Date Night and Everything’s Closed. Before our trip to Bali, Justin and I went on one last pre-vacation date night. Since we are never usually around during the winter vacation, we completely underestimated just how quiet things are in Qingdao during the Chinese New Year period. We assumed that since eating out is a way of life here, we would for sure be able to find a few options. Oh how wrong we were! The streets were bare, and all of our first choices were closed. We walked a few blocks to a Korean BBQ place that we hadn’t yet tried, and we were pleased to find that they were open. There was only one table seated, and they hadn’t begun eating yet, so we found a table and settled in. The waiter took our order and then filled our table with the usual array of Korean side dishes (hmm, our favorite!). As usual, we had to convince the waitress that we wanted to grill our own meat. We often find this to be a problem over here in China. In Korea you are given your meat, and of course, the staff will help you if needed, but this meal is meant to be cooked by YOU! It is a relaxing dinner, not a rushed one. Over here in China, most of the Korean BBQ restaurants want to cook our meat for us. We wouldn’t mind too much, but they literally cook every last piece of it as quickly as they can, then throw it onto a cold plate and that’s it! It is sad that they have taken a Korean tradition and made it something that it is not. We always feel so rushed when eating Korean BBQ here in China, so we have made a point to refuse to let the waitresses help us. There have been occasions where Justin has to wrestle the tongs and scissors out of someone’s hands because they simply don’t want to listen.
On this particular night we had no idea what we were about to walk into. The waitresses brought us our meat and cooking utensils, and immediately Justin told them that he wanted to cook. Apprehensively, they gave in. A few minutes lately, while we were grilling our first strip of meat and enjoying the side dishes, another waitress came over and gestured to a different grill which they had set up on a table nearby. She wanted to take the rest if our meat and cook it quickly for us. We told her we didn’t want to, and she persisted. A few seconds later another girl came over and said that they were closed so we need to eat quicker. Basically they had seated us, served us a table of food, and now they wanted us to be done in the next 10 minutes so that they could close for the holiday. hahaha… and we were on date night! We told them that we didn’t want to rush, and soon enough they understood that there was just no hurrying us. Despite the pushiness and awkward faces from the side of the room, we really did enjoy our date night. We had to be oblivious and pretend that they weren’t there, but soon they started seating more tables (all of whom ate their food within 10-15 minutes) and stopped staring at us. Oh the joy of living in a place where we are completely misunderstood!
After a delicious meal we walked to Leader Shopping Plaza to grab some coffee and look up ideas from our Bali trip. Here we were treated in a polar opposite fashion – we got served free apple pie, and then relaxed into comfy couches. Could we have our Korean BBQ here next time?
We sure were surprised at how few businesses were open on February 7th, but at least now we know that it is no exaggeration that Qingdao literally shuts down during Chinese New Year.