Sunday, July 24, 2011

China and America

Someone asked me to compare China with the USA.  Understanding that we are just "tourists" staying in hotels and not living here, I will compare the best I can.  There are major differences and similarities I've noticed while being here.  Some things I prefer the USA's way of doing things, others, I prefer China's.

Health - It seems the Chinese people are very healthy.  We've seen very few overweight Chinese.  They all drink hot tea at least a couple of times daily. Elderly people are out everywhere exercising, dancing in the park, playing a form of hackey sack and board games, playing instruments.  There are exercise parks for adults.  Seeing the activity from the adults, especially the elderly, makes me happy.  I just don't see that in the US.  People go into gyms to workout, but it's different here.  The exercise is a way of life, done in the midst of whatever else may be going on.  It's fun to witness.

Safety - It's just as safe in China, I'm guessing.  There are many things we see here that would be considered "safety hazards" in the US, but after reading some Freakonomics, I think our ideas of safety and danger in the US is totally perceived.  We don't wear seatbelts.  The boys don't sit in car seats.  Many high edges are not well-protected.  (The 9th floor swimming pool or the 1-story high drop into the river across from our hotel.)  We have seen things at playgrounds that would close an entire park here; things such as a broken plastic window or sharp metal edges.  The kids seems to work around these "hazards" and the high ledges just mean adults have to actually watch their kids.  Imagine that.

Fashion - The girls all seems to dress very cute and fashionable.  They wear what looks to be very painful, but gorgeous shoes, too.  I feel totally underdressed in my Teva sandals, shorts and tank tops every single day.
We see many girl/boy couples wearing matching shirts.
When it's hot out, the men of all ages roll up their shirts, exposing their belly.  We have coined the term "belly show" whenever we see this, which is all the time.  :)
We just don't see immodesty here.  (I don't count the belly show as immodesty.)  We also don't see public displays of affection.  Here in GZ, we are in a famous wedding/engagement photo-taking area.  We see girls in wedding dresses and couples dressed to the T all over the place.  Today, a photo was being taken of a sweet young couple.  The photographer had the girl in her beau's arms, her face very close to his.  As soon as the shot was taken, she pulled back, fanned herself and giggled, seeming like she was so shy and embarrassed.  It was sweet!

Hotels - Scales, slippers, robes, and dirty laundry basket are standard in every room. Foot-sanitizing stations at pools are interesting.  Evidently, hotel pools used to require swim caps.  None of our have thus-far  though.

Restaurants - Food is brought out whenever it's ready. No waiting for everyone in your party. We asked our guide why and he said there are too many people.  There is no time to wait for everyone's food to be ready at the same time. (This is true whether you are a party of 2 or party of 20.)

Napkins seem to be foreign to the Chinese.  Most places have a small box of tissue at the tables, others have nothing at all.

Traffic - Many scooters, motorized bikes, bicycles and cars.  We will have to re-train our kids (even our birthkids) to not walk so close to moving vehicles once we are back home.  In our almost-three weeks here, we've seen one fender-bender.  Honking is plentiful here, but not aggressive.  It is used as a way to say, "I'm coming through, do you see me?"  Cars and bikes will just GO and expect pedestrians to wait.  No pedestrian right-of-way here. Pedestrians will walk very close to the traffic and continue walking into oncoming traffic, but they are so good at judging time and distance and speed that the car whizzes by right in front of their toes.  I must admit, we are getting good at this, which is why we will have to retrain our kids.  It's normal here, but would freak out drivers in the US. I am not nervous when we are being driven around.  The Chinese drivers have proven they know what they are doing, so we just trust them. Same with walking across the street close to moving vehicles.
We have seen very few women drivers of cars.  Our female guides always have a driver and proclaim that they don't want to learn to drive.  Car driving is mostly a "guy" thing here.  (Okay, guys in the USA, we ladies don't need to hear your snide comments about that. And I'm sure that has nothing to do with the few wrecks we see.)

Personal Space - You don't really have it here when out in public.  We've had people just walk right up and get 2 feet from our face to stare at us.  In lines, queues and other places we are used to "waiting our turn," we've learned we must be, what seems to us, agressive to keep our place in line.
This must be a learned behavior.  Today at the park, Tian was at the top of the slide, waiting to go down.  Three or four kids were at the bottom playing, climbing half way up, the sliding back down.  In the US, parents would shoo their kids off the bottom of the slide so the child at the top could slide down.  Not so here.  The parents just looked on, smiling. Finally, Tian slid down, running into the kids at the bottom, then climbing over them to get off.  Oh well, when in China...

Personal Freedoms - Internet access is severely restricted. No Gmail.  No Picasa Web.  No Blogger.  No Facebook or Twitter.  Limited results on search engines.  We find it stifling.

Accessibility isn't even a consideration here.  GZ is the first place we came that has "ramps" into hotels and stores, but that's only because of all the adoptive families using strollers.  The ramps are short, narrow, and very steep.  I can't imagine trying to push yourself up one in a standard chair.  No wonder people with different abilities are dependent here.  The environment here does not allow for independence if you don't walk.

Of course, if I lived here and saw people's homes and daily life, I would have more to comment, but this is our perspective as brief visitors.  I'm sure I will think of more things as time goes on.  I may realize more differences once we arrive back in the US.


  1. Interesting. I never thought about the internet being so restricted. How are you managing to blog/FB/post pictures? Enjoy your last few days!

    Lisa J.

  2. Sarah-
    Hey there! It is so wonderful that Tian and Travis are playing more together and beginning to love each other too.
    A couple of tips I meant to write earlier today but have been gone all day:
    - if you have not gone across the bridge to check out the weird dried things market, you should check it out. I wished we would have snapped photos of the dried snake skins and seahorses.
    -if you go the Pearl Market and want to eat at McDonald's, just know it is very hot and crowded. There are two McDonald's across the street from each other, but it sounds like both are always packed. My hubby thought he was going to faint when ordering. It was hard to find a seat upstairs, but some nice Chinese people did finish up quickly and gave us their seats.
    -you may not have time to go the Safari Park and the CCAI guides won't come with you (they arrange a trip to the Guangzhou zoo instead) but it was SO cool. The guides said it was an hour to the Safari Park, but it took us more like 45 minutes we think. You saw a lot of zoos and pandas in Fuzhou, though, so may not be necessary. I don't think you will like the Guangzhou Zoo after what you saw in FuZhou.

  3. Some things must just be Asian. ie men rolling up their shirts over their bellies when they're hot (same here), having vehicles run close to, but not over, your toes (same here), "what is safe" completely relative (same here) ie no seat belts, no railings on roofs, etc. although in our personal car we have booster seats and use seat belts, personal space nonexistent (same here). Dan calls it "The billion person syndrome"...when you're one in a billion if you're last in line there's nothing left for you.

    Continuing to pray for you. Love the pics and updates. Love your family (all 7 of you!) Love, Darla