Today I want to share more about life in China. Last week I wrote about how people in China aren’t all that different from people in America. I really believe that people all over the world are very similar when it comes to the important things.
But life in China is far from the same as America… there are all kinds if differences
… some we anticipated, and some we didn’t.
Today I wanted to share with you some of the differences we have been surprised with during our past few months.
Life in China – Top 10 Differences
1. The beds are hard
I’m not saying they have firm mattresses, Chinese beds make firm American mattresses look like big cotton balls. If you took the saying ‘fall into bed’ literally in China you would break an arm. The Chinese ‘mattresses’ we use is a 3 inch tall firmly packed bale of hay (covered with material). And we are living good in foreign teacher housing, the students have almost no mattress at all. It took a bit of getting use to, but I have to say it is helping my back. I have had much less back and neck pain since moving here.
2. They put food in bags
Taking food home from a restaurant, or getting food at the cafe? It doesn’t matter what kind of food it is – soup, rice, pastries and anything else goes in a plastic bag. (each in their separate bag). I am sure this creates less waste over containers, but we were pretty surprised when we first saw it. Not only is the food very different, it is packaged different too. … it works, just another thing that makes you do a double-take.
3. There is a siesta
I know about Spanish culture taking a few hours off in the early afternoon and then doing business into the night, but I had no idea that China would be like that too. It’s true. They just call it a rest, but after lunch everything shuts down for a few hours. Even the college and all the classes are shut down for a 2 or 2 and a half hour lunch break to let the kids sleep. It makes the work day a lot longer, but I have always liked the idea of having a nap… now we just need to convince the kids to pick up this part of the culture 🙂
4. Children have a split in their pants
When we arrived in winter the temperature was hovering just above freezing. As we were crossing the street the first day full day we were here (we technically arrived around midnight the night before) I spotted a 2 or 3 year old kid walking in front of us. Every time the kid took a step his pants opened showing his little butt cheeks. I have to admit I wondered about the parental care that would allow this in the winter.
But then in the next few days we saw more, then we saw kids cloths for sale and they all had the split. … then we saw all the little kids using the bathroom on the sidewalk by squatting or parents holding tiny babies facing trees with their legs split open. So now we understand.
As much as the sanitation makes me a bit nervous it is pretty impressive they have their children ‘potty trained’ at a very young age. The kids never have to sit in their own mess.
5. They serve all their drinks warm
When we first came we ate out quite often. There was meals in restaurants, meals with Chinese families, and meals at the university. I probably should add that we were caught off guard by communal dishes with all kinds of people we didn’t know, but parts of this we did culturally anticipate. However, what I didn’t realize was that all drinks were served warm with meals. Warm water, warm tea (duh), warm fruit juice, warm soy milk, and even warm pop.
As much as I was a bit surprised, I am totally sold on this idea. I love my drinks warm, including my pop. Once it started to warm up outside we are finding less drinks are warm. But if you are feeling adventurous next winter, try warming up your Coke before drinking it 🙂
6. Milk and yogurt comes in individual sized bags
Some very common beverages are milk and a drinking yogurt. They are packaged so they don’t need to be refrigerated… which always makes me a bit nervous. But, between ones we have purchased and all the packets the kids are given every time we are out with others, they have had quite a few of them.
They are packaged in little bags with about 1/2 cup of yogurt or 3/4 cup of milk. You bite off the corner and drink it straight out of the bag.
7. Their exercise is different
Exercise is very popular here. In America we talk about aerobic (breaking a sweat doing something like running) or anaerobic (resistance training like weight-lifting) but they don’t do either of these here. Instead they do range of motion. All over the city there are ‘fitness parks’ with lots of exercise equipment. None of it is resistance, they just let you take your body through range of motion actions. The kids have a blast at all these parks playing on all the equipment.
They also do exercising in groups that looks like dancing. There are groups that meet in the morning at parks, groups that meet in the evening and often you can see all the employees dancing together before they start work out on the sidewalk in front of their business – organized work fitness.
Because none of it is very aerobic or anaerobic. They exercise in regular cloths, sometimes dress clothes and shoes, and for the employees before work – in their work uniforms. None of the sweaty, stinky, gasping for breath that we would consider exercise.
8. A family of 4 can travel around town on a scooter
Bikes of all kinds – peddle, electric, gas, tricycles pulling trailers (and more) outnumber cars on the streets everywhere. It is not unusual to see families with both parents and 1 or 2 kids all piled on one bike. I’m not sure we are talented enough to pull it off… but by the looks of how other people travel around here… we could try.
9. Boys carry their girlfriends purse
This one always makes me take a second look. Being from a culture where men hardly touch a women’s purse… maybe hold it while she is in the bathroom, or occasionally need to look for keys. This culture is very new and different. Here in China it is polite for the man to carry the woman’s purse, kinda like we would consider it polite to carry heavy books or open a door.
China is definitely up with fashion, and women love bags, so the purses we are talking about are the big, bright colored, covered with fake jewels stylish ones. I have seen several men carry them around their neck like a necklace. But they don’t just carry them, they hunt through them for their girlfriend/wife if she needs something out of them.
It’s a little thing, but it always catches my eye. Bryon still doesn’t want to carry my purse 😉
10. Old people work
It seems like everywhere I look there are old people working. We have been told it is the governments way of providing Social Security by providing work for older people sweeping the streets, taking out the trash, and cleaning all the government signs and property.
I’m not sure what I think of it. They definitely honor and respect old people in this culture, it is a good thing to be old here. I also think people of all ages are healthier when they have work to do… and I don’t like the idea of giving people money for nothing, but it is still something we aren’t used to seeing.
There are lots of other little differences we are getting used to here, but I will save more to share with you some other time. These 10 are probably the ones we noticed first. We have been in China for a few months now and are starting to learn our way around. We are so excited we have this opportunity!
Photo Credit: Bryon Lippincott