Warning: Gross Habits Described in Detail

Trip Start Jul 06, 2008
Trip End Aug 25, 2008

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Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

            An Essay on the Chinese Art of Hoarking a Loogie and other Cultural Wonders

So, my mom mentions to me the other day that she had been reading about the Olympics. She said that in Beijing the authorities had been cracking down on spitting in public. So she asked me if I had seen anyone spitting here in China.
Have I seen spitting? Oh, god, I have seen it one thousand times. Yes, they spit all the time. Mostly just the men like to spit. And they do not save their spitting for the outdoors, oh no. They like to spit all the time, anywhere. They spit inside buildings, in the subway, anywhere. I'm telling you, it is crazy! They do not just spit either; the spit comes directly after a hard sniff, followed by the deep, guttural hoarking noise they make to get all that phlegm up and ready to release. Which, actually, I appreciate because it gives me time to get the hell out of the way before the actual gob of mucus it set sailing. They claim they spit for health reasons. They do not think it is healthy to swallow their mucus because of the air pollution here. So, I can only assume that as they let their loogies fly, they are not stopping to consider the potential health hazards of allowing one's disease laden body fluids fly through the air only to land in the path of my nice clean Nike sneaker. This is then, unceremoniously taken home with me to my apartment. Thank you.
So, as you can imagine, many of the Chinese habits/customs I find very difficult to live with. They burp (our sweet, little maid that come to clean likes to burp while she folds the clothes), spit, bump into you, chew and talk at the same time while food flies out of their mouth, cut you in line, talk super loud, allow their kids to pee on the street and on the sidewalks, stare (they see nothing wrong with staring and pointing) I get stared at all the time by all of them. It does not bother me very much when the women and children stare. I just assume they are curious. I have to say though; it wouldn't kill them to smile every once in awhile.  I smile at them and they just continue their blank stare without seeming the least bit bothered by the fact that I am looking right at them. It reminds me of how we might look at an animal in the zoo. It does really bother me when the men stare at me. In the subway they just stand there like three or four feet away from me and stare. I look directly at them and they just continue to stare. They will even look at my chest when they know I am watching them do it. They do not care. It is very unsettling.
No one gives you the right of way here. Cars will run you over, bikes will run into you if you are not constantly watching for them and people
will cut you off, walk right in your way, step on your feet, elbow you, walk right up and cut in front of you when you are clearly next in line for something. No one says excuse me. They are not polite in the sense that we are used to. Men have no chivalry here. They push me out of the way getting on or off the subway; run to take the empty seats and they seem perfectly comfortable bumping out old women too. They would never hold a door for you or anything like that. It's pretty weird.  
Another interesting cultural difference is that many of the men grow one or many nails on their hands very long. I looked this one up one day b/c I was so horrified by the number of men with disgusting long nails. I thought it was a city full of coke addicts or something. Apparently they do this to show that they are not manual laborers. I think it also must come in handy to aide them with all of their ear and nose picking. Now, the middle/upper class Chinese do not do this and many of the younger educated Chinese guys do not do this.
Bellies are another whole topic of interest. It is hot here, I'll admit that. But, I do not understand why the Chinese men here think that means it is perfectly okay to lift their shirts and walk around all day with their Buddha bellies hanging out. Oh, and it is never the nice looking, clean men. It is only the dirty, sweaty, hairy, men that enjoy doing this. They often lay down in random places too (like the middle of the sidewalk) to take naps with their bellies exposed and their shoes off. They are so proud of their bellies too, you can tell. I have seen more bellies here than I have ever seen on all the beach days I had last summer.
Now, all that being said, I would like to clarify that this is not a description of all the Chinese people here in Shanghai. These are the people I remember after a long day of sightseeing. These are the people you cannot forget because of their ridiculous habits or staring eyes or exposed body parts. I suppose it would be like if a Chinese person came to visit the USA and their only experience was spending a hot July day at the local county fairgrounds. They would definitely have some interesting impressions of the average American wouldn't they?  So, all in all, the people here on a whole are very clean, they don't spit, have nice looking nails and cover their bellies. It is just that with over 20 million people you are bound to run into a bunch everyday that are pretty damn gross.  
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deniseheff on

This was so well written, seriously, you could publish this. What a riot! It has to be so interesting to be submerged in another culture.

cfelax on

Wow, nice...
Hey Michele,

Great travel blog! Yeah, that sounds pretty gross. I went to Japan to visit Ara Jon Berberian and China sounds completely the opposite. In Japan, people are quiet, polite, clean cut, shy and courteous. Are you staying around for the olympics? I was watching a huge special on CNN about the pollution in Beijing. Pretty nasty. Hope you're having fun.

Chris Felax

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