A Canadian In Beijing: International Condiments & Conversation

My first day in Beijing was spent in complete luxury at the Comfort Inn and Suites in downtown Beijing. I’ve stayed at a lot of Comfort Inns across Canada and the U.S., but let me say that I was surprised by the bellboys, marble entrance, fish pool complete with many fat fish of various colours, plush towels, door-to-door luggage handling from taxi to hotel room entrance, complimentary “western style” breakfast in the morning and free high-speed internet access in the rooms.

I was a bit shy about it all, to be honest. I’m used to mid-grade to low-grade accommodations unless music venues are generous and set up the musicians (us) with plush beds to lie in for the night. Still, I’m not complaining. Sleeping off my jet lag in style was a bonus and it enabled a delayed first impression of this city.

The western-style breakfast consisted of everything you can imagine for breakfast, plus…congi (sort of like a rice soup, which is definitely not western but is delicious), baked beans with corn (an interesting choice that was surprisingly tasty!), some pastries whose content I decided not to brave (veganism and pastry don’t often get along) and wait staff that were overly zealous in the clearing of your empties.

I sat next to a woman from Australia while a family behind me chatted in a Slavic language that I couldn’t recognize. I asked one of the waitresses for the word for watermelon in Chinese and proceeded to have the typical conversation about where I learned Mandarin and why I have come here. She giggled behind her hand when I spoke and then tittered with her fellow waitresses behind the bar.

Just as I was leaving the hotel restaurant, I noticed the condiments were as international as the conversations. Here is an image of the two options: jam from Austria and butter from New Zealand.

It’s time to really be in China now. No more of this veiled arrival business! Off to the university I go…