Going Native in the Canteen

Today for lunch I decided to go native and eat in the airport worker’s canteen (cafeteria).

See, in most workplaces across China, workers may eat very cheaply in a communal canteen. In most, you must bring your own bowl or container and your own chopsticks or spoon. You have a choice of dishes, usually made up of vegetable with a little meat. You also have your staple dish which is rice, steamed bun or flat bread. This literally costs pennies – much less than the 50 cent meals we have been eating for lunch.

Everyone complains that the food in the cafeteria is not very good, but regardless I wanted to try it out. (Besides, since when has cafeteria food been good anywhere?) I bought a bowl – the standard issue chow bowl here is usually metal with a handle and several different parts that fit together. The big part holds the main dish, a smaller one holds the rice, and a third one is just thrown in for the heck of it, I guess.


Chow Bowl Together

Chow Bowl Apart

There it is! Together and separate…

I wasn’t exactly sure what all the food choices were, so I just pointed at something that looked fairly innocuous. Turned out to be stewed eggplant and a cucumber-like vegetable. I also got a big steamed bun which didn’t really taste like anything at all but was quite good dipped in the sauce.

Just being in the canteen line was an experience, since no one there had ever seen a foreigner there before. As I waited for my friends to finish paying, I stood before a line of 20 Chinese. They were all smiling, pointing and talking about me. They all had more or less the same metal food bowl as me, so different yet sharing the same experience.

The food was not nearly as terrible as everyone claimed and so far I have suffered no ill effects. (Perhaps another sign that I am acclimating to China – I’ve developed an iron gut!) I’m going to eat there more often. You can’t beat the price and I’ve got to give the airport workers some lunchtime entertainment.

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3 Responses to “Going Native in the Canteen”

  1. Onkar Joshi Says:

    Eating something new, different and cheap sounds like an interesting thing to do !

  2. superkimbo Says:

    A great story! This is why you live abroad, right 🙂

    By the way, have there been some changes in the apperance of your blog? I usually read through Google Reader, so maybe this happened a while ago, but I like it!

  3. global gal Says:

    I did change my blog template yesterday. I just thought the other designs font was difficult to read. I just crazy hairs sometimes and need to change things up. I hope to learn more about CSS so I can really modify things.

    I read your blog on a newsreader, too!

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