You know, every nation is somehow specific. Customs, language, behavior… But Chinese people are different. Very different. Sometimes I feel like I am living on another planet. Trust me, being a foreigner in a small Chinese town is as common as an Eskimo in Caribbean. You are just exceptional and have all possible attention. Besides that being foreigner in China also require to face some Chinese habits that sometimes are not so pleasant. Let me introduce my ”favorite” ones that literally drive me crazy!
Ok let’s forgive Chinese people that they want to have a look at the foreigner if they have a chance. Some people haven’t seen foreigner never before and it’s certainly not their fault that China was closed to the world so long and there is not as many foreigners as in the other countries. I don’t mind if people are looking at me BUT for some people is not enough to look at me from decent distance and it’s not unusual that they come right in front of me and start to stare at me. Checking me from head to toe and back and again and again, up and down! Like they wanted to make sure I am real, I belong to the same Homo Sapiens as them, I have two legs, two arms and one head! And they don’t feel weird, shame or even impolite to stare at me like this for long minutes, staying just 15 centimeters away from me!
I can always turn away or leave on the public places but there are some places where you can’t hide. For example in the elevator. I really love these moments when I am waiting downstairs for the elevator and hear that somebody is coming. Praying the elevator arrive a soon as possible so I can go upstairs alone. Usually my prayers are not listened and I have to share the elevator all the way up with old woman staring at me just like I described above, trying to tell me something with her croaky voice and laugh at me because I don’t understand one bloody word she said…
Believe or not but if you are foreigner in China it’s not only that people are looking at you all the time but they also want to take a photo of you. It just shows how exceptional it is for Chinese people to meet a ”whitie”. I never refuse those people that come to me and ask if they can take picture with me. BUT there are some people (and that’s the major part) who want to take a photo of me but for some unknown reason aren’t able to come and ask me like normal polite people would do but instead they are pretending playing with their telephones (which is pretty obvious they are not) and secretly taking a photo of me.
We went for a day trip the other day to one national park near our home. Staying under huge statue of Buddha suddenly some guy appeared right in front of me with his telephone pointed into my face. This reliably pisses me off. ”What are you doing? Taking picture of me?” I asked. He, little bit surprise that I can speak Chinese, simply said: ”No” and turn away from me. I looked at his telephone over his shoulder and he was right. He wasn’t taking picture of me he was filming me!
PHYSIOLOGICAL SOUNDS AND EATING
I bet you’ve already heard about this. I am speaking about spitting and burping. I think I will never use to this habit. It’s so disgusting! Especially the spitting. I don’t know why but Chinese people have the need of clearing their throats ALL THE TIME! It’s ok if they do it at home or just somewhere away from the others. But they do it on public, in restaurants, in the airplane, in the bus… Just everywhere and anytime! And you would be very wrong if you thought that this is only a ”man” thing. I am always shocked when I hear that typical sound of pulling the phlegm out of the bottom of the body and I turn my head who was it this time and I see a well dressed lady on high heel shoes, with perfect hair and make up spitting into the rubbish bin on the street…
Another typical sound is smacking the lips. You know I have a feeling that most of Chinese people wouldn’t be able to eat if they can’t smack their lips and talk or laugh with widely opened mouth full of food. That’s their specialty. I don’t want to be rude but I have a feeling that the more disgusting they are during the eating the better they feel (they don’t consider this to be disgusting of course)
Dining itself is a special topic. Food is very important part of Chinese culture and it deserves its own article here. Chinese people love eating. And of course they love eating together. It’s not unusual that there is up to twenty people at the table!
We have been invited couple times to attend these big Chinese dinners. It’s fabulous because the amount of food is huge and everything is super delicious but on the other hand it’s also quite tiring because:
- They can’t talk quietly so they make a big noise. The noisier the better (for them)
- Men smoke whenever they like, absolutely don’t care of those who are still eating
- They unpredictably make a toasts during the dinner which means that you have to drink every time somebody stands up and make a toast which they do every five minutes
- If you are foreigner the host will be asking you all the time you if you like the food or telling you what this particular dish is. Imagine this: The waitress is bringing new and new dishes on the table and your companions will describe every single dish. Like this is eggplant dish, this is pork, this is fish and so on and so on even if it’s pretty obvious what dish it is and there can be up to 30 dishes on the table!
- You will hear at least hundred times that Chinese food is delicious
- They will admire you when they find out you can use a chopsticks, if you can’t they will laugh at you
- They will admire you even more when they find out you like to eat spicy food, if you don’t they will probably laugh at you
- You will become a hero if you start to drink local alcohol with them. They will try to compete if you can drink more than them. But Chinese are not good drinkers so you would probably win but it’s polite to let your host win. Which means that the others will laugh at you that you can’t drink more…
It’s just a bit wild and memorable experience 🙂
Well, these are the first three Chinese habits that sometimes drive me crazy. But unfortunately the list is longer than that. Next time I will introduce you another habits that only Chinese people do!