Yeah, you knew this one was coming.
I’d like to think of this post as a celebration of the uniqueness of a country and the opportunity to learn. (but mostly I complain about squatting to take a deuce)
No but really. DISCLAIMER: parts of this post are a bit whiney and self entitled, but please try to find the humor in all these quirks that I (really) do find 90% of the time.
I did, after all, come here to learn about a different part of the world. With a population that makes up 1/5 (!!!!) of this planet I figure; know the Chinese, know the world.
Let’s start with what is usually my favorite part of traveling, the eats!
Food in China is sometimes spicy, oftentimes saucy and most times scrumptious! I’ve had the pleasure of trying everything from spicy tofu to the most mouth watering grilled garlic eggplants (who knew an eggplant could be a meal!)
I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking, “I wonder if Britt has eaten a cricket yet, or some eggs boiled in the ACTUAL FREAKING PISS OF VIRGIN BOYS.
Well, that’s a BIG HELL NO and a BIG HELL NO to the other weird/horrific things you’re imagining that I wish not to even name.
Back to the good stuff!
Oh yas! Lazy Susan style with plate after plate of deliciousness! and me going to town with my chopsticks!!
Ok so I am excited to tell you I have now mastered and perfected the art of eating with sticks. Much to my frustration, after two months of me working and eating at this school my Chinese colleagues still like to comment in mock amazement at my ability to eat with them.
Sure, I did destroy all my work dresses with oil stains during my first month at training, but it’s not as if I don’t have two hands. If an entire nation of 1.36 billion can do it, I think an overeager American can as well.
Guys, it pains me greatly to say this, but I’ve cracked. The Brittany I once was is gone.
*checks Facebook for the ranty post about foreigners eating at American fast food chains*
Past Brittany defended future (now present) Brittany back in 2012!
Ok so yeah I’ve been to McDonald’s a few times and have eaten pizza more times than I’d really like to admit. But Past Britt says it’s okay, so it’s okay.
In all realness, I think the fact that I’m living a life in a country where I literally have no idea what the flip is going on 82% of the time, I can haz cheezburga when I wantz cheezburga. Also, I still haven’t been to that ripoff In-N-Out, so I reallyyyyyy am not swearing off the crap food yet.
That annnnnd I like to cook for myself. Although nearly all the teachers that live on campus eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the school canteen, I admittedly eat there only 2 or 3 times a week despite the meals costing 98¢. I once embarrassingly even checked my name for lunch (meaning I’ll pay for it) and at the last minute decided I couldn’t stomach it and went running for my apartment before anyway could trap me for a free lunchtime English lesson (had to say it. some are genuine friends, others are not) The canteen food isn’t all that bad, but a girl can only consume so much MSG, nutritionally void white rice and vegetables so heavily sautéed and drenched in oil that they too are void of nutrition.
Directly linked with food comes the
topic issue of bathroom time.
Do you even squat, bruh?
The ever present squattie pottie. Usually clogged and filled with someone’s pee that is splashed all around the foot grips which you will later track all around the building you’re visiting.
China, really WTF! This is so obviously inferior to a Western toilet. And please don’t flipping try to tell me it’s more sanitary. You are a bajillion times more likely to get sick from touching a door handle than from sitting on a toilet seat (which many don’t even do anyways with the help of seat covers or “the hover,” a much less intensive squat position)
The bathrooms also almost never have soap or toilet paper. Get a bigger bag if you’re coming to China. You’ll need to carry with you at all times some pocket tissues and a travel size hand sanitizer. Many an expat has lost a sock after a night of hot pot.
Chinese errmm I mean Mandarin
Well Mandarin isn’t really a quirk of China, but it’s something new and somewhat baffling to this lǎowài (aka gringa)
I’d say I’m putting in a 60% effort to actually learn it. I mean, wouldn’t that be swell if I just popped over to China for a year and came back fluent in Mandarin?
Well, it doesn’t work that way, numb nuts! It’s a LOT of studying and dedication. As if it weren’t heard enough that English and Mandarin have pretty much no overlapping roots (i.e. the hospital is not “el hospital” like in Spanish) there are also 4 different tones meaning that, yes, you can say the word “ma” in four different ways and it’ll have 4 different meanings. Oh yeah and then there’s characters! Try learning a whole new writing system at the age of 25!
