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Expat Files: China... The Good, The Bad, And The Crazy

July 10, 2017

 

 

So I am fully aware that when you move to a new country, you must try to immerse yourself in the culture.  You must keep an open mind and try to learn their customs.  You know, the whole... "When in Rome"thing. 

 

 As much as I've tried to acclimate myself to China and the ways of the Chinese...  there are still some things that I will never understand.  Here's a list of the things that baffle, frustrate and amuse me.

 

1. Staring

 

In the US, it's not polite to stare at people.  In places like New York City, staring at someone could get you punched in the face.  Really, try staring someone down on the subway...  you may not get punched.... but you will definitely get cursed out.

 

Here in China, there is absolutely no shame in staring at someone.  People will literally break their necks and get whiplash just to stare at a foreigner.  And I'm not just talking about kids, full grown adults do this as well.  Maybe some of them have never seen a Black person in real life...  and it shows.  Sometimes I nod and smile, or say good morning.  But some days I just want to throw my hands in the air and shout "WTF are you looking at!!!!"

 

 

2. Gender Confusion

 

99.9% of Chinese women are petite with long flowy hair.  They also very feminine in the way that they dress.  It's very common to see a Chinese woman wearing sparkly high heel shoes and a party dress while shopping for groceries at 11:00 in the morning.  (Like... really, where are you going lady???)

 

So when they see ME... a rather tall, bald headed woman in a jeans and a t-shirt...  they get CONFUSED.  I mean UTTERLY confused!

 

I will never forget a domestic flight that I took from Guangzhou to Chengdu.  I happened to get extremely sick right before the flight (travel tip: if you get food poisoning, it's best to take Immodium AFTER you poop your insides out.  If you try to take it prematurely, and then board a plane for 3 hours...  all of that loveliness will be stuck in your gut.   You're insides will feel like DEATH).  I was doubled over in pain for the entire flight.   The flight attendants saw my obvious discomfort and made sure to check on me frequently.  They were very well meaning... but if of of them asked me "SIR, are you okay"  ONE... MORE... TIME...  I was going to scream directly in their faces "I AM NOT A MAN!!!!"...  before pulling the hatch and throwing myself off of the plane.

 

To add insult to injury, when I tried to used the ladies room in the airport, a  woman ahead of me in the line very politely informed me that I was in the women's bathroom.  And I politely told her "NO SH*T SHERLOCK, I'M A WOMAN TOO!"

 

Had I been wearing a nice frilly dress, some f*ck me pumps and a purse... maybe there wouldn't have been so much confusion.  But I was wearing jeans, a leather jacket and a baseball cap and a hiking backpack.  Despite what I was wearing, I highly doubt that I wouldn't been repeatedly mistaken for a man anywhere else in the world.  Because even when I'm wearing women's clothing... they still think that I'm a man.  I've been called sir while wearing a bright yellow dress and a full face of makeup.   

 

Once as I checked into my gym, that I go to almost EVERY DAY...   the receptionist gave me a pass to the boys locker room.

 

I've seen a woman walk into the locker room where I'm changing... and then exit to check to make sure she was not in the men's locker room.  

 

At the swimming pool, the children are shocked when I step out of the water and I'm wearing a bikini instead of a speedo.  I hear them whisper, "Waaawwww...  it's a woman." *shock *gasps

 

I could go on... and on.... and on....

 

 

3. Kids

 

Speaking of kids, these little f*ckers are everywhere!  Most of them are very cute...  so cute sometimes that I want to kidnap one and make a run for it.  China previously had a law that only allowed each household to have one child.  Now that quota has been upped to two children per household.  And there's already like 1 billion Chinese people...  so there are literally a bagillion babies in this country.

 

The majority of these kids where I live have never seen a Black person (not in real life, not on TV, not on the internet).  So they are genuinely shocked at the sight of me.  I've seen them gasp, lose their breath, point, run away, yell "foreigner" or even burst out in tears.  The best reaction that I experienced was from a 4 year in the elevator of my apartment building.  He was super cute in his school uniform, backpack that was bigger than his whole body and his little dexter classes.  I thought he was sooooo cute until he turned to his mother giggle and said "She's sooooo ugly".  Many people here assume that foreigners don't speak Chinese...  but this foreigner DOES.   He continued to tell his mother that I was ugly...  and that's when I bent down and said in my best little kid voice "I know you are, but what am I?!?!"

