I had a good chat with Steve the other day on the phone. It was good to hear his voice. I miss his positivity. I know I took a part of him with me as I've as entered into China. I'm staying open to new experiences and I know that makes Steve proud of me.
I told Steve that I was worried about running out of blog material. Not every day can be the new exciting adventure. He suggested focusing on cultural differences. There are several that I can write about.
PDAs are rare. Chinese couples do not engage in displays of affection in public places. I've witnessed that it isn't as true for younger couples, but adults and seniors have some specific unspoken rules in place. No kissing and hugging. You just won't see it. My friend Ye explained to me what is acceptable in polite society and she appears to know what she's talking about. You will see couples walking together, but rarely holding hands. It's more traditional for a women to hold the arm of a man she is with. Ye explained to me shows a sense of security. It represents a great honor for a man to have a women with him that feels he gives her safety.
The other similar thing I've noticed is that female friends of any age will walk arm in arm. I'm told boys will as well, but I haven't see that yet. It's hard not to notice when you're not used to it. It's very cute.
Squat toilets are all over the place. Chinese people are so used to them here that when given a seated toilet like we have I the states they will stand on the edges and then squat down while keeping their feet on the lips of the toilet seat. I turned a corner I a mall bathroom and here was a dude squating like this with the door wide open. You know what they say about guys with small feet? They wear small shoes. Get your mind out of the gutter. That said he was spread eagled showing off his Johnson.
Along the same vein, public urinating is pretty standard for men. If there's some grass in a field they will whip it out in public. Not on a city street, but certainly in the open field across the street from our school.
They eat the whole animal. Like, the whole animal. Fish head is a thing. When Ye and I shared this, she happily downed most of the head. She insisted it was the best part. I can feel Ted nodding in approval as I write this.
When the weather gets warmer men in China will flash the Beijing bikini. They pull their shirts up over their belly to allow their body to cool off. The first few I saw really caught my eye. I'm used to it now. I haven't lifted my shirt to reveal I'm a white bellied sapsucker, but I must admit I've been tempted when it's been super hot out.
Staring is an acceptable practice here. Maybe it's just me because I'm a bit out of place. When walking the streets in Bellingham, WA I see tons of diversity. Here? Not so much. It feels like more than 99% native Chinese people everywhere I go. A tall older caucasian dude IS way out of place. To go along with this I've had some friends tell me about the term Laowei. It means foreigner. I've not heard the word and witnessed this, but I've been told to expect someone to point at at me and say Laowei eventually.
Spitting Is a thing here for men. Like, lots of it. And it's not just spitting. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard some dude snort up something from deep inside before a massive thwep noise put something pretty gross out into the air. At least they are decent enough to spit into bushes and not on the sidewalk.
Warm water. They don't drink cold water here. When you sit down in a restaurant and a waiter brings you water it's going to range from warm to hot. You specifically have to ask for cold water (bing shue). It will most likely come in a bottle and ice is a luxury that you probably won't see. The warm water
thing has a rationale behind it relating to health. I'm told it's better for digestion. No idea what truth there is there.
The two handed pass is sort of cool. At first thought it seemed odd, but after experiencing it I get it now. When you hand someone anything they best way to do so is with both hands. It's a way of showing respect. I've had students do this quite often. It seemed odd at first, but now that I understand where it comes from I try to do the same given the opportunity.
Family is everything here, and I don't mean just the nuclear family. Ancestors are still part of the family and many Chinese traditions involve paying respect to the ancestors. They will burn fake money that's being sent to the ancestors so they can care for themselves in the afterlife. Also, the entire nation is sort of a giant family in some way. They will refer to strangers as mother, brother, auntie, grandpa, etc all the time. I think that's sort of cool.
I'll try to compile another list like this over time and post it sometime in the future.