Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A few more cultural differences.

One of the reasons that I keep this blog is to remind myself of what it is like here.  We've been here a little over a  year and the extraordinary becomes ordinary pretty quickly.  I am not as hyper-vigilant as I used to be when I ride my bike in our city.  I don't know if that is good or bad!  I am somewhat used to the constant noise of living in a huge city.  I can push my way out of a bus with the best of them, all without making eye contact.
There are a few things that still stand out to me.  Here are a few.

1.  Dishes are put away wet.  We thought that we had a leak under our stove as we saw water in a large mixing bowl that was stored under the stove.  But when the same person put the bowl away again, we saw water at the bottom of the bowl.  A friend told me that it's really common to put dishes away wet.  Remember, no diswashers!  It's just a head shaker for me and one to not question -just make sure that person doesn't put our dishes away!

2.  Perception of cold.  Last year, I got lots of stares as I wore sandals without socks into a warm October.  But I was flabbergasted when it turned cold and I saw people without hats or gloves.  The difference?  In China, feet shouldn't get cold.  In my part of the world, heads shouldn't get cold.
This is felt really strongly with children.  I've brought our foster baby out a few times.  He is a hot, hot kid- sweating at night and like a little water bottle for warmth.  However, according to the grandmas in our neighborhood, he is massively underdressed.  I brought him to the babysitter (ayi) in a onesie on a hot summer day and she asked me where his clothes were.  I thought he was wearing them!

3.  Education.  I am taking Chinese at one of the top universities in our city.  The instructors are top notch, the text books are good and I am so glad I am there.  But it is a totally different system.  Basically, I went in and told the front office that I wanted to try their program for two weeks.  They said okay, gave me the books, told me to go to Beginner 2 level and that was that.  No name, no deposit-nothing.  They did tell me not to write in the books.  After a week, I knew that I wanted to continue so I went to pay my tuition (in cash!) and fill out a form.  "Come back tomorrow."  Okay.  I came back.  "Come back on Monday." one was in the office on Monday.  So today I went in during our class break and told them that they needed to take my money!  I almost believe that I could have attended the whole semester and not paid.  Not that I would have.
Another difference is in study.  In China, you prepare before you come to class and then the teacher teaches you.  So the night before class, I prepare all the exercises with my tutor or alone so that I understand the teacher.  It's almost impossible to understand the lesson unless you do it this way.  In the US, I taught a concept and then assigned homework.  It's the opposite here!  It works...but it is very hard work.

The weather is starting to turn a little here.  We still have warm days and cool nights.  Paul is happy teaching some oral English at a local university and forming relationships there.  I love my classes and being around an international population again.  We have a group of North Koreans in our classes and I am totally fascinated by that.  There are a few young girls and some men.  The men all wear pins with their country leader on them. It's just amazing to meet people from such a mysterious place.


Ling Bunch said...

pins with their country leader
-- they used to wear that in China too.

Tanya said...

I love these glimpses into the culture there.

Lisa said...

yeah. That overdressing babies are very common there. We are very afraid of babies getting sick because they are cold. Lots of babies wear long sleeves and pants in hot summer days. Probably why I am cold all the time here in the states in air conditioning rooms.

prechrswife said...

I think our daughter had on 4 layers of clothes when she joined our family, and it was September. Not uncommon to get fussed at in public by the Chinese grandmas thinking our babies were under-dressed. We usually kept our daughter in the front carrier with a blanket over it, so you couldn't really see how she was dressed.

Walking to China said...

That's what we do, too!