How shocking is China can be for the first time or for some foreigners in China ?
Every time I talk to someone who has not been to the Middle Kingdom, I get asked the same question: “How is China?” – as if it was that easy to answer that question. So, generally I answer: “Different, everything is different.” Most probably, this answer is not satisfying as they want to hear some of the horror stories about food or traffic or traditions.
So, let’s see, how China is, and how shocking it really is!
For someone, who comes to China the first time, and who has never been in this climate zone or ethnical/traditional zone, China can be very shocking. When I first arrived in summer 2013 to Shanghai, I was defeated by the weather. It was hotter than anything I knew up until that point. It was not the heat itself but rather the humidity making me feel as if I needed to shower every time I quit an air-conditioned room. And at first, as German, I imagined that it might cool down during the night or after rain – how innocent of me! In summer, it is ALWAYS hot.
Apart from the heat, pollution is also a big part of Chinese weather and everyday life. Most of the time, the pollution is visible and sometimes even palpable. Making a picture without the pollution visible is a task for someone who knows how to Photoshop! But even on days which seem perfectly clear, there is always some little pollution there – visible from outside the city or from a high building. And if pollution was not bad enough, Chinese are not tidy and clean, they throw rubbish openly on the street or in the ocean not caring about the environment. You would think they might be tidy in their homes? No way! The few homes I have seen, at least the ones in Shandong Province, do not clean the bathroom walls or the kitchen wall behind the cooker.
Another very shocking aspect of China, at least for me, is the traffic. Never in my life, have I seen so many cars, motor bikes and bicycles or people at one place. And everyone just drives as it pleases him – which means you push you squeeze you honk all the time. Getting from one point to another in a crowded city can sometimes take longer than actually walking! But even walking is dangerous because all the bikes, electrical or not, prefer to drive on the sideway as that is faster. One of my scariest moments in China were spent on a bike behind my friend driving on the wrong side of the road, or in a small bus in Guilin which doubles a car doubling a bus!
About the food in China – China is huge and it seems that every city has it’s own delicacies… some of which seem rather disturbing and even disgusting to me – check out the 5 weirdest dishes article on our webpage. So, I do not eat everything, like snakes or baby mice or insects. I haven’t even tried chicken feet. Thankfully, China has many different dishes and everyone is able to find something for himself without needing to starve – except maybe vegans…
Now, about the traditions and behaviour of Chinese people – there are quite some shocking things. For example, I have huge troubles accepting people barfing while eating, or eating with their mouth open. I also am rather downturned by Chinese men or old Chinese women spitting on the street.
There are also some cute behaviours, which make me smile every time. Like small kids, wearing pants with huge holes so that their butts are visible to the whole world.
Some other behaviours are simply weird to us. Chinese people sit squatting most of the time. Just recently, I saw a Chinese man in a shopping mall squatting ON a bench. Or also, there are signs prohibiting to squat on western toilets – Chinese toilets are basically a hole in the floor.