Discovering the Broken American Standard(s)

I couldn’t help but laugh. Last week, as I was walking around Macau with some fellow exchange students from Portugal, we were discussing all the cultural things of Macau. Macau used to be a Portuguese republic not 20 years ago, and they had a lot of fun facts for me to learn.

For example, there exists in Macau a Portuguese bank (Banco Nacional Ultramarino) that was acquired by another major bank in Portugal, but it still exists in Macau . They got a kick out of how many branches still exist out here while none remain in Portugal itself. One commented how its remnants of imperialism, and slow to catch up to the times.

Another fun fact is that the sidewalks are lined with green posts and chains (mostly) something they informed me Portugal used to have, but recently the country removed all of them, so it looks more modern. Not in Macau, however, where they still exist.

They also told me about Jorge Alvares, the first Portuguese explorer to make landfall in Macau, which was then still considered Chinese soil. They even took me to his statue in Macau near New Yoahn mall. I loved learning these facts from them … nothing better to do when walking around at midnight after spending a couple hours at a bar.

After stopping by a 7-11 for some drinks and settling down by the seaside not far from the statue, our conversation turned to life in Macau. We all had friends we’d visited at their respective homes, and we discovered something funny that I began to see as a silly metaphor.

Every flat we have been to apparently has the American Standard brand for toilets. What’s even more interesting, and here is where the metaphor kicks in, is that every one we have seen at these residential flats were broken! I mentioned how of the five flats I have been to while visiting local friends and acquaintances, none of the American Standard toilets could flush.

They also had similar experiences, It seems all the American Standard toilets are broken and you typically use a buck, a scoop and water to “flush” by pouring water in with the scoop. I couldn’t believe it! I thought it was just a few flats, but even they had the same experience and mentioned they were all American Standard.

Then one of them laughed and said to me “Well, seeing how your last election went my friend, this makes sense!” We all laughed. Not to get into politics, but I couldn’t help but agree that this was perhaps a good metaphor indeed for the current political situation in America.


Alex Nestler is a junior majoring in management information systems. He is spending the entire Spring semester studying at the University of Macau, in Macau, SAR, China.

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