Thursday, 19 May 2016

100 things to know about China No's 50 - 100

50. Napping is the national ‘sport’ or habit. My students could nap for China. Everywhere you go, at any time of day, people will be napping. In the shops – IKEA runs regular announcements stating that the beds are for display not sleeping in. But its not unknown for grandma’s and granddads to be left napping in a chair whilst the family shops. People use restaurants like KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks – all with AC and Wi-Fi as handy places to nap – you don’t even have to purchase anything. I’ve even had to ask staff to wake people up and move them so I could sit down with my purchase –this is done without so much as a murmur of dissent.  People nap on bikes, in carts, on the metro actually anywhere and everywhere is conducive to 40 winks or more.  The Chinese teachers have camp beds in the office for the lunchtime nap.

51. The building workers live onsite, often for years, until the project is finished in prefabricated rooms with little more than a bunk bed, basic toilets and outdoor washing facilities.

These are by my school - not being used at the moment.


52. The butchers at the farmer's market carve up the meat and put it on display without refrigeration and don’t wash their hands between taking money and cutting meat.

53. How much baijiu is drunk at restaurants at a meal. I was invited to a dinner with fellow teachers by the parents of one of my students – they do this hoping we will pay more attention to their kid. Baijiu is a Chinese spirit akin to vodka and is drunk the same way – by shots.  Do not get misled by the Chinese calling it ‘White wine’ – its more like diesel. Anyhow at the end of this meal it was a matter of great joy that we had drunk 6 bottles of said rotgut. Remember this was probably the very good stuff because the (rich) parent would want to impress us with his generosity. The trick for drinking less baijiu - getting the waiter to fill your glass with water instead.

54    How many dishes are ordered at restaurants - they often end up stacked in layers. When one goes to these dinners the food – which has been pre-ordered by the host just keeps coming and coming. All the dishes are shared – unlike in a western restaurant where your food comes on your plate.  This also happens in private homes during the festivals.

55    Congealed duck blood is a popular dish together with many other outlandish and unsavoury (in my view) dishes such as Turtle, 100 year old eggs, chicken fetus on a stick – no I’m not making it up, chicken feet, duck neck, stinky tofu and so on.

56     Most of the beer available is around 2.5% alcohol. Snow Beer for example, which, by the way, is the biggest selling beer in the world, just because it sells the most to the biggest population in the world, is ubiquitous. But try getting a cold one – especially in the winter.  Shops in the winter do not have the refrigerator on – why would they its cold outside. In the summer it seems they want their beer at body temperature – because they believe to put cold things in ones body will make you ill. Thus even water is taken warm, in the summer when its plus 30 degrees C and hotter.

57 The is no lower age limit for drinking alcohol. I was shocked when on a school trip I found my students drinking large bottles of Rio with their picnic. I took the, by now empty, bottles to the Chinese teachers in charge and they were bemused by my concern. Also one lunch time, at the shop over the road from the school, I found one of my students buying two tins of Harbin (better and stronger than Snow) beer – he told me it was his lunch time ‘treat’ every day.  I’m afraid I grassed him up to the head teacher because now I knew why he was always so sleepy in my first class after lunch.
My students lunch time treat - Harbin Beer

58 Someone will dole out cigarettes to the entire group when they smoke, and it's extremely rude to refuse the cigarette offered to you. Smoking is de rigueur for most men and at any occasion especially more so if there are No Smoking signs.  The toilets at any event or public place such as the Mall or shop are usually full of smoke and guys grabbing a smoke despite the No smoking signs. At least the smoke masks the stench of the toilets.

59 Cigarettes range in price from 1.5 Yuan to over 1000 Yuan. At any social even such as a formal dinner the host will offer the smokes, expensive smokes and often by the pack and not individual cigarettes.  At weddings packs of expensive cigarettes are in the gift bag every guest gets given. The security guys at my school benefit from this because I take the packs to give to them. 

60 At the hospital its not uncommon to see Doctors smoking in the hospital corridors. Teachers in my school smoke with no sense that they are role models for the students.
61 Corporal punishment is still a factor in Chinese schools. Although I have not seen it happen in my school. I have seen a student manhandled out of a class by a Chinese teacher.

62 School life is hard in China. Most schools are boarders; the majority of kids sleep here. The day starts at 6 for breakfast. They are in the classroom at 7:15am until 9pm at night. The lessons after dinner are usually for self study (homework) and hobbies etc.

