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Stranger things I encountered in China

I have encountered some stranger things in my short stay in China than I have ever before. And every day it’s a new thing, a learning curve. I’m continuously surprised at how China and its people still shock or baffle me. Some of this stuff becomes normal and expected with surprising speed.

Driving

stranger things

One of the stranger things I encountered in China is the driving. Lane discipline is loosely maintained, at least in Beijing. In China, drivers have (or act like they have) complete right of way; pedestrians are completely on their own. Traffic laws are not enforced; I have never seen one single person pulled over for speeding, though police will respond to accidents. If you want to drive above the speed limit, I see nothing stopping you. But then again, there are so many cars on the roads in Beijing that speeding is next to impossible.

The disparity between poor and rich seems on the mark, you are either a “have” (and well above American or average “haves”) or a definitely “have not.” The roads in Beijing are packed with BMWs, Mercedes, Audi, Porches, etc.

No culture, No religion – Maybe this is good, but is sad

This could be controversial. One of the stranger things I noticed was the fact that the Chinese people do not believe in anything, money maybe. A whole new generation has grown with no cultural or religious identity. There is a ubiquitous Western influence. This might be considered good, a factor that took the country out of poverty and division in the last few decades. But for a country with such a deep heritage, this indeed feels sad. All the historical places and Buddhist temples have a feel of a museum rather than a place of worship. This might be different in rural areas.

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How seriously people take Karaoke

Chinese people love Karaoke, I mean there are karaoke bars or KTV as they call them here, are everywhere. And they aren’t your typical bars; they’re little rooms with a TV and couches that you rent for a few hours so that you can sing comfortably in front your friends. I have been to the Karaoke for the second time now, and whenever I go there, you see people of all ages excited about singing. Some Chinese people because they do not know what it is called (Karaoke) they just call it a sing-song. It is so popular that even some businesses go to Karaoke to help them close their dealings.

stranger things

Spitting

Above all the mentioned stranger things, spitting took me completely by surprise, and I can never get used to it. Spitting like there’s no tomorrow. A few months later and I still hear this hawking sound and cannot possibly get used to it. People spit everywhere all the time., Especially old men. You know it’s a lot if you begin to notice it. At the subway, you would see people spitting on the floor. It’s gross, and I don’t know how a group of people have that much phlegm in their system. It must be the pollution.

How few clothes people own

Chinese people do not own many clothes, except for the wealthy families. Because of the difference between the poor and the rich, the rich have too much wealth whereas the poor have too little. Despite things being cheap in China you would expect people to wear anything and have a wardrobe full of clothes, but they do not. You would meet a person wearing the same kind of clothes that they wore yesterday, and you will probably get a sense of Deja Vu. But you will realize that it’s because they are still wearing the same clothes and probably the same hairstyle. People can wear the same clothes for a whole week, so they only need a few outfits.

Honking

Chinese drivers honk all the time. And you are not sure if it’s meant to be a warning or they are greeting another fellow driver. Honking in China is a mix of annoyance and “I’m honking for you to get out of my way” and “I’m just letting you know I’m here.” Because you would think that if it were a warning, the driver would make an effort to slow down or something but they do not instead they continue to drive.

The smell

Oh my god, the smell. When you see pictures of the (admittedly) interesting markets and food stalls, you can’t imagine the pungently strong smell you will encounter. For example, Wangfujing and Beihai Park, there were some places where I couldn’t stand the smell. It’s not a stench, mind you, and after a few days, you get used to it. The food is still delicious, but the smell stays with you for years. I can feel it right now just by thinking about it. Arghh

No aunts, uncles or cousins!

With the “one child policy” (now amended, again, for the super rich, as there are lots of stipulations to having a second child now), one thing I found utterly mind-blowing to think about is no one has any aunts, uncles, or cousins in China. Though very, very few Chinese do. Think of it! If you can only have one child, it’s impossible to have an aunt, uncle or any cousins!

I realize, of course, these are cultural differences and norms. While non-locals are often shocked and even disgusted by certain behaviors, they are perfectly acceptable to the locals. These are the stranger things, most baffling I have encountered during my stay in China. Don’t let this discourage you from coming, though. It’s a different (and exciting) world over here.

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