We are back from the Far East. China is certainly one of those places that everything about it is foreign.
When you can’t read or speak the language, don’t recognize most of the food, and when everyday activities have to be thought about, you are “somewhere else."
Our two-week of travel from Beijing to Shanghai showed us big cities and smaller towns. I couldn’t help but notice some major differences in our two cultures.
The Chinese refer to Caucasians as “big nose” people. With their flat faces and small noses, this makes sense, and I’m glad it’s just our noses they want to point out.
Because basically, our American girth is quite obvious. Chinese are so much more fit and active. Public green spaces are filled with senior adults doing tai chi in the mornings. Families are using public exercise equipment. (“why can’t we have this?”) They ride bikes and walk everywhere, most of the time hauling large loads.
Americans go inside for fitness training. It seems our outdoor sports are competitive and not enjoyed just for the social aspect.
Chinese eat many small dishes at one meal. There may be six to eight small items served family style on a lazy-susan on a round table. We ate off saucer sized plates with chop sticks. This really slows down consumption speed.
We Americans super-size everything and eat off platter-sized plates. Chinese drink tea from a tiny cup while we sit down with a quart jar.
We ate at the new Honey Creek BBQ in Grove before we left. There was a half dozen flavors of BBQ sauce on the table along with ketchup and the usual salt and pepper. Any restaurant will have a variety of sauces should one ask.
Not in China. Salt and pepper aren’t always present on the table and asking for condiments is not expected. The chefs prepare the dishes with the attitude if you don’t like the food and desire to add additional flavor, you need to go down the road to different restaurant. But the restaurants down the road have the same attitude.
We saw some wonderful shows and theater productions. Many times son, Caleb and I were the ones starting the applause. The locals did not clap during the production or even at the end so much. I was leaping to my feet, and they were leaving quietly.
The Chinese are modest. Body functions especially related to the toilet are delicate subjects not to be discussed in mixed company. Although toilets were popular billboard subjects, they always featured a female American model.
I made the comment that I didn’t see many pregnant women. Our guide told us that women stayed home the last month of pregnancy and the first month after the baby was born.
He mentioned health reasons, fear of risk, and privacy as a few of the reasons. Our culture has become quite accepting of the “baby bump” and sharing all birthing details.
The one-child law is no longer in effect in China, but the mentality is still there. Most young couples only desire one child and enjoy spoiling it.
The list could go on, but then it’s only an observation, maybe not even totally accurate.
The world is becoming smaller. I said good morning to a man in the elevator. In great English, he asked where I was from, and I replied “Oklahoma.” He lit up and said he had attended college in Oklahoma! I smiled, and asked him where. He said “Oklahoma City University,” and it was my turn to light up and say “I graduated from OCU!” We laughed and shook hands. Maybe there aren’t that many differences after all.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.