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12 Chinese Travel Tips for Visiting America

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China does a lot of business and trade with the United States, and so there are many websites devoted to helping business people navigate American peculiarities. Using Google to translate advice written in “simplified Han” for Chinese readers into English allows Americans a tiny, possibly imprecise peek into how the people of China view life in the United States. As always, we welcome comments and clarifications from Chinese-readings Flossers.

1. If an American Goes Silent, You’re in Trouble

Americans do not like silence. They will keep talking, so as not to abort the conversation, without a moment’s pause. If you do not make a sound for a long time, the Americans will try to get you to join in the conversation. They might ask if you are physically uncomfortable, or if you need help. However, if Americans do not agree with what you say, then there may be silence. Them not saying anything doesn’t necessarily mean that they agree with you, but that they think continuing the debate with you will not be polite. [Source]

2. They Don’t Realize How Weird it is to Just Call Them by Their First Name

Americans do not pay attention to "status," especially social status. Most Americans do not want their relationship with you to be affected by age or social standing. If you act especially respectful to them, they will be uncomfortable. Many Americans feel even "Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Miss" titles are too polite. Regardless of age, everyone likes to be called by their first names. However, if you feel bad using their first names, you can just smile at each other.

Since differences in social class are not taken seriously in the US, Americans have no hereditary family title. Instead, the Americans sometimes have occupational title. This title is different from the family title, because it is on its own, "earned" rather than handed down by the ancestors. Their career titles are most commonly that of a judge, senior government officials, military officers, doctors, professors and religious leaders.

3. They Deliberately Do Their Own Laundry

America is a "do-it-yourself" country. Americans in general, whether doctors, professors, businessmen, or lawyers, do their own cooking, laundry, shopping and other work. In fact, many Americans can afford to spend money to have cooks and drivers, but they do not do so. They prefer to enjoy a quiet family, and if the family has hired a helper, there is less sense of quiet.

When the American family eats, the food is either served from a central dish, or the host or hostess gives out food to the guests. Most families do not have a waiter, the cook is usually the wife, and the husband makes cocktails.

4. They Don’t Know Anything about China but Don’t Let It Bother You

You may encounter some Americans who know little about your country. If there is such a case, please tolerate them. Unfortunately, very few Americans are schooled on the culture and customs of other countries. America spans from one ocean to another, and all the other countries are far away. As a result, Americans are not too familiar with the cultures and different ways of working in other countries.

See Also: 11 French Travel Tips for Visiting America

5. Stop Everything, Listen up, and No Interrupting

Americans like eloquent, witty conversations. Although American society is filled with an atmosphere of informality, they expect a different attitude when listening to someone speak. The American generally wants the listener to stop everything at hand and listen to him.

Americans do not like to be interrupted when speaking; the best guests have the best ears. Americans also allow others to criticize the United States; a host often asks what the guests think of the United States, and he would be happy to exchange views. [Source]

6. Don’t Get Too Close. They Might Knock You Over With Their Constant Gestures

When two men talk, a distance of 1.2 m apart is appropriate, otherwise it will make the listener uneasy. When a group of people participate in the conversation, you usually have to know one of the people to join. But at a party or other informal social occasion, just say "I can attend?" Slightly introduce yourself, and you can participate in the conversation.

For conversations, a distance of more than 50 cm must be maintained. If you have to move closer, or must sit next to someone closely, get the consent of the other party.

Americans like to use gestures. To ask you to answer the phone, they will make a phone gesture. They will call the waiter with a check writing gesture. Also, Americans do not give each other business cards as a matter of course; only when the cards are needed to facilitate future contact.

7. Handshakes: You’ll probably need a cheat sheet

After a brief introduction, exchange a firm handshake, so Americans will think you are frank and sincere. In business cases, the U.S. woman will take the initiative to reach out to the man. Women generally do not shake hands with each other. If the Miss doesn’t offer a handshake, the men should nod or bow. And handshakes with a Miss are not too tight. Gloves before shaking hands should be taken off, and if it is too late to take them off, you should apologize. A farewell does not have handshakes. You wave your hand to say “goodbye!”

8. If Their Haircut is Ugly, Make Your Eyes Bright and Say, “Cute!”

Always smile when you meet acquaintances. Your tone when speaking should be sincere, you should have a generous attitude when someone greets you, and speak as concisely as possible. Multi-praise each other. Your eyes should get a little brighter when someone changes a hairstyle, or when you see other people's photos. There is a good time to praise. If the changes or photos are bad, find another way to appear pleasant, such as saying "Cute!"

See Also: 10 Japanese Travel Tips for Visiting America

9. You May Not Fondle Furnishings

Guests cannot come early, it is rude. You may be late 5-10 minutes. If you are the host, you cannot wear pajamas at night to receive guests. You are not free to fondle furnishings or decorations and you cannot inquire about prices.

10. Shorts + High Heels = Call Girl

Americans dress casual and wear a variety of clothing in public places. Most of the time they like to wear T-shirts, jackets, jeans, sweatshirts, sneakers. They dress exquisitely clean. Men's pants do not expose their underpants, woman dresses cannot expose their petticoat. Women should wear stockings with a nice skirt. Not shorts with high heels, otherwise they will be mistaken for call girls. Painted eyebrows and thick lipstick is another sign. However, anyone can wear a vest or pajamas in public. [Source]

11. Show Humility to Ladies—They’re In Charge

In public, the Americans show particular respect for women. Everywhere is “Ladies First.” In social situations, men must show humility to ladies. Men must walk on the outside of the sidewalk, let the woman sit first, open the door for a woman, move out of the way on the stairs or in the elevator to let the woman advance, let women order first at a meal, and let the woman get up to leave first. And when you greet a woman, you must stand up.

12. You’re Doing a Good Job in Your Own Way

Americans' ancestors came from all over the world, so in the United States there are no officially "recognized" social customs. Therefore, when you travel to the United States and want to do something according to the customs of your own country, do not feel embarrassed or that something is wrong. While Americans are informal, if you want to dress formal in a social situation, people will think you are doing a good job in your own way. People will accept.

See Also: 4 Russian Travel Tips for Visiting America

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]