As an American, I was a bit perplexed on how I would be treated upon entering the People’s Republic of China. I guess I imagined it to be like entering a milder version of Russia, Cuba, or even North Korea. I have been told by many people who’ve traveled to China to prepare myself because the Chinese behavior can be a little “Weird”… Yeah Weird was probably the most used word. I was also really alert when I had to jump through a thousand hoops just to get a visa! So from the moment that I stepped off the plane I was ready to go through a hellacious security check and interrogation. That wasn’t the case at all, thankfully. I haven’t crossed paths with many Americans and I wish that there were more here. China has been pretty easy for the most part. However, it is indeed a little weird.
At the end of the day, China is pretty cool. I had to get used to the people first and foremost. Their ideas of what is acceptable would challenge those of a westerner. When traveling, however, nothing is wrong, just different. Having come from Japan, where everyone is a sweet and accommodating as your own grandmother, I had a bit of reluctancy to like the Chinese. A lot of Chinese people don’t speak English, and like the French, write you off when you approach them with “Hello.” They do not have patience when you don’t understand them and they will begin to shout… as if a louder volume automatically jogs your memory of all those years of Mandarin and Cantonese that you didn’t take. I was particular fed up with this bitchy cashier at Wal*mart (story of my mom’s life.) I was also put off by the amount of people who will blatantly point and talk about the 6 foot tall blonde caucasian, just going about his business. I am apparently an amusement to a lot of them. This pissed me off at first, but after some time, I’ve found many people to be full of smiles and very friendly. I decided that my interactions with the Chinese are as hit or miss as the ones that I would anticipate on a roadtrip to Kansas City. Let’s face it, Americans can be down right dick wads.
Besides their potential animosity towards foreigners, they have a lot of interesting habits. My favorite is the “Beijing Belly.” That’s the nickname a girl in my hostel deemed it. In a given day, you will see about 50 different men who have their shirts pulled up to mid pecks, exposing their nipples. This is to prevent a sweat soaked shirt in the summer sun. You have to admit it is a valid solution. One does not have to posses an “athletic” body type to participate. Sometimes they just take their shirts completely off. This is what I like to call the “Shirtless Shanghai.” I would participate, but no one in China has body hair. I don’t want them to beat me up in a fit of jealousy when seeing my glorious man sweater… Now, it’s all fun and games until you sit down in a restaurant and the loud obnoxious guy right behind you takes off his shirt and lights up a smoke. You find yourself pissed off, sitting all hunchbacked, mumbling, “fucking china!” while you eat your noodles.
Speaking of food, A German couple sharing my dorm room and I went to dinner one night for a dish called “hot pot.” (And that’s exactly what it gave me two days later) While at dinner, Sara told me about how earlier that day she saw a mother let her son go to the corner of the subway car and squat and piss… good lord. I wasn’t surprised. On our way back to the hostel, we saw another mother standing, arms crossed, while her son shit in the street. WHY?! Hahaha! Just…. WHY?! We got back to the room and got on the internet and were reading stories where Chinese mainlanders defecated in public places outside of mainland China and they got into some “serious shit” for it. < See what I did there? One woman let her son go in the airport terminal at London’s Heathrow Airport. Another was in a glass elevator. Now that’s just spiteful. This is one cultural trait that doesn’t even bother me though. I just find it hilarious. In India, I had to watch my step for cow patties. In China, I have to watch my step for Lao’s little coils.
The cultural traits are all interesting. But I know that they day they cease being funny, I’ll be out of here faster than Beyonce’s stiletto came down when she curb-stomped the remaining members of Destiny’s Child. China is a fascinating country full of beautiful sites and you will meet some truly wonderful people! Yesterday, this Chinese family accompanied me to the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an. I think they might have been trying to set me up with their daughter… They were friendly and sweet. China is a very weird place, but you should DEFINITELY go! It will challenge your capacity to accept different cultural traits. If you find yourself always wanting a dry shirt, an ever accessible bathroom, or a lesson in ignorant verbal abuse then you’ll love it here! Nothing is wrong… It’s just different. I am loving my time here! This is what travel is about: taking your shirt off and shitting in the street. I just beg the Americans reading this to PLEASE not start doing these in America… talking to you, uncle Tom!