The Anhui Incident

I was accompanying a colleague on a site visit near Chuzhou* in Anhui province and it was a Sunday.  Our host Mr. Li spoke English well and showed us around accompanied by a fleet of more junior staff who seemed not terribly interested in being there.  I assumed they had been instructed to front up for work on a Sunday.  The day morphed into a lunch at a small office building on the outskirts of Chuzhou.  The usual private room and obviously a complete working kitchen were offered to the esteemed guests.

At this point, the fleet of subordinates started to get interested.  Free food and drink.  The usual oversupply of a huge variety of foods were put on for us plus a very generous supply of drink.  I think I now understood what the subordinates were waiting for.  We ploughed our way through mountains of food and copious quantities of beer ... the room was abuzz with convivial banter.  There was laughing and smiling from everyone except Mr. Li.  He remained totally implaccable.

Then came the dreaded question from our host, Mr. Li, "and what is your impression of China?".  Having been asked this question more times than I could remember, the beer encouraged me to immediately reverse the question "and what is your impression of Australia?".  Mr. Li had indicated that he had been to Australia once.  He pondered and replied completely straight-faced and without a hint of humour :

"Well, there are three things I recall about Australia ... flies, drunken men and fat women."

Initially, we were stunned but eventually, cracked up.  This guy is a comic genius.  When his response was translated into Chinese for the non-English subordinates, they fell about laughing ... nearly fell off chairs.  I guess beer does that.

At the end of the banquet, I asked Mr. Li if I might take a couple of empty bottles of beer with me.  Naturally, anything for the esteemed guests.  They were Silver Sword and Jin Wan.


* Chuzhou has around 4 million people and is only the 93rd biggest city in China.