that living more like the majority of the world is such a big sacrifice for which you should get some sort of multiculturalism medal. And when you’re in a good mood and those physical inconveniences aren’t annoying you as much as they would the average foreigner, then you can hate yourself for actually feeling proud of the fact that you deigned to lower your living standard closer to that of the global average, for thinking you’re better than all those other foreigners, and — last but certainly not least — for being so patronizing to the local Chinese.

The silver lining, I guess, is that living this way also creates ample opportunity to contemplate lifestyles that respectfully transcend economic divisions while still being honest about who we are and acting morally with our affluence given the economic disparity in the world… Anyway, that’s a big tangent I maybe should have saved for another post, but it’s part of our experience, so I’m leaving it in.

Gearing up for Location #2

That old apartment with its neighbourhood comes to mind today because right at the moment friends in Tianjin are securing an apartment for us for when we arrive in a couple weeks (we had to let the old one go when we left for Canada). When friends are doing us this huge favour we obviously don’t want to be picky, and with the baby we won’t be as mobile or tolerant/flexible as we were before. I’m also only on a year-long contract, so I don’t know how likely we’ll be to move after we arrive. The photos they sent make this second apartment look several notches above the first. I guess we’ll see…

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