Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Lunch Date

Since I will not start my new job until early September, I have the luxury of being a tourist in my new hometown while Chris is at work.

Today, I decided I would do one of the most touristy things a person could do in Shanghai.  I went to the Yuyuan Garden tourist market.  As I was meandering among the tea, pearl, jade, and junk vendors, my stomach started to grumble so I decided to grab a bite to eat.  I passed by a cafeteria-style restaurant that had beautiful pictures of jaozi (dumplings).  It is really difficult to mess up jaozi, so I ducked in to snag some lunch.

 I grabbed a plate of noodles and an orange drink that was a dead wringer for the McDonald’s orange drink I drank as a kiddo, and parked myself at the only empty table in the restaurant.  I was happy to finally slurp some noodles.  (There is no polite way to eat noodles with chopsticks.  Everyone here slurps.) 

Two seconds after I sat down, an old Chinese couple sat down at the table with me.  Fortunately, they did not sit directly in front of me, so I could pretty much ignore them and eat in peace. 

About five minutes later, my date arrived.

I noticed that my date also has a thing for Jaozi, coincidence??  ;)
Yep, a random stranger took the seat directly in front of me and started eating his lunch.  I really didn’t know what to do.  Was I supposed to make small talk with him?  Was I supposed to pretend he was not there?  Was he one of those creepy people who like to scam tourists that I have read about online?  This was definitely a first for me.  Sharing a table with a stranger was one thing.  Sitting right across from a one while eating was an entirely different ballgame.  For me, sharing a meal with someone is usually a bonding experience.  I normally don’t eat with strangers unless I am at a networking or social function.

I did what my city girl instincts told me to do.  I looked down, finished my lunch, and at the end of the meal gave the man a “good day” nod.  I cleared my tray and went about my business.

I was still intrigued by my lunch when I arrived home, so I turned to the web to seek answers about my unique dining experience.  According to Wikipedia, I had dined at a yum cha restaurant.  Yum cha is Chinese for drink tea.  In yum cha restaurants, it is common to dine and drink tea with complete strangers.  I wish I would have known that beforehand.  Perhaps I could have practiced my Chinese.  Or at least gotten in a good gam bei!