Guest Post: Chloe Lindeman
What makes China such an interesting and distinct nation? The combination of its ancient culture, huge population and rapidly evolving industry is undeniably unique. But a lot of what I’ve seen is much simpler—small but wonderful (or in one or two cases, not so great) differences in day-to-day life. Of course, food is part of this, but you can read all about that in the last blog post. Here are some of the other daily differences I’ve noticed.
1. Chinese kites are awesome. While traveling in Xi’an, I came across the most impressive kites I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why every country in the world doesn’t have these, but they completely changed my outlook on kites. I’m sure getting them up in the air is no mean feat, but once they’re in the sky they look like the stretch on forever.
2. In general, the elderly population is much more active. From early morning to late night, you can find old people dancing, practicing Tai Chi and taking walks in Beijing’s many parks. In fact, China’s ‘Dancing Grandmas’—older women who meet to dance to loud music in public spaces—have occasionally gotten in trouble for being too loud late at night.
3. The bathrooms here are different in a few ways. First of all, almost all public toilets are squat toilets. But even in places with “real toilets,” under no circumstances do you flush toilet paper—instead, it goes into a waste bin next to the toilet. Finally, bathrooms with showers (like those in dorms or apartments) often have no divider besides the curtain, so after even a short shower, water covers the bathroom floor. It’s fine while showering, but less fun when you need to brush your teeth ten minutes later.
4. Hiking mountains in the middle of the night is pretty normal. When a teacher recommended I do this, the main reason was so I could watch the sunrise from the peak, which turned out to be an incredible experience. The same teacher also said that night hiking was good because if I hiked during the day I might look down and get too scared. Very comforting.
5. Family-style eating in China does not mean the same thing it means outside of China. When sharing dishes in China, you eat straight out of the serving platters, using your own chopsticks to grab a piece of food from one of the dishes and eating it over your plate or bowl of rice. If your hosts are feeling especially hospitable, they will use their chopsticks to add some the best food to your plate. It doesn’t get much more communal than that!
Chloe is a physics student studying abroad to improve her Chinese, learn more about China, and of course eat great food. When she’s not writing for HelloChinese, she practices the violin and watches Battlestar Galactica.