It’s now been almost 6 weeks since we started our journey in China, and one thing is for sure: we’re having a great time! We were able to see several facets of the chinese culture and learnt a lot.
China is really an incredible country, whether it is because of its vast territory, the variety of its landscapes and cuisine but also its people!
We don’t hide it from you, the beginnings were pretty rough. Or let’s say rather surprising…. Chinese habits and manners are sometimes a thousand miles from what we are used to in Europe. But over the weeks we learned to discover this culture a little better and began to understand and accept it better. Whether through our couchsurfing hosts or by meeting people on trains, buses or in restaurants, we have also learned a lot about people and their visions.
Here is a brief overview of our first observations….
When the crowds are in a hurry
When arriving from Switzerland and considering that our largest city has barely 1 million inhabitants (and we’re pretty generous by saying this), then actually being propelled overnight in Beijing is a shock!
During this trip, we really realized what the word “human mass” could mean. Whether in the subway in Beijing, in the Forbidden City or at the Leshan’s Giant Buddha (among others).
At first we were often overwhelmed and we were also often overtaken in the queues. But with the weeks we “learnt by experience” and we got used to it!
Now we’re warriors, real warriors!
The technique? Don’t be afraid to offend someone by pushing them. And when you are in a line, or a human mass, you slightly pull out your elbows and lock them… Then all you have to do is move on! I promise, no one will be offended!
I swear… getting used to this was actually really hard for us. Our cute and polite swiss education being totally in contradiction with the way to behave in China.
Sip up straight and eat properly
That’s a phrase I’ve heard more than once in my childhood! So one thing is for sure, my grandmother didn’t come to China to repeat this sentence mechanically with every bite! Here the habits and table manners are how to say… different!
Here there is no shame in eating loudly, burping, screaming, lying on the table between two dishes, putting your head in your bowl, spitting on the floor and even licking your plate once it is finished! At first it may surprise you, but finally you get used to it pretty quickly!
And honestly the concept of putting your head in the bowl saved me more than once when my chopstick handling wasn’t yet in “ninja” mode and those damn noodles just didn’t want to come to my mouth…
Thus… a new Chinese proverb could be: “If the noodles don’t come to your mouth, your mouth will go to them!”
Ecological tourism, or not
You have already told about it in our article on the Hua Shan, but it is still something that shocked us enormously in China. The Chinese do not yet seem fully aware that with some of their reflexes they are slowly destroying the beauty of their landscape. But what do you want, we will not be able to change things so quickly… It is more a simple observation that saddens us a little. Especially since even when you try, you realize that it’s not really successful.
Our experience in a Chinese bus
A small example? In chinese buses there is a kind of microcosm… The Chinese shout, sing, and eat. What do they eat? Well… Chicken feet, beef intestines, dried pig ears and a whole other bunch of local delicacies that we haven’t really dared to try yet… In short, all these good things are vacuum packed. It is very common to be able to watch a Chinese person unpack his snack or finish his water bottle. Then open the bus window, and simply throw the empty bottle or packaging out the window!
This really surprised us. Especially since in all buses, drivers try to disperse big container that act as bins (also spittoons or ashtrays) along the central aisle. In short, we thought, we weren’t going to start trying to educate the Chinese who were throwing their stuff out the window, but that NO we wouldn’t do the same…
WE have scrupulously put all our waste in these garbage bins! Nice move, don’t you think? Wait for it…
After a couple hours of driving the bus made a short break along the road. While everybody was getting outside to stretch their legs we noticed the bus driver walk up the alley and collect the different bins. At this point We naively thought that he was simply taking them to an official trah container. Welll… It turned out, that he grabbed these bins, left the bus and then released all content in the closest… RIVER!
It’s amazing what the human body can spit out
Does this little paragraph really require me to draw a picture for you? No I don’t think so! I will just say that the Chinese are probably the champions of all categories for throat (and lung) scraping.
And if by chance a new Olympic discipline were to emerge as the “coloured spit” then the dispute for the gold medal should not be too hard! In restaurants, on the street, in a park, on the bus, on the train, at home, in the supermarket: no place is safe!
In order to preserve your appetite, but also to maintain “pretty images” on our site we have chosen not to illustrate this short paragraph…. Hoping that you will understand…;)
Patience is a virtue
We left our respective jobs almost 3 months ago, so the word kind of quit our vocabulary, and it’s amazing how we don’t miss it!
But on the other hand, we realized that comparing to Chinese people we tended to be unaccustomed to patience!
Here, waiting is NOT a problem at all.
For example: you have to buy a bus ticket. The office opens at 9am (in theory). What do ou do?
Well… we wanted to be sure to get a spot on the bus and thus we made sure to be at the station by 8.50… sounds reasonable no?
Sequence of operations
9am: We mechanically take out our wallet because it’s time. (we’re swiss after all) Strangely enough, we are the only ones… not the only ones waiting, eh (there were at least 30 of us). But the only ones who naively believed that the curtain would magically rise in the next few seconds…
9.30am: we poor little Swiss are beginning to worry and wonder if the counter will be open today.
9.35am: a lady who seems to work here enters the room, we are full of hope…
9.37am: This same lady sits on a couch behind us and starts eating noodles. Well, maybe it’s not her who’s selling the tickets after all?…..
9.38am: she burps…
9.50am: she finishes her meal and stands up
9.57am: she nonchalantly makes a symbolic little sweep in the lobby….
10.06am: A gentleman of a certain age walks up to her and asks her for something. Obviously we don’t understand anything. But we suspect that this is a conversation about the opening time of the counter… she nods and continues her little sweep, the gentleman calmly returns in the line.
10.08am: she puts her broom down and sits on the couch to rest.
10.20am: After her well-deserved break she comes behind the ticket office! Ahhhh so it was her! She simply took the time to have lunch, clean up, rest before putting the tickets on sale…
Everyboda stays calm
We are on holiday, meaning this didn’t disturb us more than that. But what amazed us is that in this hall no one seemed irritated, stressed, angry or even a little annoyed…
I let you imagine what the same type of scenario would look like in our country? I think that at 9:01 am the first scandal would have atarted out among the travellers! 🙂
But above all, a constant smile
As you will have understood, some of the Chinese habits have destabilized us, especially at the beginning…
But in the end, the main thing we will remember about this country is the unfailing smile of its inhabitants!
Whether it was the Hans, the Tibetans, the Banns, the Mais or whatever the ethnic group, all welcomed us with a huge smile on their face! If you have a question in China, be sure that almost everyone will be looking for help. And this even if you don’t speak a word of Chinese and they don’t speak a word of English!
Very often the explanations in Chinese did not help at all, but on the other hand it has conforted us each time a little more in the idea that the Chinese really have a heart of gold. It is certain, these 9 weeks that mark the beginning of round the world trip are only the beginning! We will come back to China, that’s for sure!
But let’s not talk about leaving yet! We still have 4 more weeks to enjoy and discover a little more!
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