Today I read part 1 of the Forbes China Tracker Blog article Weird Things That People Get Used to in China (a translation of a Chinese article on NetEase). I suppose it is about things that Chinese people get used to, but since I’m leaving soon (countdown: 4 days), I figured I’d write one based on the things I’ve learned over the past two and a half years. Here is my own part 1, in no particular order.
1. Making friends with people I’d have nothing to do with back home
I live in Shenyang, it’s not exactly overflowing with expats like Beijing or Shanghai, so I really can’t be choosey when it comes to hanging out with fellow interlopers. The people I hang out with here are definitely not the same kind of people I’d choose to hang out with if I was in America, in fact, I’d go out of my way to not talk to (and probably make fun of) them. There are so many people that I’ve met that look like total douchebags (by my own standards) that are super nice and totally cool. China has made me realize what a total asshole I am when I superficially judge people in America (though it’s not like I plan to change any time soon).
2. The world is your bathroom
I went to a pretty big party school (let’s gooooo Mountaineers) so it’s not like I’ve never seen anyone peeing in public before. My friend Ryan once told me that he never touched anything on our campus because someone else has probably pissed on it, including him (this is a dude that drunkenly relieved himself on the total gym in our living room at one point). But Chinese people really have no shame when it comes time to pee. I see people, even women, pissing all the time, practically everywhere. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve done it more than a few times after I’ve been drinking or in the woods but never in the street at mid-day. I guess many people are just brought up like that. Most kids don’t seem to have diapers, just some pants with a slit from the crotch to the top of the butt and parents just let them go, almost wherever they please. When I first saw 2 Girls 1 Cup, I told myself “Well, this has got to be the one and only time I will see poop being dispensed by a butt hole.” I was so wrong.
Where I’m from, karaoke is just a one-night-of-the-week thing that some bars have, it’s not the thing to do all the time. So when I came to China, the sheer number of KTV joints and the amount of people that absolutely love going to them totally surprised me. I even get totally confused looks when I tell people I don’t like to sing. That said, I love a good night out at KTV, though my friends who have to listen to me sing probably have a different opinion.
3a. English KTV songs
I also had no idea there were so many English songs that were internationally popular, yet were never hits in the US. Even if a pop song isn’t number 1 in The States, I figured I’d at least be aware of it, I used to work for a music magazine, after all. “Big Big World” by Emilia is a good example. Before I came to China, I had never heard that song. Now it’s one of my go-to jams when I sing at KTV. Also, who knew Westlife was so popular? Not me. Did you know they covered “More Than Words” by Extreme? Every time I see the song on the list, I queue it up, only to be disappointed by some lame pop version, instead of the awesome, original, hair-metal version.
4. The NBA
When young Chinese guys ask me about the NBA, they’re always surprised and confused when I say I don’t follow it. I mean, I know who Michael Jordan is, but other than the fact that Magic Johnson has AIDS and Yao Ming is Chinese, my b-ball knowledge is limited to NBA Jam for Sega Genesis (and I always played as Will Smith). But dudes love basketball here. It was surprising to learn that a country of people who are stereotyped for being so short would love a sport that is traditionally reserved for the tallest dudes and Muggsy Bogues (he’s on NBA Jam).
5. Rice is essential
I see rice as a filler. It’s like bread at an Italian restaurant, it’s good, but the main course is much better. There are so many great Chinese dishes and when you eat out, you always order a ton of food. Why fill yourself with rice when you could be eating something that actually has a taste? I’ve eaten with Chinese people that have actually gotten angry and refused to eat because the rice isn’t there yet, despite the fact that all the real dishes are already on the table. This is something I don’t think I’ll ever wrap my head around.
6. Train toilets
There’s something about the sound of the train tracks speeding by that really inhibits my bodily functions. I know it’s safe, but there’s something about standing or squatting over what is essentially an open whole in the floor going at 120km/hr over gravel that makes me uneasy. I always invision a rock bouncing up and colliding with a place that no rock should I’ve collide.