 

 

4. Bodily Fluids

 

Chinese people have no shame about picking their ears, digging up their noses for gold, hawking loogies and spitting them any and everywhere.  The men even grow their nails long just to use them as excavation tools.  That's all I'll say about THAT!

 

5.  Bumrushing

 

There's no such thing as a proper queue in China.  What you have instead is a linear mob.  A Chinese queue looks like a pack of starving wild animals climbing over each to reach a big juicy steak.  

 

Personal space while waiting in a line DOES NOT EXIST.   Every millimeter of space between you and the persons around you must be occupied.  If I attempt to leave a little breathing room in front of me,  I will feel someone breathing on my neck... trying to inch pass!!!  

 

This phenomenon has been explained as CFOMO... yes " Chinese Fear of Missing Out."  They are afraid that the bus, train, boat or plane will leave without them.  Even if there are only 20 people waiting to get onto a vehicle that holds 500 people...  they will "crab in a barrel" their way to the entrance.

 

Trying act civil will waiting in line is futile.  Resisting or reprimanding the constant pushing is also futile.  There's only one way to stand in line....    either bumrush or get bumrushed.  

 

 

6.  Lies

 

This is one thing that I love about Chinese people...  they lie to you in the best way possible...

 

"I think you've lost weight" -After I've eaten ALL the food and gained 5lbs

 

"You only look 25" -I've barely slept and the bags under your eyes could hold a weeks worth a groceries

 

"That dress looks so beautiful on you!" -I'm actually wearing a moomoo.

 

"You are more beautiful everyday!" -Okay, I'll take this one!

 

7.  Contentedness

 

One of the best things about living in China is that most people seem content in their daily lives.  You don't hear much complaining or griping.  This is not to say that Chinese people don't have struggles and frustrations....  but they don't seem to let them sour their disposition.  

 

For example, if something goes wrong at work...  things might get heated in the moment...  lord knows that I've seen more than a few arguments in this place.  And seeing people argue in Chinese is rather entertaining.  But once the conversation is over, it's truly over and done with.  No one runs to the water cooler to lament on what Suzy said to Johnny.  

 

8. Food

 

I love the food culture in China.  They still eat REAL food.  Some of my coworkers have never even touched fast food.  Most meals are shared family style.  Each day my coworkers each prepare one dish and carry it to work.  They eat these meals together.  So they can enjoy 5 or more different home cooked dishes...  instead of one sad lean cuisine that you picked up from the frozen food aisle.

 

And real Chinese food is delicious.  I don't know why Chinese immigrants invented Chinese American food. Shrimp Fried Lo Mein drenched in duck sauce is great when you are drunk, but real Chinese food is a million times better!   And even though everything is probably doused in MSG...  I'm not mad.

 

9.  Hot Water

 

I love the summer.  I love the heat.  And on a hot summer day, I love nothing more than to jump into an icy cold swimming pool.  BUT cold swimming pools in China are a non-existent. Most summer days can reach 100+ degrees...  And because the pools are so warm, no one swims before 4pm.  If you try to swim midday,  you will quite literally boil yourself alive.  

 

Ice cold drinking water is also not a thing in China.  People here drink boiling hot water all year long.  You haven't experienced hot water until you've tried to drink a cup of Chinese tea.  I've waited a record 10 minutes just for my tea to cool to an ingestible temperature.  I've also been impatient and burned my tongue more times that I can count.

 

10. Playing in traffic

 

Have you ever crossed a street in Los Angeles?  It's a beautiful thing.... traffic stops in ALL directions to let pedestrians cross.  If you've ever crossed the street in Tokyo... same thing.  But, if you've ever tried to cross a street in China...  GOOD LUCK!  There's no such thing as "the right of way" for pedestrians.  And those black and white stripes that indicate a crosswalk are pointless. In the crosswalk, there are crossing signs that blink red or green to let you know when to cross...  but they are also pointless.  Even if the little man is blinking green, a car making a right turn will mow you down if you aren't careful.  It's literally every man, car and bike for himself!!!  

 

Oh, and please remember to look both ways before you cross the street, because it's not uncommon to see someone driving down the wrong side of the road. Also, be careful walking on the sidewalk...  I've seen cars driving down the sidewalk for NO REASON!!!

 

 

Thanks for Reading!

 

xx

 

Samantha

 

 

 

 

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