explanation of “How much for the whole night?”

Creative solutions to common problems.  Though this joke might at first glance seem to be about prostitutes, it’s really about how much trouble Chinese people sometimes go through to buy train tickets. Waiting outside a train station overnight to buy tickets is by no means unheard of.

Train tickets are usually only released for sale to the public between 10 and 20 days before their departure date.  Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that many tour companies are given access to these tickets first, and sometimes buy up multiple train cars.  Likewise, 票贩子, ticket scalpers, often try to purchase the more desirable tickets for high-demand trains.

Especially around major holiday periods like Spring Festival, train tickets are sought after like new iPhones in the US.  People form lines that snake around entire city blocks just to get their hands on one. Even doing so, they may find the train sold out before they reach the ticket window, or otherwise, there might only be left 站票, standing tickets.  The unfortunate folks who purchase standing tickets may end up without a seat (usually sitting on their own luggage) for 10, 20, even 40 hours on a long-distance train.

 

票贩子, piao fanzi- ticket scalper

站票, zhan piao- standing ticket

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