Hot and Noisy

My friend who writes for "That’s Shanghai" has penned an article about moving from the city out into the ‘suburbs’ of Shanghai, thinking that he and his family would enjoy a more bucolic, and hopefully quieter lifestyle. But it has not been the case, as he has found out that life "outside" (the ring road, that is) can be every bit as noisy and chaotic as life "inside" (the ring road):

Adding to the confusion is the exceptionally slow migration of modern retail practices.  My local hypermarket operates in the same fashion as a countryside wet-market.  The produce section has more groping than a dark hallway at a hight school dance.  From time to time, a member of the meat department will emerge to yell out the special of the nanosecond: "Fresh squid, two-for-one."  The bum’s rush results in the little old ladies beating each other about the head and shoulders with slimy tentacles.  All this is meat for a new reality show.

You really need to read the whole thing.

I chuckled because he was actually describing the hypermarket across the street from where I live, and by Beijing standards, I definitely live "inside," which here means inside the 4th ring road. No matter what time of day I go in there, I will find 4 or 5 clerks or product representatives hollering at the tops of their lungs trying to get the shoppers’ attention.  There’s a lady who sells bee products right by the checkout, so if the lines are long, we get to hear her pitch several times. And there are also people pushing tea and doufu. I always get tripped up by the lady pushing the mini-donuts! I tend not to linger too long in the hypermarket because it is just so noisy.

In fact, China is noisy, and that is one of the things that foreigners have to adjust to here.  Restaurants are noisy.  Streets are noisy.  It sometimes seems that nothing can be accomplished here without noise. Some of the worst purveyors of noise are the ubiquitous loudspeakers that seem to be perched everywhere in China.  In parks.  At the shore.  In the mountains.  Even in the "wilderness."  I remember hiking in a national park near the North Korean border many years ago.  The closest town was 20 miles away, but were never out of earshot of a loudspeaker bombarding us with sappy music.

At the time, I was studying Chinese with a tutor, and when we returned I asked her about this phenomenon—why there would be loudspeakers in the wilderness.  She told me that if people weren’t able to hear sounds related to human beings then they would feel lonely and afraid.  She was serious, and my brain almost performed an illegal operation as it tried to process what she’d said. Then she taught me a new word  renao, which literally translated means "hot and noisy."  Women Zhongguoren xihuan renao," she said.  "We Chinese like hot and noisy."  That pretty much sums it up. 

And in case you’re interested, the opposite of renao is lengqing, which means cold feelings.