I was asked yesterday if I had any culture shock in coming to Beijing. At first nothing came to mind, since I feel like I have adjusted fairly fast, but on pondering there are a few things I still have trouble wrapping my head around.
The biggest difference I have to get used to is that children here are allowed to go to the bathroom absolutely anywhere. These little toddlers walk around with holes in the back of their pants specifically for this purpose. At first you think its cute seeming them waddle around half exposed (a similar feeling I imagine young mothers have towards their toddlers that urges them to takes photos that will perpetually be a source of embarrassment to that child).
But it doesn't matter how adorable the child is, once they stop walking and start squatting you better watch out. It isn't that far of a stretch, in my mind, to recommend signs that read “please pick up after your small children”.
Of course one of the first things you must get used to living in China is the spitting, most common in the older generation. I don’t exactly want to go into detail, but it is very alarming at first. There is always a fear that you will be spit upon so you must take the utmost precaution. As soon as you hear the tell-tale signs of someone getting ready to spit you must be on guard. Swerving sharply is a good idea, but not onto on coming traffic, since that would be much worse. You may think that would be uncommon, but when cars and mopeds use pedestrian sidewalks as their own private roads, no one is safe.
Lastly, you have not been in Beijing unless you have taken the subway at rush hour or during the National Holiday. When I say the subways are packed I mean there is barely breathing space. You are pressed right up against complete strangers and have to pretend that it’s nothing out of the ordinary. When the subway jolts side to side, everyone sways as if they were one body, and there is nothing to brace yourself against but more bodies. The good news, as always is, if you’re on the subway and you start getting sleepy have no fear, you can’t fall over! It is virtually an impossible thing to do, so the best thing you can do is rest your head on your backpack (which should be carried on your front in such extreme circumstances as this) or the next closest one. You will know when it’s your stop by the mass rush towards the doors. This is when you fight, with all your might to not get stuck between the doors, and tumble onto the platform. If you can survive that, then you are well on your way to becoming a bona-fide Beijinger.