The Importance of Being Open-Minded While on the Road:
The cringe-inducing sound of people loudly and inconsiderately spitting. This is always the absolute first thing that pops up in my mind whenever I think about China.
When I was in China, I heard these disgusting sounds literally EVERYWHERE. Strolling through a park, just as it crossed my mind how peaceful it was… haaaaawwwwk-pppht!
On an overnight train and trying to work myself into a drowsy state to get some shut-eye… almost there… haaaawwwwk-pppht! Damn.
Struggling to stand upright on a crowded subway… every few seconds… haaaawwwwwk-pppht! D-oh!
The flabbergasting cultural trend of locals constantly and endlessly hawking up loogies, seemingly as loudly as they could, wasn’t the only thing about the country which I found highly annoying.
On pretty much every long-distance train ride, Chinese people (mostly men, but women as well) openly smoked cigarettes in closed carriages. Often, they wouldn’t even bother going into the corridors between wagons or near the doors, but rather just light up right in the middle of the crowded carriage! I’m a freaking smoker myself and still it pissed me off.
They’d blast music or videos on their smart-phones in public, with no regard to whether everyone around them wanted to hear the blaring noise. I found this incredibly annoying on overnight train rides when I was trying to sleep. Ever hear of headphones?
Another annoying thing they’d do would be nudging and pushing their way past you, without so much as an apology. This was especially frustrating in crowded areas or touristy places. I can’t count how many times I was trying to take a photo, only to have Chinese inconsiderately walk right in front of me, stop literally in the exact place I’d been trying to photograph, and linger for as long as they pleased. They’d bump and nudge me, sometimes with a force I found almost violent, and never bothered as much as a “pardon me” gesture.
How many times was I standing in a long, slow-moving line, and some Chinese people would literally just walk up and cut right in front of me?!? They’d do it as if it were perfectly normal behavior. I mean, what’s the point of even waiting in line in the first place? Let’s just all crowd up and take turns cutting one another.
The peculiarities of Chinese culture (in my perspective) seemed to extend to all walks of life. In public restrooms, men would openly and unapoligetically unleash thunderous farts, sometimes with a pitch and vibrancy which seemed to cause the entire restroom to rumble and shake (and me to chuckle). Not to mention the infamously unsanitary conditions in the public restrooms. Sometimes they’d even fart loudly in public, and carry on as if it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Parents would often allow their children to loudly scream and shriek in crowded public places, without so much as suggesting they quiet down and be considerate to others. In restaurants, I was irritated with how loudly they slurped up noodle soups.
Wait wait wait…. SAY WHAT?!?!
Hey, what can I say? That’s China. I found a lot of Chinese cultural norms to be mindbogglingly annoying. So just how did I handle it?
If anyone carried out any of the aforementioned grievances in my home country (the United States), it would be considered outlandishly rude. Chances are likely their actions would spawn an argument, or worse.
The point is, none of these things happened in my country. They occurred in the country I was visiting. The country I was a guest in. I realized this and dealt with it the best I could.
The most ironic thing was that Chinese people were extremely friendly.
I was hosted by phenomenal people, always treated well, had many locals treat me to meals or help me out. They weren’t meaning to be rude, they’re just conditioned to certain behaviors.
Was I annoyed? Irritated? Flabbergasted? Sure!
But who am I to tell Chinese people how to behave in their own country?
I gave my full effort not to confront anyone, no matter how rude I perceived their actions to be. I even tried not to show even the slightest bit of annoyance. After all, who am I to tell Chinese people how to behave when I’m visiting China?
My Point Is….
If you venture to an unfamiliar foreign land, you’re most likely going to encounter certain cultural norms, beliefs, and behaviors which are unfamiliar to you and might not make a lot of sense. Some of them might make you annoyed or uncomfortable. You still must always realize it is NOT your country, nor is it your place to tell people how to behave.
China (well, primarily Eastern China, where most of the population is located) is an extremely overpopulated land. Most local people have grown up in crowded atmospheres and developed methods and traditions to coexist within the crowds. These things don’t bother fellow locals like they may bother foreigners. It’s how they grew up and how they learned to live, from a young age. It’s how they were raised. Like it or not, that’s just how it is.
I don’t understand why people of some cultures do some of the things they do, just as many people don’t understand why typical Americans display certain ‘odd’ behaviors. Yes! In many countries, certain behaviors which Americans frequently display can be confusing or even downright rude.
I blow my nose in public without thinking twice, and often I do it very loudly. I’m often unaware of how “weird” that is in certain places until I see the curious glances or laughs of locals.
Many Americans are accustomed to wearing their shoes inside the house. Most cultures around the world would find this very rude and/or offensive.
Some things that just seem so “ordinary” to Americans, such as laughing with your mouth open or putting your hands into your pockets while talking, not saying “no” at first to gifts or suggestions, would be considered incredibly odd in many places.
If a foreign tourist/traveler angrily approached you while you were doing one of these things in the USA and openly showed irritation, how would you feel about it? Exactly!!
When you travel, it’s very important to try and be as open-minded and accommodating as you can be.
Always remember that all cultures are different. Some things that seem so obvious to us might be the precise opposite way to others.
It’s just the way the world works. Make the best of it and don’t let it get the best of you! Good luck out there… stay positive! 🙂