Remember that show Seinfeld… where he found the humour in everyday mundane tasks? Well Jerry would have had a heyday here in China. Here are some of the funny things we noticed. This is not an exhaustive list as new things happen everyday. Some made me laugh, others shake my head and go huh? or get us a little frustrated.
1. The ice-cream truck…. the sweet melody of a cute tune is not to tell you to come and get ice-cream, but to warn you to move as the street is about to be washed with a HIGH power spray. It would hurt if you got in its path.
2. bikes… are everywhere. Now that China has become a developing nation and has expendable cash there are a lot of cars on the road, but the traditional bikes are still popular. You have electic and pedal kinds. Look out because they drive everywhere – including sneaking up behind you on the sidewalk. Some have trailers and they are piled high with cardboard or styrofoam…. like 6 or 7 feet from the ground… it is all tied on. I guess they recycle it? It looks like a large “nest” on their bikes. I want to know how they balance and drive these things. There is also the plant lady who sells large plants from her bike. We bought one and John said how heavy the 1 plant was (and we bought one of the smaller ones) and she had plants double and triple the size (like small trees).
3. Speaking of traffic… red lights do not mean stop, but depending on your size (the larger the better) you can still go through the lights as long as you beep first! If a light takes too long to change and no cars are coming, beep and proceed! Turning lanes – psssh take the shortest route possible, especially if the light has already turned green for the other side, cut off oncoming traffic. This works really well for small mopeds and electric bikes (yikes!). They drive crazy here and amazingly we have only seen 2 accidents and they did very little damage. So what is wrong with us and we follow the road rules?
4. As a child (or adult sometimes) the world is your toilet. Small children wear footie pjs with a slit in the back, which I later learned was for convenience. Just sit the child down in the hover position and they can go to the bathroom where ever. Then the parent just gets some newspaper and cleans it up. While waiting in a long line for the washroom (only 2 stalls were working) I heard a commotion and a lady came running in with her 3 or 4 year old daughter. Instead of waiting for a stall she just let her pee on the bathroom floor near the floor drain. A lady we met who works at IKEA said it has happened there on the showroom floor. She told the lady that isn’t acceptable and the lady said well it was an emergency, she had to go. (Oh so that makes it OK? – it was an emergency) John saw a man holding his son over a garbage can and had him pee in that… oh look a fountain, no wait a minute it’s a child going pee! This man must have some class (or no paper to clean it up) as he let the child go in the trash instead of the floor.
5. Speaking of children… I had a very interesting cultural experience. Saturday we went to one of my fellow teacher’s apartments and she invited a few Western teachers and 2 of the Chinese teachers from school to teach us how to make dumplings and they brought their children. We always hear how well-behaved Chinese students are in school (especially here). Well the one child was running around and jumping on the bed and under the covers! This child was in the laundry and wearing the teacher’s bra on his head (she was so embarrassed and didn’t think she needed to put her laundry away as it was in the spare room drying). And the child was even in people’s wallets! We had music on and they wanted to watch TV, so as we got busy making dumplings they took it upon themselves to shut the music and turn on the TV. We found out later rarely do they watch TV since they usually have homework, music lessons and then they must study and practice their music. So maybe without structure they let loose? One of my co-teachers (from the UK) was mortified. She has children and she said that they were always taught to be polite and not touch other people’s things (never mind roll in their beds and make yourself “right at home”). Now that was a cultural difference I wasn’t expecting… what we view as unacceptable behaviour was OK and ignored. Or was the mom just too embarrassed to say anything?
Stay tuned for more….