Soon after arriving at Microsoft Research Asia, I learned that the staff has a long-standing tradition of bringing in fruit every day at around 3pm. Naturally I was ecstatic at the prospect of having a tasty snack in the afternoon.

The first day we had some kind of melon, not really sure what it was…kind of like a honeydew melon, except cream-colored inside and softer. Quite tasty. We also had watermelon on some subsequent day. Very soon, though, I came to learn that the Chinese view of a ”common fruit” is quite divergent from that of a Westerner such as myself. This realization came as I entered the lunch room one day to be confronted by a crate of cucumbers.

Seriously? Cucumbers?

Other “fruits” that have graced the tables here include cherry tomatoes, and something that appeared to be an “apple”, but with sour/bitter skin and flesh that tasted like bad water. Incidentally, the sequence of events during my trying this “apple” progressed thusly:

  1. “Oh yay, an apple!”
  2. *bite*
  3. “Mmmmmm…mm…hey wait, who stole the taste?”
  4. *aftertaste sets in*
  5. “Gaaachhh”
  6. *several minutes pass*
  7. “Ok, well, perhaps that’s just the skin. Maybe the apple gets better farther in…”
  8. *bite*
  9. “…”
  10. Apple->trash with extreme prejudice

Apparently this gross misconception is not localized to Microsoft only. When I go to 7-11 to buy a fruit cup, it generally has cherry tomatoes along with watermelon, canteloupe, etc. And I know I’ve seen tomatoes misplaced alongside real fruit in other places, too.

Oh well, I supposed I’ll survive.

On an interesting and somewhat unrelated note, the Chinese word for “watermelon” actually has nothing to do with “water”. But to find out what it does mean, you’ll have to wait for the next post in my Arbitrary Guide to Chinese…

Note: Contrary to my earlier belief, the long green “fruits” served are actually cucumbers, and not zucchinis. Irrelevant. My indignation is still warranted.