As I write this post I first want to point out that I have had an overwhelmingly good time so far in China. Also, most of the people I have met have been kind and helpful. This kind of stream of consciousness post so sorry for the bad grammar and spelling. I will post some of the many things I like about China and why I will return to this country in the future. Now that that’s out-of-the-way let me list some things that may annoy you or make you curious as you first set foot in the Middle Kingdom. I just make a list and comment on each as I go. I may make a later post edit this post as things come back into my mind.
- The noise. Given the country has over a billion people this make sense, but still it can wear on you sometimes. Only a few moments in my well over a year living in China have what felt like a peaceful time to think and relax. Something is always being built or rebuilt. Someone is always yelling, they are actual just talking in a normal Chinese voice, but is sound like yelling. Even in the middle of the night you can hear something cars, people, and animals. I wonder if the sounds would be different if I didn’t live in Chongqing but I have talked to other in Guizhou, Gansu, and Sichuan, and they often feel the same, it’s a loud place. The noise leads into number two.
- Who you texting? Lack of personal space and privacy. Given the kind of country I was coming to I accepting this but it’s still worth mentioning. Someone is always watching you or trying to see what you’re doing on your phone, or what you have in your shopping bag. There are so many people so the idea of personal space just hasn’t been a thing here for so long, people bumping into you are sitting right next you it is often unavoidable.
- Look at the foreigner. Given Chinese strict visa and immigration laws. Foreigners are still an oddity to most Chinese, so anytime you go somewhere people will stare at you like you are from some far away land, because you probably are. Even to some of my students I will be the first foreigner they have seen, and for most the first to teach them.
- Lines we don’t need no stinking lines. People don’t really stand in line here. I mean they will occasionaly if they are forced to buy generally lines are not a common occurance in everyday life. people just rush forward mob style to get most things done. I think this will change with time but until then doing most things seem take longer and are less efficient than they could be like: traveling on the train or metro, buying things at stores, walking somewhere, and others everyday activities.
- You should lose weight. How forward the people can be. Once you get past the language barriers be ready for some cultural difference in how people talk to each other. They will tell you need to lose weight, or to eat more, or put on more clothes. They are just trying to be helpful, but still cultural awareness matters. Anytime a student in English tells me I have lost weight or I look a little fat today I’m not sure if what to say, but it will happen to you.
- Random poop and pee. I think this will become less of a thing as the country continues to develop, but let me tell you a couple of stories to show you what I mean. The first or second day I stayed with my host family in Chengdu I went running with my host dad at a park near our apartment. About halfway through our jog I saw a little boy pop a squat and drop a log right on the side-walk, and nobody batted an eye. Letting children practice squatting apparently helps potty train them. I have since seen countless children pop and pee on streets and in bushes. I also see many drunk or just lazy men pee on the side of buildings or in bushes.
- Better out than in. This is more of a culture thing that I quickly accepting just like there are different eating habits. One notion of Chinese medicine is that you should get out the bad things in you body. So, as a result spitting, hacking up phlegm, burping, farting, coughing, other presently forgotten bodily functions are done loudly and often by everyone. So, just be ready for when to old man next you at the cross walk hocks up some phlegm and spits it right in front of you, or your Chinese friend burping at the dinner table. It’s not better or worse its just different
- Nobody knows anything. I think this comes down to mainly not wanting to lose “face” or give people the wrong information, but most people will not tell you about anything you need to do or should do until the last-minute. Either they think you already know, it’s not their job to tell you, they themselves just found out, or they don’t want to give you the wrong information. Just ask a lot of questions until you get the answers you want, or if you are a teacher ask students to help you.
- Chinese time. If some is supposed to start at 7 it wont. If your lucky it will only be a few minutes late, but could be much longer. Banquets and meals can be notorious for this because you often don’t start eating until the most important person arrives and you have a toast, and the most important person is always the last to arrive. Buses, trains, planes, and even the subway can run behind schedule. Any activity that involves more than a few people will most likely run way behind the time they told you it would start and end.
- Selfie time. Because you’re a foreigner people will want to take a picture with you or of you. This can often be without your permission. I’m not sure why they care that much but it is what it is. Chinese also like taking many selfies of themselves, with different apps and filters to get the best picture. Just beware if you go to any tourist spots photos will be taken by everyone, and of probably everything.
- Can you use chopsticks? That is just a common question not really what I want to discuss, but people will ask you that and often. I want to say that since you are a foreigner people will think you are unable to do anything really. They will try to show you how to do things or stare at you as you do common menial task that you have probably done thousands of times in you life. They just haven’t seen a foreigner do these things so they may want be helpful or are just curious.
- The air quality. Lets be honest its bad, its bad where I live but its worse in other places in China like Chengdu, and the major cities out east. I see some people wearing masks, but its hard to tell if its someone who has a cold or they don’t want to breathe the air. When I first came I had an air quality app on my phone but the air quality was never good or even decent so I stopped using it. I hope all these air particles and chemicals I am breathing haven’t harmed me to bad. I know China wants to improve the air and know its a problem, but it will take time especially near the more heavily populated areas.
- Traffic. Its bad everywhere and given the amount of people in china and the lack of following the rules of the road, I thought I would give you a warning traversing the roadways of china can be a harrowing experience. Also, watch out for the silent killers (electric mopeds and motorcycles) they drive them on the sidewalks and can run into you if you are not careful. Everyone uses the care horn which adds to the 1st thing in this list the noise.
I’m sure I forgot somethings, but these are some things that came to mind. Many are just to give you and idea of some of the culture differences, it isn’t better or worse than where your are from it’s just different. Also I plan to post another post about some of the things I really like about China soon. I hope the whole post wont be about the food and my students. Spoiler alert the food in China and my students are two of my favorite things about my time here so far. Thank you for reading.