Friday, July 2, 2010

Dr. Pepper Breaches the Great Wall

One day when I was teaching English here two years ago, my students asked me to tell them about American food. That's a hard question to answer when you think about it. It seems like we steal other countries' foods.

But one thing we did not steal...

Actually, I mainly mentioned it because it is my favorite drink in the U.S. No one in the class knew what I was talking about. So the next day I brought a picture of Dr. Pepper. Still, no one had heard of it or seen it. That is 170 Chinese college students that have never even heard of Dr. Pepper.

Then I started looking around. I couldn't find it anywhere in Wuhan. When I went to Beijing (one of the most "Western" cities in China) I still couldn't find it anywhere. Not once did I see it then, and during my whole time here this summer I have never seen it. Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, orange soda, and grape soda are all very popular here. But I could never understand why Dr. Pepper never made the cut.

When I came to Wuhan this summer, I met up with a few of my students from two years ago. During one of our very first conversations after meeting each other again, one of them mentioned Dr. Pepper out of the blue. He said that ever since I mentioned it in class he has been looking for it and has never seen it.

So he was psyched when I told him that I brought some to China this time. After telling them all two year ago how good it is, I felt bad leaving them hanging. So I brought some, and I was really excited to hear that they had been dreaming of tasting it.

Today, they finally got that chance. During a going-away dinner in the cafeteria (funny, right?) I brought the bottle of bubbly. This was a going-away dinner because I will be traveling to another city on Monday to visit a friend, and they will be traveling to Shanghai.

If you've been following my blog, these faces will be familiar to you. These guys took me to the botanical gardens a few months ago.

So what did they think? Dream come true?

Tao eagerly sipped.

Thinking about it...

Not exactly the face of ecstasy. In fact, when he noticed I was taking pictures of him, he gave me this face:

Hmmmm...maybe Zhongyuan will like it.

It looks like it burns going down.

Zhongyuan's thought: "How do I politely tell my American friend that this drink is HORRIBLE?"

He lifted up his head with a plastered-on smile and said, "Not bad."

Soon, the third person of the trio showed up. Remember Hua?

He was focused.


My favorite expression so far.

And, naturally, the forced, nervous smile follows.

Maybe it's better after the second sip, right?

OK, maybe not.

I asked them what they thought it tasted like. Hua said it tasted like the metal of a car tire (extra points for creativity). Zhongyuan said it tasted like a bitter peach. Tao said it tasted like medicine.

After he said that, I told them that it was originally created by a doctor (hence, the name) and was used for medicine. They just couldn't understand why so many Americans like to drink medicine.

In fact, I haven't met a Chinese student in the U.S. who likes Dr. Pepper. That eased their consciences a little.

In the end, this going away dinner didn't end with the "bang" that I'd hoped for, though I can't exactly say I dashed their dreams. After all, they did finally get to taste Dr. Pepper. Unfortunately, there's something wired differently deep within the D.N.A. of Americans and Chinese.

And it wasn't all bad on my end, either. I got to drink most of a bottle of Dr. Pepper for the first time in over 4 months.


  1. Enjoyed reading some of your blog--really interesting, & you definitely have a way with words! I got a kick out of the "Dr. Pepper faces" & their captions. :) Your Grandma Pinkall (who was my first grade teacher 20+ years ago), visited me yesterday & sent me your blog site. I am currently in Kansas, but live most of the time in China. Enjoy the rest of your time in the Middle Kingdom! Marci from Abilene, Kansas & SE China

  2. That is priceless. Now that you mention it, Dr. Pepper does seem to have more carbonation or something that does make it seem like it burns going down. I would worry about giving them root beer if they have not tried that yet. Talk about fizz!

    I don't know if I will be able to read anymore of your blogs before you get home, so I hope you have a safe trip and I cannot wait it hear more stories. I mentioned to your parents that if you guys wanted to stop and rest the night you get in, feel free to stop by our NEW place in Overland Park! Of course you are on a completely different time zone schedule, so I would understand if you want to get home to relax since you will be wide awake!

  3. Hey Marci! Thanks for visiting! I've heard about you from my grandma! In fact, she sent me your newsletter once. It sounds like you're doing some great things. Very encouraging!

    And thanks for following the blog thus far, Dusti! If all goes as planned, I'll be home in a week. So, if you miss any more blog posts it won't be long before I can tell you about them face to face! I hope you're enjoying the new home!