Last Saturday night Julianne and I went out with some friends from work to meet some other expats we’ve been hanging out with lately.
We met in downtown Changsha and headed to the pool hall. I had no idea what to expect or how it might be different . . .
We walked in to see a large area with pool and snooker tables. It was around 8:30pm so there were no free tables. We decided to sit down and have some drinks and chat while waiting.
Earlier, when we connected with the other expats, we also met a 30-something male Chinese middle school teacher who is friends with one of the expat teachers. I was surprised to see him and . . . how can I put this ‘nicely’–I wasn’t exactly thrilled because I don’t like to feel like I’m teaching an English conversation and culture class when I’m on my time and out to have some fun with other native speakers; unfortunately this is what happened every time I talked to this teacher. I should say that he was very polite and friendly, and in general a nice guy–but he struggled to follow the speed and native speaker levels of English.
I don’t know what other expat teachers do in this kind of situation but I find myself having to choose between putting extra energy into being polite and friendly and patient when talking to (whether it’s in Korea or in China) non-native speakers . . . and I’d rather not have to speak more slowly, repeat myself, explain idiomatic and slang expressions, and in general restrict my native speaking abilities in order to communicate with the non-native speaker who has come out with a group of native English speakers . . .
Now this is turning into a post about cross-cultural/cross-linguistic etiquette for expats when socializing overseas in Asia . . . but it’s something that was on my mind (I wasn’t the only one too) and I guess I just have to chalk it up to the fact that the expat who invited the non-native speaker is on their first ‘tour of duty’ so to speak in Asia and may not really know about this aspect of expat culture/life overseas.
Anyways, getting back to the pool hall . . .
It was well lit and fairly clean. It also wasn’t too smoky but that may have been due to how it was quite cool outside (for this time of year) and windows were open.
The prices for drinks were fairly expensive–especially for alcohol. A bottle of Hennesey ran us 588 yuan so we shared it amongst five of us who were having drinks. I hadn’t tried it before so while being expensive it was pretty smooth. It was quite amusing to watch some of the younger teachers sipping it and then seeing their faces squirm and wiggle, lol.
I should backtrack and say that ordering the drinks was an ordeal that took five times as long as it needed to–which is kind of par for the course in China. Even with a Chinese native speaker present and ‘helping’ us talk to the servers it took a long time (this might also have been due to the fact that the man doesn’t drink at all and didn’t understand several alcohol words and expressions we were using). Once we all had gotten our Cokes and drinks things relaxed a bit and we all chatted for a while.
The Chinese players were fairly quiet for the most part–which surprised me because in restaurants here it’s anything but quiet. Many had on special three-finger gloves to shoot pool with, and most were smoking.
One other thing I also noticed were the ‘ball girls.’ These girls would float around and monitor who was playing and for how long, collect the fees for the tables/playing time, get drink orders, and in general help out. Oh, they would also re-rack the balls once a game was over.
I guess the last thing I’ll mention was that most if not all of the music playing in the background was English pop and rock with a bit of dance.
Once we actually got a table it was a fun evening, and the closest thing to feeling like I was ‘back in Canada’ while out with expats overseas . . .
Next time we go I’m going to take my camera! The picture here was taken by a friend’s iPhone3 and while it’s not bad I was annoyed with myself for not bring out my DSLR.
Anyways, next time I think I’ll bring my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle . . .