Weird Things That I Got Used to in China, Part II

14 Comments
Distractions

Part 2 of my two-part rip off of a Forbes article of a similar name.  Did I mention there are two parts?  This is the second one (of two).

7. The Internet

I’m a freedom-loving American, so the whole idea of the The Great Fire Wall is a great annoyance to me and my values.  It also screws with my mind.  When I first came to China, Facebook still worked but Wikipedia was blocked.  I had never realized how much I actually used Wikipedia to find out random, unimportant information.  When Facebook was blocked, I thought “how can I live without this?”  Turns out it’s pretty easy and I’m considering deleting mine when I go home.  I do understand why certain sites are blocked, but it’s hard to understand the reasoning behind the blockade of sites like Dropbox.

While I’ve been able to wrap my brain around most of the stuff GFW blocks; the self-censorship on Chinese message boards, QQ, and sites like ChinaSmack is far more confusing to me.  ChinaSmack posts so many articles in which Netizens get so hyped up and critical over other people doing the most banal and trivial things, yet was shut down “for maintenance” during the big T-square anniversary in 2009.

8. People on the Internet

When I first found ChinaSmack, I was in awe over how stupid and racist the commenters were on that site.  I’m sure the people who run that site pick the most ridiculous comments to republish just to make it a good read, but they’re really not doing the Netizens favors by translating those comments into English.

Even on expat sites, commenters are so critical of each other.  Some foreigners actually get angry at other foreigners for making observations about China (good examples on Ericka‘s article about Women’s Toilets).

I’d like to point out that when I went back to the states for a week last summer, I realized that it’s not just expats on expat sites that are jerks or Chinese people on Chinese sites that are racist.  There are dumb commenters on every site.  I realized that before ChinaSmack I had just never read blog post comments thoroughly before. Go to YouTube and check out that Chocolate Rain video again.  That dude is still awesome, but you’ll still find some racist idiots commenting on how chocolate that dude is.

9. Spitting

When I first came, I was grossed out by it.  I’ve even met other expats who have assumed that people are trying to spit on them or just trying to be rude.  But after a few months here I realized something, there’s nothing like hawking a good loogie now and then.

10. Staring

It’s just not seen as that rude here.  It used to really annoy me when people actually stopped what they were doing to stare at me when I walked by.  For a while, it really pissed me off.  Now it just bothers me sometimes.

It’s not just foreigners that get the crazy-eye treatment either.  I was in Dalian’s Discovery Kingdom recently with a gorgeous Chinese girl.  I assumed that people would be staring at me since it’s a touristy place and those are usually the places that have the most turned heads because the people aren’t usually from big cities with lots of foreigners.  But people, both men and women, used the same stop-and-stare technique on her and she didn’t even notice!  It made me think, “maybe people aren’t staring at me because I’m foreign.  Maybe I’m just unbelievably hot.”  Thanks for the confidence boost (and beer), Dalian!

11. Same sex physical affection

I know I’m not the only person that came to China and saw all these guys hanging on each other and girls holding hands and thought “Holy crap, there are so many gay people here!” …Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It took some time to learn that Chinese people of the same sex are way more touchy-feely than North Americans.

The constant need for girls to hold hands can be tedious, though.  Especially when you’re running late for class and the three girls walking up the stairs in front of you insist on all holding hands, creating a cute, yet obscenely annoying, barricade.  I once saw four girls on bikes attempt to hold hands with each other to the point that half of them were in oncoming traffic.  I guess their need to touch each other overpowered their need to not be hit by a car.

12. Littering

A lot of people throw a lot of crap on the ground and out their car windows and it sucks.  I have no idea how a people who are generally so patriotic can not care about making their country look shitty.  The creek near my campus is filled with bottles and trash and bags.  Even at Chinese zoos, people throw their rubbish into the animal cages.

It seems like it would be an easy fix too.  Just have some PSAs with some famous dudes saying “If you love China, throw your crap in a trash can”  Then have video of Mao crying on the side of the road because someone threw a food container out of his car.  It’s done.  No more littering.

