Top 8 Overwhelming Culture Shocks in China

IMG_0893We have touched down in China as of November 23 and are overwhelmed by everything from the pollution to the language. We have spent both of our birthdays here and holidays which were very hard. Luckily everyone at our school has been very welcoming and kind. We are the farthest one can be from China and have truly been effected by culture shock. We wanted to compile a list of the top overwhelming culture shock in China to give you guys an idea.

1. Toilets– When we first arrived I was seriously not prepared to squat all the way down to use the restroom. After that 16 hour plane ride I come to this? Not only that, it reeks of urine and other things because they wipe and throw it away in the trashcan right next to the hole. They don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet they throw it away and when you flush the toilet it goes into the sewer down the street, which is why we smell sewage outside. For starters, the toilets are a hole in the floor so there’s no more sitting, it’s a quick drastic change from the squat. Make sure your phone isn’t in your back pocket because then its over, back to America! Every bathroom we’ve been to there are dirty footprints where your feet go because the people in China do not believe in cleaning even the workers do not want to be in there. Their cleaning is using hot water no soap. The toilet is separated from the sink so you go into the closet sized space to do your business and then you proceed out to the sinks where 95 percent of people skip this step. We don’t know if everyone has a personal bottle of hand sanitizer with them but toilet paper and soap are not provided in public restrooms. So, you can imagine how nasty this can get. Paper towels? Don’t even think about it. I guess it’s due to how they don’t conserve any of their natural resources. There’s no recycling so every plastic container or paper product you get is as thick as it possibly can be. For example, Yanni struggled to unwrap a piece of plastic covered french bread so we had to resort to using scissors to open it up.The toilet paper is like 5 ply thick, you only need two squares. On to the next.

Sign says, “Please no paper in toilet” and it’s only in english because it’s at our job where english teachers work LOL.

2. Manners-What manners? Gentlemen, what gentlemen? I guess we took advantage of excuse me, no thank you and receiving a thank you when helping someone in need. Instead, the most you’ll get is still nothing. Someone will literally bump you or push you and not say excuse me, they just keep it moving. After taking off all of his heavy bags, Yanni helped this woman pick her heavy cart full of furniture off the curb because she missed the ramp, and she just kept it moving no thank you in Chinese, no smile or anything. We were shocked. On the bus on multiple occasions, we saw many women standing some with kids and the men did not give their seats up for them. I guess you could say there’s no respect. They don’t feel the need to waste time on manners. When we first arrived to china, we asked a Chinese friend from our job what the translation was for “no thank you” and she said, “what is that?” So we explained, if somebody wants to sell us something and we don’t want to buy. She said, “oh, Bùyào!” Which means, “Do not want .” Yanni told me there was one time at our company “Christmas” party where he was sitting down with his arm over the back of the chair and somebody basically took his arm off and he just knew he would get at least a turn around. Nada, nothing, zip. Without the right mindset you will end up in many disputes here in China. But we stay positive and remember that we are now the foreigner and in a different culture for sure!

3. Crossing the Street-We were always raised to look both ways to cross the street but here we have to look 360 degrees to make sure we don’t get hit. Cars come from every different angles and sometimes they come down the wrong side of the street to get to the right way. The week before arriving, we heard news that the block that we take every morning to get to our job a person was ran over and died. It all goes back to common courtesy they do not have respect and pedestrians not at all. We thought DC was bad. We are lucky if we get across the street without stopping for a car. They drive fast here and are very aggressive. We see why riding a motorcycle was banned they have too many deaths each year. We haven’t ever seen the police pull someone over for reckless driving. Cars park everywhere on the sidewalk, in front of a business, halfway in the street and on the sidewalk. They will even block off a lane with their parked car.

4. Pollution-For the first 2 weeks we thought Dalian was just a foggy city. Then we were informed that the fog was not fog, in fact it was pollution. How can there be so much pollution? In the winter the pollution can be so bad that you cannot see the top of buildings and only see the silhouette of the mountain. It’s everywhere it’s in the air, it’s in buildings, it creeps through the windows, there’s no escaping pollution. We had to buy an air filter from Taoboa which is like Amazon for China which was 200 RMB. We got this to feel better because we were sick the first 2 weeks we got here in China. We did not get sick just from the weather but from the pollution. Our coworkers and new friends that have been here in Dalian for some time now say we will never get over the mucusy spit that comes from the relentless unforgiving non escaping pollution. And this brings us to our next topic… Spitting.

Top-Olympic Square. Bottom- Olympia 66 Mall recently built behind 4 futbol/soccer fields. Under the fields is Electronic City where you can buy almost anything electronic. Olympic Square. Picture taken around 7:50 am when the sun should have been out.

5. Spitting – Chinese people spit every 5 steps so watch who you walk beside. The internet tells so many lies. Upon arriving I thought the Chinese people were diligent on respect and shoe removal when entering their home. Instead, they may spit on your shoe and you know you’re not getting a “sorry or my bad.” It comes from a long history of a big population of people dying off in China due to the lack of food supply. We will get into that next but a cool fact is when China won a huge soccer match years ago, the government ask the people for one thing and that was to stop spitting. Not sure if it changed much but you will still see white puddles of spit about 4-5 inches in diameter on the floors of your elevator or the streets. Nasty!

