Don’t Wear that Green Hat posts are lists of cultural lessons–often learned the hard way. You don’t have to read them in order, but if you missed the first installment of “Don’t Wear that Green Hat”, you can click on the link above or click here to catch up!
#1. Dung devouring dogs.
This one I learned several years back when my wife and I stayed in a small village with one of my old students. Apparently it is not that uncommon for people to use their dogs as ‘waste disposal systems’. Here’s basically what happens: A baby/toddler walks around with the traditional Chinese split pants. When the child needs to relieve his or herself, they just squat wherever they are and go. Meanwhile, the salivating dog is creeping nearby waiting for his lunch. Yes, I said it. Instead of someone cleaning it up, Fido eats it. I wonder where the dog poops his poop poop? Kind of makes me want to never eat dog. Dogs eating poop isn’t really a surprise(Dogs love poop. Your poop, my poop, their poop, the Pope’s pup’s poop), but it seems to be a normal everyday thing to have a dog nearby for clean up doodie.
#2. The aforementioned split pants.
It is no surprise to anyone who has ever been to China to see babies/toddlers wearing split pants. The pants are actually quite practical. The child needs to go, and they just go! Potty training doesn’t seem to be much of a problem here. I often see parents/grandparents holding the child over a garbage can when it is potty time… possibly teaching them or training them what to do when it is time to go. It is funny when you go clothes shopping for babies in China, because a lot of the clothes have this slit in them. During the winter, as you may have read in a previous blog, they put like 5 million (possibly a slight exaggeration) layers on the child for warmth. Although you will still see that little heinie sticking out. Sometimes I think the layers are pointless when I see those little buns in the wintertime, but what do I know. Diapers in China are starting to become more and more common and easily accessible. Although these pants will never get old.
#3. Blushing red undies.
There are several traditions in relationship with the Chinese new year and the 12 different zodiacs. (Rat鼠 Ox牛 Tiger虎 Rabbit兔 Dragon龍 Snake蛇 Horse馬 Goat羊 Monkey猴 Rooster雞 Dog狗 Pig豬) This one is pretty interesting. Red is considered a very good and lucky color. The zodiac year that belongs to you is considered a very unlucky year for you(called your benming nian 本命年). So if it is your Chinese zodiac year, this would apply to you. It is said that you should wear red every day for the entire year. Many people, instead of wearing red on the outside, will buy some red undies, to stay lucky. Red undies are a good business to be in here in China.
#4. What’s a line?
In the West, it is considered quite rude to cut in line. When you are waiting for food, tickets, going into a theatre, waiting in line at a restroom, the common courtesy is to let the person who was there before you go ahead of you. That makes sense right? So in doing this, a line is created. Well, in China, if you think you are going to wait in line, you are not going to get what you want. They cut and push and run to get to the front. If you have been waiting for 30 minutes and they have been there for 5, it doesn’t matter… they will push their way to the front. This seems to happen to me even more so because I am a foreigner, so they assume I will wait patiently. Haha, nope. I have fully adopted this technique. Plus, at my size, they aren’t really able to move me around, so standing my ground is quite easy. The only problem is, not doing it when I get back to the states.
This one is only difficult because I come from an extremely direct culture. It’s not a funny characteristic like some of the others, but it is a cultural trait that people should understand about Chinese culture if they ever want to visit. Americans generally say exactly what they want, how they want it, when they want it so there is no confusion. Sometimes this comes off as very rude to a person from an indirect culture like China. You have to learn that sometimes a yes is actually a no, and sometimes ‘tomorrow’ means ‘I don’t know’ or ‘never’. I think a lot of it comes down to saving face and not wanting to disappoint others or cause them to lose face. (I am not saying either of these are wrong, I am just making an observation.)
Until next time, DON’T WEAR THAT GREEN HAT!
Meet the author
Jonathan Watts is a Public Speaking and Oral English Instructor at Sias University. Jonathan studied Radio and Television Broadcasting at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach Florida, where he met his wife, Lee Watts, who is also an Oral English Instructor. Jonathan first visited Sias in 2005, and he immediately fell in love with Sias, China, and Chinese people (and of course, Chinese food). Jonathan and Lee are on their 7th year teaching at Sias, and they have a son, Harrison, who was born in China, and a daughter, Eloise. Jonathan enjoys playing bass guitar, ukulele, and singing. He loves taking bike rides around town with his family.