Current China Curiosities 

posted in: Everyday Life, Uncategorized | 3

This weekend marks three years since I arrived in Beijing.  You might think that after three years, I have a pretty good understanding of China.  But this week at Velvet Ashes, the theme is curiosity.  So I started to think about all the things I’m still curious about.  My brainstorm completely filled a page in my journal, and I could have kept going (there were whole topics I didn’t even start writing down).  

It is a good thing that living in China teaches you to deal with ambiguity.  I’m learning to not need a clear answer all the time, because sometimes the answer depends on where in China you are or how soon significant political meetings will take place or other factors that are not clear to me.  I’m okay with that, and i hope that this post will help you understand both living cross-culturally and the marvel that is modern China.

Here’s an event I was curious about: a Sunday afternoon tea making/pouring/culture class for kids in a shopping mall.  I’m not sure if was special for the minor holiday it happened on or if is a regular occurrence in that city (I wasn’t in Beijing).

Here’s some of the things I’m currently curious about:

  • How does anyone actually afford to buy an apartment in Beijing?  Prices start somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million USD for a 2 bedroom, 1,000 square foot apartment.  And you need 30% for the down payment.  Most people do own apartments, so somehow the math works out for them.
  • How do couples meet, start dating, and get married?  I’ve heard some stories, and in general it seems to go quite quickly and people are more pragmatic than romantic.  But it still feels mysterious to me.
  • What do the strangers (usually from out of town) who want to take a photo with me do with those photos?  Do they put them in vacation photo albums with captions along the lines of “here’s a foreigner in Tiananmen Square”?
  • What textbook (or other information source) says Americans eat steak and hamburgers every day, never eat rice, and only eat sweet food?
  • Do people know what their t-shirts mean?
  • Will better quality plumbing ever become a value?
  • How do people express their thanks to close friends and family?  They don’t usually say “thank you” to those they are close to because it isn’t good for relationships.  But I suspect there are things they do instead.
  • What is a Chinese funeral like?  (I’ve never had an occasion to attend one)
  • How do people not get heat stroke at the end of April when it is 85-90 degrees and they are still wearing long underwear?
  • Does anyone ever get annoyed with all the advice giving and just want someone to listen?  I know that advice giving is a way people show love and care, and maybe everyone is so used to it that it doesn’t annoy them.  But I still wonder….
  • Is cold water actually bad for your stomach?

3 Responses

  1. Lauren Pinkston

    These are great questions, Ruth! I have some of the same questions living in Laos just across the border. Specially, is cold water actually bad for you?! I totally agree with the process of becoming comfortable with ambiguity, which is hard coming from a culture with such specific and direct communication. ?

  2. Amanda

    I love these questions. Specifically the one about the cold water being bad for your stomach. And I’ve also considered the thanking people quandry. I hope to see a future blog answering these questions???

  3. Ksa

    My favourite question was the photo shoot with a foreigner… it seems like thousands of people have taken my picture and I have wondered too ” am I just another oddity they came across in the western part of Middle Kingdom?”

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