China - Cultural Observations


One thing I haven’t talked much about is the washrooms in China. They do have Western toilets at higher scale places, but most places have those “squatty potties” as one of my coworkers dubbed them. The Chinese sewage system is built for human waste, and not for toilet paper. This leads to a… “pleasant” solution of putting soiled toilet paper in a trash bin, sometimes uncovered, beside the toilet. 

Home bathrooms often seem to have the shower, toilet, sink, and even washing machine (dryers are rare) in one small room. The entire room is tiled and a single drain in the floor. I wish we had a long squeegee to push the water, but instead we have some mediocre sponge mop thing. This can be a pain when you are getting ready, as you sometimes need to go back in there after a shower - with socks on. I'm guessing this is one of the reasons why they wear slippers/flipflops indoors. Not the only one, I bet.

In our apartment, there is one water heating unit (which you may recall me struggling with earlier) that is in the kitchen, alongside a gas unit. You turn on the gas, turn on the water heater, and set the temperature of water you want. The shower uses only that temperature of water. There is only one knob, and it’s on/off. In our washroom, there are shower curtains, but they’re around the non-shower stuff to keep it dry, but no other real division.

Big ones: Heaters
Small one: Just a Light
They have heat lamps on the ceiling of the washroom, alongside the normal light bulb. I suppose this is to compensate for it being an open room instead of a shower cell? I don't really know. I only found this out by perusing a book that was talking about "objects of China," and this was the page I randomly turned to.

One final thing: you'll often find people smoking in washrooms. I guess they're not allowed to smoke inside, so why not just smoke in the bathroom stalls where it's obvious, but no one will stop you? I'm not sure if this happens on the women's side, but various washrooms in various buildings all over town have cigarette butts in the toilets and smell of smoke. I imagine a Chinese man in a creased grey suit, forearm on knee, one foot on the toilet seat, and holding the cigarette between his forefinger and thumb. "What the hell am I doing with my life..." he mutters to himself before taking a final, extended drag. As he turns to leave, he flicks the cigarette into the bin, leaving the unnoticed, soiled kindling to start a blaze.

But maybe that's just me.

Chinese Remedies

Chinese remedies for illness flummox me. Just take a trip into a Chinese medicine store and you’ll see all sorts of teas for all sorts of illnesses, perhaps mushrooms, and other things I haven’t come across yet.

Removing toxins from the body is as alive here as in the west, probably more so. I don’t believe in much of that, honestly, because if we were unable to eliminate toxins from our bodies, we’d probably die long before we actually do. How do we eliminate toxins? Exercise, eat vegetables, drink lots of water and tea, and stop ingesting garbage food and drink. It gets more complicated of course, but doing that, you’ll probably be fine. Not here, it would seem.

They have these little cups that they burn incense/flowers in, and stick them on your skin. As the air cools, it creates a vacuum on your skin and is said to “pull the toxins out of your skin.” I haven't witnessed this, but I'm wondering if there's anything that actually comes out, or if it's just the big, circular bruise that results.

I’ve been told that all sorts of teas are good for your sore throat, which… yeah, hot liquid tends to be good for your throat, so long as it doesn’t dry it out.

They seem to believe that hot water is healthier for you than cold water. I have yet to be given an answer on exactly what it’s better for you in. Is it better for circulation? Better on your digestive system, and if so, what way? Here’s my best theory on the “hot water = great for you” theory. I stumbled across this when I was scorned for giving a woman a cold drink while she was on her period. This is incredibly stupid of me - obviously! Cramps tend to happen around the time of the month, and cramping can be caused from tensed up muscles. Heat causes muscles to relax, and drinking hot liquids makes you hotter, mainly in the abdomen... I guess. 

So they may have seen “hot helps here, hot must be good in general” as humans tend to over-exaggerate findings. It can be so exaggerated that Shimou said her mom wouldn’t even let her wash her hands with cold water when it was “that time.” Who am I to argue with one of the most populated countries on the planet? Again, I'm just guessing. I hear that, in general, they don't think it's wise to wash your hands with cold water.

The general idea of health here seems very different from back home. Fitness myths, for instance, seem like they’re alive and well. Spot reduction? Oh yeah, totally a thing. By that, I mean getting a “flat stomach” through excessive ab exercises. Tip: that’s entirely bogus. One of my Chinese friends said he wanted to bulk up; his goal for doing so was eating less meat, and exercising more. The exercises were aerobics videos.

The main reason I thought to do this was because Shimou had made me apple pear tea. Apple pears look like apples, but are particularly juicy, like pears. They’re a pale yellow. She boiled one in sugar water, which is supposed to help with my throat. She also made me egg pudding, which is a whisked egg that’s been steamed and seasoned with black pepper and soy sauce. I’m not the biggest fan of the consistency of eggs, especially when runny, but it tasted good enough. Between those things and all the tea, there wasn’t much medicine, just nutrition.

Shimou says that Chinese medicine works. In the past, she's implied that Chinese people and Western people have different biology, which I don't agree with. She says that Chinese medicine is more longer-term, like having better nutrition. She doesn't believe it all, as they have something for nearly every situation imaginable. Knee pain? take this. Pregnant? Take this. Poor general health? eat this root.

I mean, maybe there's something to some of it, but some of it just seems like woo-woo superstition. She says it works, and I suggest it's the placebo effect. Maybe science will shed some light.

Those are all the ones I can think of for now, but will throw more out there as they happen.

The Two-Child Law 

(Formerly One-Child Law)
 Remember the one-child rule where everyone could only have one child? Well, it’s slightly more complicated: you can have more kids, but you have to pay a fine for doing so. How much? Well, it depends on where you are, along with some other factors. Aurora’s Uncle lives in a small, rural town and had to pay ¥30,000 for his second daughter. That’s roughly $6k CAD, or $4,650 USD. Now, however, if two people get together to have children, and they’re both only-children, then they can have 2 of their own without harassment. What fun!

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