Chinese Impressionism

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I just don’t know how to react, so laughter is the only answer.  There are a group of rather beautiful Chinese girls gathered in a neat semi-circle around our table.  They are all dressed in the same sexy outfits and they’re singing ‘I’m a little teapot’ – including choreographed dance movements.  This can only mean one thing.  I’m in Shanghai Hooters.  Most Australian men have heard of this American franchise and have impressions of busty women being flirtatious in what is essentially a bar that serves a range of hot snack food.  All of those impressions are clearly radically incorrect given the example in front of me now.

I see you baby, shaking that arse...

I see you baby, shaking that arse...

“Hey, Dhuges, tell them it’s your birthday, it’s brilliant!”, Ray advises me mischieviously.  After they finish their performance we all clap and cheer uproariously and I sip at my beer again remembering Ray had told us we had to come here, but not why exactly.  When our waitress comes by again I tell her it is indeed my birthday and she turns up the flirting even more.
“I’ll tell the girls and we’ll give you our special song later!”
Even as she’s talking some unfeasibly loud American pop music starts on the sound system and she leaves to join all the girls taking up their positions around the bar.  They are standing on top of bar stools so everyone can see their sexy dance moves matching the blaring soundtrack.  More than half the men in the place suddenly have cameras of all kinds in their hands taking pictures and videos of the moment.

We order some chicken wings and I ask for the hottest version they have.  What returns are a set of wings that are covered in a concentrated chilli and spice paste so hot that just bringing it near your faces makes your eyes water.  I love it, but an only handle a few of them and everybody else sets about ordering the mild version.  One of the girls is now standing next to a nearby table and clapping her hands.  One by one all the girls move to join her, each one clapping their hands in unison until the crew is summoned.  Then the first girl announces that these guys wanted a song, so they’re going to give him a happy one.  It turns out to be a kind of Hooters Girl cheerleading chant, again with matching sexy dance moves.  Again the whole place is laughing uproariously and taking pictures.

Don't oversell yourselves now...

Don't oversell yourselves now...

There aren’t that many people inside and I’m surprised that the vast majority are Chinese; our group are the only foreigners for most of the night.  Ray tells me they had a work dinner here that was arranged by one of the Chinese girls in the office.
“Did she know what Hooters is?”, I ask incredulously.
“Well, apparently she did….but Hooters here just isn’t the same as the original version.”
“Well, I’m sure that’s true, not that I’ve ever been to one before.”
“Yeah, me neither, this is it.”
Maybe our impressions were wrong, maybe this is what Hooters is meant to be.  A strange combination of innocence and salaciousness put together in a way only the Chinese could manage.  Luckily we have an American guy with us so we consult him.
“Nope, this is nothing like how they run it.  Having the girls sing and dance is…. weird…maybe in some of them they do it, but not any I’ve been in…and certainly not nursery rhymes… that’s.. I don’t know what that is.”

I start to look around again as the girls are gathering at our table to sing me ‘Happy Birthday’.  The costumes are right and our waitress is being obviously flirty.  The jugs of beer are American style and size and the décor looks like what I’ve seen in pictures.  But… but the whole thing seems like an artist’s impression of the idea.  There’s no real content, everything is contrived purely appearance and nothing more.  They dance the agreed moves together, but without conviction or real pleasure.  They flirt and pout and pose, but it’s definitely a half-rehearsed show.  Ray is busily telling the girls to sign my shirt and our waitress wants me to buy a Hooters shirt before they’ll sign it.
“Do you have one that will actually fit me?”
She looks at my gargantuan frame and decides not.  She produces a permanent marker and signs her name on my back, as do all the girls.  The feeling of having seven girls writing on your back at some time is strangely sensual.  A little ticklish, but very comfortable.

Can I autograph all of you next?

Can I autograph all of you next?

Eventually the place closes for the night and we’re the last patrons, we’ve been continually trying to get them to sing for us again and enjoying it afresh every time they do.  At one point they have another foreigner standing on a chair as they all sing to him before he blows out the candles on his birthday cake.  It’s been a strangely amusing and thoroughly enjoyable time seeing the Chinese interpretation of American redneck culture.  I highly recommend it – and don’t forgot to choose who’s birthday it is before you go in…

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