So although I have no life altering language goals, I can order some food and give my taxi driver basic instructions. It’s the small successes, people!
It’s WEIRD how SAFE I feel here.
Aside from staring and occasional unsolicited pics, I never feel threatened by anyone. <<<Let that sink in>>>
Walk down this dark, smelly alley alone side by side with a guy carrying a wheelbarrow? No problem.
Pass my bus card forward to be scanned when the bus is too crowded to enter from the front? Do it all the time.
Actually take my phone out in public? Listening to music? Reading my kindle? Best way to pass time on the bus.
These are all things I could ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOT do while living in Brazil. And although the positives of Brazil always outweighed the negatives, this new sense of safety is so liberating that I dare say it’s worth even more than *gasp* um coco bem gelado. Açaí?? Whoaaa whoaa whoaa, let’s not go overboard!
Ever hear the stereotype that the Chinese are brutally honest?
This one is from a website called My Honest Chinese Girlfriend:
I’ve been friends with a brilliant Singaporean girl for over 4 years. I always referred to her as my straight shooter and knew I could trust her to call me on my shit and serve me up a fiery bitch slap of reality. (She’s also really sweet and encouraged me to move on from my ex and go after my wanderlust dreams)
This is an actual quote from a chat with her from years ago:
So, with so few Eastern/SE Asian friends I began to assume that everyone was this way.
And it turns out I wasn’t so far off!
Us foreign teachers were actually prepped for this in our orientation! “The students WILL call you fat. Don’t pay it any mind.”
So although my kids do call me beautiful (ain’t that the truth! 😛 ) I know the moment I slip up and wear the wrong thing or have a bad hair day, I’ll be hearing from them. I’m actually surprised I haven’t been called fat yet. After seeing all these skinny b*tches running around in 4 in foam heels, I’m convinced that China just isn’t ready for this jelly!
My students aren’t the only people who can serve me the truth. In the course of one lunch period one of my coworker “friends” told me with a huge smile that my dress was for a grandma (who made you the goddamn fashion police? it’s called bohemian!) and that I had huge bags under my eyes (so??). Later, after I showed her a pic of me with my mom she said my mom looked younger than me, but it’s okay because she’s fatter.
DAFUQ! What’d you say about my mama??!
Thanks to years of being called Bitchney by my 3 loving brothers, I probably have tougher skin than most. Still, mama is off limits and b*tch will no what’s up if it happens again.
I’m sorry, this sounds really mean, but some things I just find really bass ackwards here and I’m left to simply say
I’ve already had quite a number of head scratching, WTF saying moments in my short time here.
There’s the time when I invited a coworker for a run and she showed up in her work clothes.
I swear on my mother’s grave it was pretty much this outfit with flats. She only changed into sneakers after I gave her my most natural (unfiltered) reaction of WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. We ran for nearly 30 minutes and in all fairness she actually could run well (the other coworker I tried with ran like Cindy from Scary Movie 2 after she says, “I’m not crazy!”) She also, very oddly didn’t sweat or turn red.
I finished like this
(a whole 30 minutes after the run)
There’s the time when my friend snapped a pic of a girl wearing a face mask on the metro. It was likely a skin whitening one, something that makes beauty product shopping a real gamble. In the West a tan means a good enough economic situation to enjoy yourself outside and take vacations. In the East it means you’re a field laborer (ie poor).
I need to get that pic from her, but for reference, here is me wearing the same kind of mask:
There have been the multiple times I’ve seen babies and toddlers wearing pants split down the middle with no diaper so they can freely POOP AND PEE IN PARKS, ON THE STREET OR HELD OVER A TRASH CAN BY THEIR PARENTS.
I suppose it is better for the environment…?
There have also been many “resting squat” poses I’ve born witness.
No wonder they’re so down with the hole-in-the-ground johns.
Or China belles meant to combat the heat…?
Really though. Too hot out so they just roll it up over their bellies for relief. Whoever said crop tops were just a fad?
And but of course there have been many a peace sign.
Ok so that’s all I’ll name for today. The list continues, friends.
China is full of quirks, but good and bad I’m still enjoying this experience. You’re weird, China, but I kinda like you.