It’s the little things…

I want to piggyback off a recent post from the blog of Katie and Richy, two of my language-class/training-sitemates. Topic: we all know Chinese culture is different from American culture. Chopsticks instead of forks! Et al. But it’s the little things you take for granted that really get you. All the ones Katie mentions are very true. Here are some more small observations from life at my two different homestays, and in general, of things that have caught me off guard that Chinese people (seem to tend to) do. I suspect this may be an ongoing feature….

  • This is the correct way to shower: go to the bathroom in your clothes. Shower using the kind of shower head you hold in your hand (showers are not partitioned off from the rest of the bathroom typically; just a shower head on the wall near the toilet, probably). Turn the water off temporarily while shampooing, soaping, etc. Finish the shower. Dry your body while still in the bathroom using a hand towel (perhaps the same one used to dry one’s hands after washing, and perhaps same one used by multiple people—this part is unclear). Put clothes back on. Leave bathroom.
  • Toilet paper goes in the trash, not the toilet (yes, I realize this is the case in many parts of the world). If no trashcan is available, just put the used paper (or sanitary napkins, or whatever) down in the corner of the stall. Someone will clean it up.
  • How to potty train: when your child is 1-2, perhaps, substitute diapers for split pants—ie, pants that are open through the crotch and rear. When the child has to go potty, hold him up over the street, or wherever you are, to do so through his pants. After a little while of this, he will be potty trained.
  • Exercise is most important for, and most typically performed by, only the very young and the very old.
  • Most appropriate forms of exercise for older people: after-dinner walks, dancing (a lot of flowy arms), tai chi (taiji here—truly, performed exclusively by the elderly in China), walking backwards, and hitting yourself (like, repeatedly slapping your own arm, or some such). Improving the circulation, maybe?
  • It is unacceptable to have the precise amount of food needed to serve a group, large or small, in a social setting. Safe bet: aim to order or make at least half-again as much food as will actually be consumed. Too little food is a loss of face, and if it’s all finished, it wasn’t enough.
  • Having the TV on always enhances the room. After all, it ups the noise and merriment level! (personal theory, anyway)
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