13. Ghosts

A Chinese friend of mine once told me about a building in her hometown that had to be demolished because a few people died during its construction.  It turns out that despite the fact that this was some new, architecturally interesting, multi-million yuan business center, no one would buy space in it because they thought it was haunted by the ghosts of the construction workers.  The developer was forced to tear down the building and build the exact same structure on the exact same site.  I’ve also been told by multiple Chinese coworkers that many Chinese people would refuse to buy a previously owned apartment on the off-chance that the prior resident died in it.

If I come back to China, I plan to go into the ghostbusting business.  I bet I could make a ton of money as long as my colleagues and I don’t cross the streams (or do, depending on the evilness and power of the ghost at hand).  I’ll probably end up re-animating one of those Mao statues to fight off a bunch of demonic Terracotta warriors.

Talk on Weird Things That I Got Used to in China, Part II


14 Comments
  1. Great list – and agreed on almost all points. One thing I had to get used to as well was the flattery whenever I used even a little bit of Chinese – and my tones are atrocious! I always found it strange since Americans tend to criticize people who speak English badly while in China, even broken Chinese is strongly encouraged. I think that speaks wonders to China’s degree of civility.

    Good luck with the reanimated Mao statue, by the way. I recommend the one in Chengdu – size helps!

  2. Ahhaha great list! I’m Chinese but live in Australia since I was 3, but going back there and watching people spit still makes me flinch. Number 11 is hilariious, especially the second paragraph.

  3. #11 Same sex physical affection expressed as holding hands was eye opening to be, but I was assured by many Chinese friends that it was very innocent and had nothing to do with homosexuality. Ok then, I carried on. Then in my university canteen I started seeing many effeminate guys with painted nail polish holding hands. I again asked and none of my Chinese friends could provide an answer that satisfied themselves. “Weird”, they told me.

    • Besides the randomly holding hands type, there are a lot of homosexual people in China. When I first got to China and was still emitting the single aura I had both girls and boys chasing after me. I loved the attention of girls, but the boys scared me. =S The combination of a ratio of 12 men to 8 eight women in China, us Laowai stealing more women, A LOT of lesbians (another story), and Japanese fashion is driving Chinese boys to homosexuality. The trend for girls is the opposite, almost. There are five main types of girls: girls that try to be disgustingly cute (Taiwanese girls), girls that are fat and required by law to have short spiky hair and thick-rimmed black glasses, girls that have had a sex change (See Li Yuchun), girls that do nothing but study (geared for export to universities abroad) and wear normal glasses and keep their hair up, and the rest. I find that the nicest Chinese girls live in smaller cities in the countryside. Hence I married one. =D Feel free to challenge my arguement. >=P

  4. Ghosts; I’ve feared poltergeist type ghosts since my early childhood (and still do), but currently think that I could just report Chinese-ghosts to the local PSB for disturbing a foreigner.

    My wife and I visit her deceased relatives’ graves several times a year to litter and smoke, but come nighttime she will not go anywhere near the place, afraid their spirits may try to harm or cling onto her in some negative way, even though their graves are located just behind the house.

    • > Ghosts; I’ve feared poltergeist type ghosts since my early childhood (and still do), but currently think that I could just report Chinese-ghosts to the local PSB for disturbing a foreigner.

      Close, but no cigar.

      You of course report the Chinese ghost to the local PSB for not registering within 24 hours as living in your flat.

      • I don’t think I registered once in the 4.3 years I lived in rented flats. Then again, I also never got a drivers license and still drove, nor a working permit and I still worked. I also got used to the idea of laws being more of an optional thing. When in China..

      • With regards driving, just make sure your car can go a good bit faster than the local police, or if where you’re staying is anything like where I’m staying then go out after 6pm, when the traffic police finish work.

        I generally use sports bikes, the police can’t do anything (they don’t even bother to try). No paperwork or nothing. This may not work in the more civilised areas.

