Cross-cultural treats on the horizon

By Joseph Catanzaro (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-06-24

My Chinese friend looked at me, his face filled with a mixture of horror and pity.

"You don't have chuan'er where you're from?"

"No," I told him," we don't have chuan'er."

"But," he said aghast, "what do you eat if it's late and you've been drinking baijiu?"

I shrugged.

"We don't really have baijiu, either."

My friend sat back, stunned. It was like I'd just told him that in my country, Australia, we don't have any of the basic pillars of civilization, like electricity, or running water, or hairdryers we can use in the pursuit of both beauty and culinary perfection, or hotpot.

Actually, we don't have much in the way of hotpot, either.

But all that may be about to change.

Last week, China and Australia signed a historic free trade agreement.

With more provisions for Chinese to work in the land down under, and more opportunities for Aussie businesses to open shop in China, it's inevitable that there's going to be some demand-driven, cross-cultural pollination.

So in the interests of kick-starting this brave new era of sharing, I've put together a little list identifying some Chinese things that might do well in Australia, and vice versa.

1) FOOD: Fancy some vegemite in your jianbing? Or some kangaroo meat in your hotpot? When it comes to cuisine, we've got a lot to share. Australia is a land teeming with creepy crawly bugs that for too long have been a source of fear. But with China's influence, these pests could become a veritable insect smorgasbord of deliciousness - we just need a few Yunnan chefs to sort us out. China will also get some of the most intricate and exquisite Australian dishes on offer, like fairy bread, a local delicacy painstakingly crafted in seconds using a piece of bread smothered in butter and sugar sprinkles. The secret ingredient, my mum tells me, is love.

Cross-cultural treats on the horizon

2) FASHION: Ever wanted to keep the flies and mosquitoes away in China? An Australian cork hat will sort you right out. A true marvel of Aussie technological engineering, it's a hat with corks hanging from the brim on bits of string. One glamour-shot shake of the head and those flies are gone.

The so-called "Beijing bikini", brought into being when Chinese men pull their shirts up to cool their bellies, is a compromise between fashion and practicality that could also prove revolutionary for Aussie blokes during summer.

3) GAMES: Mahjong, which to outsiders seems like a mess of random tiles randomly scattered on a gaming board, could well be a hit in Australia. Conversely, Australian Rules Football, which to outsiders looks like a mess of random people randomly scattered on a football field, could for obvious reasons resonate with China.

I'm no economist, but if a free trade agreement means I can get chuan'er and a jianbing at the "footy" in Australia, or an Aussie brewed long neck (very tall bottle of beer) at the dragon boat race in China, then it can't be all that bad.

Contact the writer at josephcatanzaro@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 06/24/2015 page2)

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