You might not lose your way in a city if you have a map in hand. But you might get lost in a crowd of waiters sent from different restaurants to tout for business.
This is something I cannot understand. Chinese are usually slightly shy and conservative. But the waiters appear too warm and even aggressive when soliciting diners.
Instead of standing next to the door to greet guests, the waiters usually step out and cry out. If a diner appears to have a look of puzzlement about where to eat, it will just be the beginning of a "war".
Once my friends took me out for lunch in Maojiapu, a hot spot at the foot of the Dragon Well Mountain in Hangzhou of East China's Zhejiang Province. Tea houses line up on the roadsides, serving not only tea but also delicious food.
As we slowed down the car, trying to find a place to park, a flock of middle-aged waitresses spotted us.
They were so excited and started to chase our car, some even clapped the windows to call for our attention, which made me feel as if I were a film star, and I was quite flattered.
"They are not thrilled by you, they are thrilled by the money in your pocket," my friend warned.
We got out of the car, but soon stepped into a crowd of non-stop talking women. I felt sorry for myself as I could close my eyes but I could not close my ears.
Each of them strongly recommended their own tea house, and tried to drag us into different directions.
To end the embarrassment, we quickly decided to follow the one who looked the kindest and most sincere among these superwomen.
Later, when we found the food was not as pleasant as the woman guaranteed, and looked for her to complain, unfortunately, she was busy chasing other new arrivals.
In Beijing, the job of greeting diners has apparently been taken over by men, especially on Guijie, a famous dining street in Dongcheng District. There are always young waiters in different uniforms standing anxiously on the roadside, like a herd of fish hungry for food.
I was told that in the past, some waiters even carried young female customers into their restaurants, in order to compete with others.
I don't think it will happen to me as I am too big for the waiter's shoulders, but I never dare to challenge it.
So, every time I visit there, I just go straight to the restaurant I have booked.
Once I finished dinner with my friends and thinking naively that no one could bother us any more, we took a walk on the street.
However, we were still followed by persistent waiters.
"I have eaten already," I cried out impatiently.
"Our food is so good that people can hardly resist it," a tall man said, smiling.
Then he lowered his voice, saying: "How about a second dinner? I promise I will never tell your weight-conscious friends!"
(China Daily by Xie Fang August 2, 2007)