      • I would advise against that route. Better to build up some guanxi with the local police. When I get caught I just phone a friend and the problem is cleared up immediately. I wear a full face helmet, though, so they can’t tell that I’m a foreigner (except that no one else wears one or cares for their safety. One time I was stopped by a street full of Wujing (military police) with assault rifles pointed at me when I turned a corner in an area of the city motorcycles aren’t allowed to drive in. I managed to talk my way out of it! I totally agree about the “civilised” areas thing. You can get away with a lot more in smaller cities like my Guilin. Just explain that you’re a Laowai and “mei banfa” and you are good to go. And paperwork just complicates simple things. >=D

  5. Sorry, but is it just me that find this rather inane? My 6 year old son couldve done better. So much for expat blogs I guess.

  6. Jerrod, I’m kinda surprised you didn’t mention toilet paper. Or, should I say the lack of paper goods. So far I’ve had a hard time locating paper towels, and toilet paper is used in the street vendor restaurants as both paper towels and as napkins. Somehow, I always feel better when I see a roll of toilet paper on the table; then I know I’m at a classy joint!
    But seriously: toilet paper everywhere but in the toilets! If you go to a public toilet, you had better have your own supply. And, heaven forbid you throw your toilet paper down the toilet when you’re done with it! If you go to some restaurants, they will sell you a small packet of toilet paper or kleenex when needed, but mostly they do not have napkins available on the tables or toilet paper in the bathrooms.

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  8. My opinions on the following:

    #7-Sucks, especially since I can not access some of my favorite sites like MISH’S ECONOMIC TREND ANALYSIS blog. I know not the most exciting but very thoughtful and well researched economic issues.

    #8-Can not do too much about the trolls that come out from under the bridge, unless you happen to have some billy goats to send that troll for a drink in the water under that bridge.

    #9-This I definitely hate even in the USA, when the spitter makes no effort to like spit away from the avenue of approach. This seems to be a global thing that someone needs to spit in front of you to see if you either look at it in disgust or step on it on your shoe and bring it home. I have had to clear my throat several time but I usually go out of the way to do it in the bushes so to speak. I just feel that no one wants to see what my lungs have inside especially before on the way to eating lunch.

    #10-At first I relished the thought I was the center of attention but after a month, it got old very quick. Now I just act like an ostrich and pretend it is not there. This staring is especially true in rural areas where the only foreigner seen is in magazines, books, or television. I just figured that best way to react to the staring is asking myself, would I be any different if I was born as chinese and seeing a foreigner for the first time?

    #11-I will admit when I first got here, I was a bit curious but I was not really assuming the women (mostly the group I have seen holding hands) were lesbians. In the US, woman are usually seen either holding hands or holding their arms together and its just accepted as a “woman thing”. Therefore no big deal here for me.

    #12-This really is a pet peeve! I know this is China and this is how they do it for the most part but I do not like it. Other that the health concerns of garbage just laying out in the street and the increase of rats that bring, my biggest gripe is the aesthetics. I have been to local parks and even UNESCO sites and what dampers my appreciation for the area, is seeing all kinds of garbage strewn about. My chinese wife was shocked about how in California, the state park rangers can fine you a big hefty price for just dropping a napkin on the grass, let alone the garage bag size amounts of trash I see dumped on the parks. Littering and spitting is something I will not get used no matter what.

    #13-I can understand this about ghosts haunting buildings. I told my chinese wife that there was a murder in a home a few houses away from my house in California. About a few months later, a couple moved in and they began claiming they were having ghost hauntings. The couple actually were able to get out of the mortgage for the home because the real estate failed to mentioned their was a murder or killing in the house they bought. I am no lawyer or realtor but I have heard that if a real estate company fails to mention this to the potential buyer, the buyer can get out of the contract with no penalties paid but I am not sure. On ghosts, I am open minded, not really sure if they exist or its people’s imagination but there are things Man does not know.

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