Many foreigners spend their evenings or weekends watching DVDs. Personally I try to get out of the house as much as I can, but especially during the cold winter months, watching movies periodically in the comfort of your home is fun, or catching up on your favourite TV shows, courtesy of the fake DVDs available in a number of stores in Beijing.
Of course buying fake DVDs can be a hit-or-miss adventure, with some discs that can skip or is a bad quality because it was shot in the theatre, or can be almost as good as the real thing.
Last night my friend and I decided to hit the DVD shop before dinner, and we usually go to the one next to The Village in Sanlitun. It's stocked with the latest English films as well as box sets of TV series.
But when we walked in, it looked strange -- there didn't seem to be as many movie titles on the shelves as before -- now all spaced out -- and they all seemed to be Chinese flicks.
Then we realized that the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress (NPPCC) are being held in Beijing these few days and the store didn't want trouble from the police.
That's when we asked one of the staff for English movies and she started leading us out of the store and into a maze of hallways that led into the bowels of the building.
Finally she pushed a door open and it revealed a small room that was packed -- filled with foreigners and locals looking at stacks and stacks of fake DVDs on three walls of the room.
"So that's where everyone is," my friend said, laughing hysterically for a few seconds, confusing the customers in the room. He told me that during the Beijing Olympics, the store had had a similar set up.
The discs in packaging were all crammed onto shelves and it would take a lot of patience to just go through the entire collection unless you were looking for the latest movies, which were prominently displayed.
A few minutes later the crush of customers streamed out and we grabbed a few films and walked out too.
Keeping customers happy and keeping the cash register ringing without getting into trouble is proof the Chinese are a pragmatic bunch.