6. Food– Anything is fair game, literally. Through our grocery and market shopping we have seen everything and anything being sold as food. Once we thought we were walking through a pet section but it was actually food. Not even a rare delicacy. They eat everything from turtles and frogs to sea urchins and rays. So back to the spitting section about their history. Their food resources being imported were cut off so thousands of people were dying from the lack of food. So in order to survive the people had to adapt and eat anything they could to stay alive. Well that was everything and nothing much has changed since then. I wonder why they never have birds for sell to eat but that is the result of the government. The government declared that there were too many birds so they ordered the people to chase the birds away and kill them. To this day we haven’t seen a bird yet. Finding a clean unpolluted piece of nature is impossible in china. I mean they do build a new building everyday!

7. Staring– It never stops. We did some research online (not always a valid source) and were prepared for the starring as we will be not just foreigners but exotic looking people they have never seen before. And yes they do stare. Back to not having any manors. If you saw somebody exotic would you stare? No, and if you did when they look your way you will pretend to be looking at something else or turn away. Ha, not in china. Oh buddy, they look right into your eyes and size you up. Then get other people to look at you. At first, it was frustrating! What would you do after a week of being sized up and looked at like a funny looking object? I’ll wait. Well I did it. I was like, “What are you looking at? Stop staring at me!” They would say Bob when I walked past like Bob Marley so I would say Jackie for Jackie Chan. I was totally falling into becoming a mad man. So I would talk to people about it. English speakers of course because I can’t remember any chinese words other than my address. I believe in speaking things into existence so I spoke with people. And a friend of mine from America, Alex, told me one thing I remember until this day. It has changed my outlook on things and brought me back to a positive state. He said, “Think about it, you’re the most interesting thing they have seen today if not ever. You just made their week. They’ve never seen a foreigner and they don’t know how to act.It’s not just you, it’s us (white guys) too.” From that point on I pay it no attention.

8. Smoking– Do you smoke? If you blaze your answer probably is, “smoke what?” If you only smoke tobacco your answer is yes. So, do you smoke? Yes, everybody does and everywhere. You can smoke in your apartment into your hallway, down the elevator, through the lobby where the guards are either sleep or smoking, and out the front door across the street into a store. They smoke heavy. The only place you can’t smoke is probably the bank and a few big businesses like Walmart, Ikea, Metro, etc. Now, do not start thinking that there are familiar stores here because there aren’t. That’s about it! So, do you smoke? Smoke what? Uh cigarettes. No, no, no. Still the wrong answer. You will not find herb here and you will not try either. Last month a guy got executed because he was a “dealer.” They hit him with the Mona Lisa, “Off with his head.” Yah, they cut his head off. This is ridiculous but it is the way of life in China for now so until that day play it safe.

Ending notes: The world is bigger than your local city. Explore and adventure the different ways of life. It is interesting to live in China now. We aren’t on vacation for a few weeks we actually live here. It’s like living on a different planet in a different year. We are now the foreigners and the uneducated, wondering, asking a million questions people. But not for long because ultimately that is the point why we are here, to learn and have fun doing it. So remember have an open mind, stay committed and dedicated to your goal, and travel. And Don’t forget, to sice your life!




8 comments on “Top 8 Overwhelming Culture Shocks in China

  1. Awesome! I felt like I was right there in the moment with you going through culture shock. Great blog, keep it coming! One love!

    • Thanks for the comment! We’ve adjusted more since then but there’s some new things to talk about, coming soon stay tuned. 🙂 One love!

  2. Wow! This is a great eye opener.

  3. India Tate

    Hey there! Big eye opener isnt it!? When I visited I experienced some of the same things but not everything, so that was good to see someone elses perspective

    • It definitely is. It’s going on 5 months that we’ve been here already and we’re still experiencing new culture shocks weekly. We’d love to hear some of your experiences!

      • India Tate

        I do remember the whole bathroom thing! very weird! ha. but no where had tissue soap or paper towels. when I stayed in a hotel though in shanghai of course they had regular toilets soap and all. the staring like you said will never stop, you just ignore and get used to it. I did go to a grocery store where you had to bring your own bags or buy bags to put your food in. apparently its like that in Cali too; never knew. Also crossing the street was a mess. we just ended up crossing when everyone else did. madness. All in all big culture shock, but it was worth exploring.

      • I’m so glad you said that. Yes, crossing the street is for the experienced and/or the brave. You have to take it one lane at a time. A friend recently asked me if Huanghe rd and dongbei rd was a highway or could they get a taxi there. My answer was both lol. It really is. And about the bags, everywhere we go they ask if we want to buy a bug and we tell them “don’t want” which is bu shi but the intonation is like saying “bullshit.” Luckily we ordered a 50L hiking bag from Amazon before we left because it’s hard to shop online here let alone buy from Amazon. So we can pack it up but I still have to carry it home. Well did 😉

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