You know, working for a big-time global publication like this one, you can?t help but encounter exotic cultures as you seek out new life and new civilization, and boldly go where no man has gone before.
No, wait. That?s Captain Kirk?s line from Star Trek. I actually just traveled where many, many men and women have gone before, China?more specifically, the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People?s Republic of China, and even more specifically, Venetian Macao (motto: ?We Put The ?O? In Macao!?), for the G2E Asia show.
Parts of my journey over there were a bit rough, to be sure. Most of my travels over the years have involved flights that lasted maybe eight hours, tops. Had I embarked from my home base in the East, this one would have been two flights with more than 30 hours total travel time. Since I generally want to gouge out my own eyeballs after seven or eight hours of travel time, I decided to split the trip up, going to Las Vegas for a few days first and then heading out from the West Coast.
My flight to Vegas should have been an indicator of what was to come. The lady at the counter offered to put me closer to the front of the plane in a nice window seat, and I accepted. Everything was fine until this family of very, very large people surrounded me. OK, I?m not exactly tiny, but these folks each had their own ZIP code. I ended up smushed against the window, my face resembling Munch?s famous painting The Scream as the husband of the woman beside me made this repulsive clucking sound with his tongue, just to playfully annoy his wife, for five hours.
The flight a few days later from Los Angeles to Taipei, en route to Macau, was yet another adventure. Coach was so much less expensive, and I figured, how bad can it be? Turns out it?s fine if you?re in one of the outer rows of the 747. But never, never go to the middle row of six or seven seats. At least on Malaysian Airways, these seats apparently are designed for very tiny people. Placing my rather large American butt in one of these seats was like placing a size-12 foot into a size-7 shoe. And leaving it there. For 12 hours.
Suffice it to say I had a very comical walk by the time I got off the plane in Taiwan.
Once in Macau, though, I was fascinated by the cultural differences from the U.S. and European casino markets to which I am accustomed. For instance, Bally?s ?Blazing 7s? is ?Blazing 8s? there, because 8 is the lucky number for Chinese gamblers. (It represents prosperity.) It?s just one of many gambling superstitions that are evident as you walk through an Asian casino.
The gambling website 777.com lists some common Chinese gambling superstitions:
• ?Don?t count money during a gambling session.? Yeah, Kenny Rogers already told us.
• ?Men: Stay away from sex and females.? What if I stay away from one and not the other? Will that work?
• ?Avoid seeing monks or nuns before going to a casino.? Damn. All my gambling buddies are monks and nuns.
• ?Wear red underwear when gambling.? Insert your own joke here. I?ll only get in trouble if I do.
• ?Switch on all the lights at home before going out to gamble.? Then, you can use your winnings to pay the electric bill. It?s a push.
• ?Don?t enter casinos through their main entrance, for it is cursed.? I tested this one when I got back to Vegas. It turns out that for me, every entrance is cursed.
Beyond the differences in gambling culture, I tackled a couple of general cultural differences while in Macau. For instance, there is a business card etiquette. You must hand someone your business card carefully and slowly, using both hands. When you receive someone else?s card, you look at it for a few seconds before putting it away.
The American custom?flipping your card at someone?s head with one hand while drinking a beer with the other?apparently is considered indelicate. Hey, live and learn.
Finally, I made an attempt to eat with chopsticks while in China. After several fumbling attempts to actually get a piece of food in between those things, all the while resembling an ape trying to manipulate knitting needles, I finally gave up. (Luckily, they do keep forks there for us Ugly Americans.)
I?m sure my next trip will be just as exciting as my Macau journey. I?m heading up to North Jersey.