63 Public school tuition in China is expensive – at my school, a High School the fee is around 80,000 rmb a year (2 Semesters) (about £8000/$11,333) which is comparable to private school tuition in the West – that does include boarding but not other extras like food – which is cheap in the canteen, or bedding, or books, trips etc.

64 All the students return to school before the long summer break is finished for a period of military training which entails being in uniform, getting yelled at by military personal, running around and a lot of marching in formation yelling those 1,2,3,4 cadences you see the US army doing when training.

65 Working at a school in China also has its frustrations public holidays are given by the state but then one day is often clawed back by having to work the Sunday of the week we start back at school.

66 My usual class size is about 30 students per class but class periods are only 45 minutes long. Individual attention is impossible – despite some (paying) parents demanding it.

67 Many students are often unable to read the blackboard because of poor eyesight and not having glasses or having glasses but not of the right prescription.

68 My students find it difficult to practice creative thinking because of the Chinese education systems dependence upon learning by rote and repetition

69 In the scorching hot summers (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius with high levels of humidity), restaurants don't turn on their air conditioners until customers sat in that private room or do not have them set low enough so we have to get up and change them ourselves.

70 Shopping Malls with AC are the favourite haunts of grandma’s looking after the grandkids – they sit in there all day when the temperatures are high as they either don’t have AC at home or they do but they do not want to switch it on to save money.

71 As soon as the sun starts to shine again, after the winter, around the end of March here in Nanjing women start to walk around with open umbrellas. This is not to protect themselves from heatstroke per se but more to protect themselves from the sun so their skin wouldn't get tanned. The mother of a female friend regularly chastises her for looking like a ‘farm girl’ because she allows her skin to darken and does not use any skin whitening products which are big business in China (along with plastic cosmetic surgery)

72 Safety regulations are very relaxed – in fact so relaxed that they seem to be none existent. For example the schools handyman fixes my light switches with a pair of pliers, a current tester screwdriver and nothing else, with the current left on. Men work the high-rise buildings with no evident safety equipment.  Welders weld, on the street, outside their workshops with little or no protection against arc eye or flying sparks – some facemasks, made of cardboard or plastic are used, sometimes.

73 It is not uncommon for the whole family to hop on a moped or scooter, and without helmets. Often the child is on the back, mum and dad have the helmets, the kids don’t (waste of money).

74 In cars kids are in the front or back seats never wearing seatbelts, if there is a law, its not enforced

75 It seems to be de –rigueur to ride a bike/scooter/motorbike or drive a car, lorry, bus whilst using a mobile phone.

76 Pet ownership seems to be hit and miss, whilst there are many cats and dogs hanging around the streets looking dirty and mangy they seem to be getting enough to eat.

77 Most of the dogs wear clothes. Winter and summer. Or if they are not wearing clothes they are being dyed different colours, especially the poodle type.

78 Fish and birds seem to be popular pets as do rabbits and mice/hamsters which probably have a short ‘shelf’ life.

79 Groups of men sit around with their caged birds – giving them the ‘air’ a form of torture it seems to me showing the birds what life could really be like it they were not serving life imprisonment in a cage barely big enough to stretch a wing.

80 Even in the city its not that unusual to see a chicken having a stroll down a road or a lane.

81 In general China is a safe place to be I've never felt safer from crime. Females of my acquaintance also tell me they feel safe walking home late at night alone. You do not see Chinese men drinking on the street, in fact the only time I have seen drunken Chinese men is as they are helped out of a restaurant after the baiju marathons at dinner   – the only drunken brawls I have seen are western ex pats in western type bars who have gotten totally pissed western style.

82 Blind Massage is a good option if you want a massage but cannot differentiate between a good place or a ‘naughty’ place.  This is a relatively common occupation for the blind in China.  I’ve been to my local place a couple of times and the massage is good and professional.

83 If you really want a ‘naughty’ massage look out for the shops with the pink curtains and the pink lights – probably with a couple of women lounging on sofas in the front. Prostitution is illegal in China but these places are all over the city on the main street towards my school there must be half a dozen, at least, of them.

84 The kids are still kids in that they have an innocence about them that a lot of American kids today lack. We often see that as naivety – they giggle a lot if the discussion touches on sex  or relationships. The have a deep love for their parents which comes out in their writing in a real heartfelt way and they are not ashamed to read their writing out aloud in the classroom in front of their peers – something I am sure a 16 or 17 years old typical teenager would do in the UK or US.

