Last week, Sarah asked one of our colleagues if we should wear our white coats during our presentations, and the answer was, "Well you guys are foreigners, and I think in China you can do whatever you want and get away with it."
Today, we proved that correct. There is a travel agency that is a licensed train ticket seller (rare to find) near our apartment. We've been trying to buy tickets for our own trip during MidAutumn festival (side note: we don't understand the point of this holiday, other than to buy little desserts called "moon cakes" that are buttery circles of dough filled with some sort of gelatinous substance. We bought 5 today for $2.50 US, and they alternate between absolute deliciousness and vomit-in-your-mouth disgustingness.). Anyways, today, we went to buy our sleeper train tickets for our trip with Stacy and Courtney to Xi'an (terracotta warriors).
When we got there, it was raining outside and there was a line of about 35 people waiting patiently for the one person assigned to book train tickets to get to them. Through the other doorway, we could see 5 people talking in a circle who were the "travel agents." So Alison and I decided to play the dumb American tourists and went to the travel agency part to see if we could book the tickets. We handed them the date, train we wanted, number of passing, and they started gesturing and speaking Chinese to us. We said back in Chinese, "we are learning Chinese but don't understand you." The women looks at us, smiles, and books the tickets. The whole process took about 5 minutes. Not a single Chinese person in line batted an eye at us when we walk out the door.
Now imagine the response in NYC if 2 Chinese people cut a big line of people waiting to buy metro cards. It'd be a guaranteed riot!