85 In the summer whilst some men will walk around with no tops on, or with the granddad type ‘wifebeater’ shirts (I believe they are called) many like to just pull their top up exposing their often nicely rounded tummy and midriff (a sign of affluence apparently – big tummy means you have food)

86 You tend to see many employees being marshaled in military style outside of their place of employment. They are stood in ranks being given a hectoring speech to do better, work harder before having a group yell of something stirring and inspiring.

87 Some Chinese people, and, in particular, it seems to be the older generations, lack any sense of manners or etiquette. If you're in someone's way when they want to get out of the metro, expect an elbow to the ribs.  Nobody waits for you to get off the metro they just barge right in trying for the mythical empty seat.  If you are being served, even in somewhere like Starbucks, who do enforce a queuing system, people will think its ok to just come to the front to get their questions answered or make an order. And of course having a pee or even a poo anywhere they like. In this case the toilets were just the other side of the path.

88 There's also less expected table manners it is shocking and slightly nauseating if you are not used to it to see people spitting, or at least dropping food, usually bones, out of their mouths onto the table, sometimes onto the floor of the restaurant.  No one else blinks an eye because they are all doing it.  I have seen a person at a buffet use the serving spoon to taste the dish and then put the serving spoon back in the food.

89 Customer service in 'average' places is almost non-existent. Waiters and waitresses are generally useless and often come across as brainless. This is often because they are on minimum wage maybe 5 or 6 rmb an hour (50/60 pence/70 cents). But the number of times the order is wrong is remarkable given that they write it down on their pad. And sometimes we have double-checked they know what we want it still doesn’t come or its wrong.

90 Do not expect any logical sequence to ordering food – especially if you are expecting western style food.  If you order a starter, main course and dessert you might get the dessert first, half the main next, then the starter – then after you have asked where it is the rest of the main that is now lukewarm because its probably been sitting on a shelf in the kitchen.  If you want a dessert after your meal – order it after your meal not at the same time.  This is probably a consequence of Chinese meals being structured differently thus food does come out at different times because of the number of dishes.

91 Chinese people seem to be unaware of their surroundings or an awareness of the space around them so they seem very unpredictable in some aspects. For example, people stop dead in the most stupid of places to check their phone or have a chat without any consideration for other people – like in doorways, the bottom or top of the escalators of the metro (lighting a cigarrette is popular here) Many people don't seem to pay much attention.

92 On bikes and in cars they will, without any indication change direction or lanes.  They fly out of intersections (especially on bikes/motoelectro bikes) without as much a glance to the left or right. I think this is why some people on scooters or bikes continuously honk their horns, as a kind of constant warning not to make any sudden movements.

93 Convenience of life

In many ways life is more convenient in China. Technology tends to be adopted at a much faster rate than in the West, and many of our practices would be seen as outdated by Chinese people. Alipay and WeChat in particular just make life a lot easier! Buying online is cheap and the delivery is incredibly fast, usually next day

94 Obsession with foreignness 

Many foreign things, in particular stuff from the US, Europe or Japan and Korea, are treated with such reverence it makes me kind of uncomfortable.  It's not just consumer products, but also people. It makes me uncomfortable that white people are put on such a pedestal, and it's very unusual. It's difficult to get used to living in a country that thinks itself inferior to others. That foreigners get some kind of instant VIP status. Some banks, for example, wouldn't let me queue up even if I wanted to queue up to be fair to everyone else.

95 A lot of the old heritage buildings look very new. During the cultural revolution there was an orgy of destruction carried out by the Red Guard. Old China is being re-built but its often more Disney than Dynasty.

96 Piracy is rampant: TV, movies, software, games,  technology knock-offs are everywhere, clothes, food if you can fake it the Chinese will.


China's nouveau-riche often have too much money and not enough taste.  Why have one Lamborghini when you can have 5?

98 Elderly Chinese seem to be fit, although its seems that the notion of being elderly starts at about 55. 

But you see older Chinese out on the streets, if still not working because they need to they'll walk, jog, do Tai Chi, dance in the public spaces, play badminton, play mahjong, visit friends regularly. People love walking backwards, stretching their back on trees, clapping their hands whilst walking and hitting their body. Swimming in the mountain lakes in the winter.


99 The Chinese hang red banners, and/or public 'posters' everywhere. I guess where they once proclaimed the glorious sayings of Mao Zedong, nowadays its more likely  to be something like 'Freedom, democracy, equality' or more mundanely  'The 16th Annual University Sports Day'

100 There are flags everywhere Union Jacks and the Stars and Stripes are very popular covering everything from electric scooters, to clothes, mobile phone covers, books, furniture, food even.  Of course the Chinese flag is ever present, every Monday, here at school we have the official flag raising ceremony.

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