I guess that after reading the first part of this note, some people might have changed their holiday destination if it was China. The last blog entry could have been perceived by some readers as harsh, cruel or ruthless, however this is what frustrates me personally and this is my point of view only based on the experience I gained working, travelling and living with Chinese people. Here are the other top 10 out of 20 most annoying things in China:
11. Open windows in the winter.
One of the signs of approaching winter in China are Chinese people wearing a few more winter clothing outside and much heavier clothing inside the buildings. The reason is that it is much colder inside their houses than outside. It means that when it seems to be pretty sunny outdoor in early December, you might be freezing in your flat anyway, like I was at that time. However, the most annoying thing is that Chinese people always leave their windows and doors wide open all year long no matter how cold it is and what temperature outside is: on the trains, in the restaurants, at schools, in flats and houses- everywhere!! For God’s sake!! It’s soooo cold, people, can’t you feel it?! What do they do to warm themselves up then? They buy a wooden electric box with a big whole (it looks like a mini piano). They sit down on a coach or sofa and keep their feet inside the box, cover their legs with thick cotton or wool material (it might be a blanket, bed sheet or quilt) to keep the warmth and finally plug it in so they can control the level of heat.
Yes, they do it while all doors and windows stay wide open!!! People in small villages make wooden tables with a big whole in between and put some wood underneath to set the fire and cover it with a cotton blanket so they can warm their feet under the blanket where the fire is already on. During the winter my heater air conditioner was useless as it did not give much heat. I was simply freezing at night sleeping with super warm winter clothes and my gloves on. Therefore, I hate winters in China. For me, Chinese are not ready for heavy snow and freezing winters at all. Late December, whole January and February were one of the worst months here for me. I even had to stop travelling at that time as the temperatures were too low for me. The other thing I have noticed during the winter time is that Chinese always wear their winter clothes indoors. They never change their clothes when they come indoors. They cook a dinner at home wearing their coats, eat a lunch in the restaurant with their jackets on and work in offices or shops also wearing sweaters, hats, gloves and scarves. Shanghai was pretty humid this winter but Hunan province was one of the worst when it comes to winter temperatures unlike Chongqing, which is 5 hours by bus from the place where I stay, where it was pretty warm in late January (more or less +12 degrees). In Huayuan, my bathroom was very cold and it was tough for me to take a shower without shaking and I used all possible methods to make myself warm such as keeping all lights on all the time or using electric fan. Fortunately, it is getting much warmer at the moment and I can enjoy the nice weather.
12. Lack of certain cosmetics.
China can be a nightmare for girls when it comes to make-up cosmetics, good quality shower gels, shampoos, hair conditioners and so on. The most frustrating is the lack of deodorants! Actually, there are some available in big cities such as Beijing/ Guangzhou/ Shanghai but certainly not readily. Unfortunately, stores in Hunan province do not carry deodorants at all. Why? Some say that Chinese simply do not need deodorants because of their healthy diet and some other genetic factors their bodies do not emit that much foul smelling odors as European people do. Therefore, you can find them only in big cities where there are many foreigners. For the first few weeks here I had been using the cosmetics I took with me from home. However I remember that when I ran out of them I struggled a lot. Without dental floss, deodorants and proper tooth paste I felt really uncomfortable so I started ordering them from stores in Beijing and Shanghai via the Internet. The price was much higher but it was definitely worth it. The other thing is the quality of make-up cosmetics, it is really bad. I could not find my favourite powder or eye liner and those ones I bought here caused a skin rush on my face so I simply stopped putting make-up on my face. Moreover, shampoo I have been using makes my hair extremely dry and the shower gel does not soften my skins properly as it should do. There are also many fake cosmetics sold on the market as well as in local shops.
13. Pushy people.
1. Being pushy when trying to sell something to me.
Example 1: I arrive at Huayuan bus station which is located in the centre of the town. The taxi drivers are waiting for me outside the bus so they can offer me a ride to the school. I get off the bus and they keep screaming in Chinese “Where are you going?!” or in English “Taxi! Taxi!” I ignore them as I want to take a walk but they keep pushing me and trying to drag me into their cars opening the car doors. I need to push them away to get out of the crowd and go over the other side of the street. They don’t stop following me for the next couple of minutes.
Example 2: I go to the shop to buy some t-shirt. As soon as I enter the shop 3 members of staff start to follow me showing me some coats, jeans and shirts saying in English “It’s beautiful!” They do not even ask me first what I am trying to find. All they want is to sell to me as much as possible. I say nicely that I am not looking for a coat, I am trying to find a black t-shirt. They say there are no black t-shirts available in stock but instead of this they have a lovely black coat to sell. WHAT!!?
2. Trying to have a control over me and everything I do.
People often ask me “Where are you going?”, “What did you have for your lunch?”, “What did you do this weekend?” and I do not mind it. However, they sometimes cross the line and try to know absolutely everything about what I do every day with the exact time. Some teachers call me and the first question they ask is “Where are you now?” When I say I’m home, the next question is “Why are you at home?” When I say “I’m working” they ask “What are you working on?” and soon. When I do shopping in the supermarket people look into my basket and touch the products I buy in order to find out what it is (madness) and make some comments on the food I buy (when I buy fruits and vegetables they say I am on a diet or I must be cooking for my boyfriend and when I buy some fast food they say I can’t get used to Chinese food or I am fat). Moreover, when I text someone, teachers and students are likely to stare at my phone and read my messages asking me “Who is Andrew?” (The guy who I was texting at that moment). When I use my laptop in the office, teachers keep looking at websites I surf or read my e-mails. Sometimes Chinese people’s behaviour is unacceptable and way too rude to me. I mean it’s rude to me but probably they can’t see anything wrong with it. It’s just the way they want to find out something more about me. Maybe they are just curious about my life. I don’t know but I often consider their behaviour as disrespectful. Chinese, I need some privacy!!
3. Putting some pressure on me when it comes to eating
Chinese have three big meals a day: breakfast (6.00- 8.00), lunch (11.30- 13.00) and dinner (17.00-19.00). It is completely different from my eating habits as I prefer to have 6 or 7 small meals every 2-3 hours. They don’t understand that. So when it’s dinner time they need to make sure I show up on time and eat as much food as they want me to eat and drink as much alcohol as I can. They can call me 4 times to tell me the dinner is ready even when I say “No, thanks. I’ve already eaten and I’m full” (in Chinese). They don’t get it though and keep annoying me repeating it many times. When I get angry they put even more pressure on me saying “You must eat now. The headteacher will get angry” Whatever people! I often end up eating the food I don’t want to and drinking Chinese wine I hate with a smile on my face to entertain everyone around. How annoying!
14. Bad hygiene.
I have noticed that Chinese don’t pay much attention to their daily hygiene routine. It seems like they don’t have their hygiene routine at all. I’m not saying here all of them don’t take a shower and stuff, just trying to explain that most of them have really bad hygiene habits such as changing their underwear every three days, taking a shower once a week, not brushing their teeth at all, not using body creams and other cosmetics, not shaving off and so on. They have a bad breath especially in the morning and their teeth look horrible like they have never ever seen a tooth paste before and the bad body odor might kill you. Here are some examples. Every time I enter the classroom and walk through to ask random students some questions it smells like they don’t change their socks. It is sometimes unbearable. The other day I asked one of my students “What is your favourite day of the week and why?” and he replied “Saturday because I can take a shower”. WHAT!? At first I thought it was a joke but my students quickly explained to me that there is no hot water in the school so during the winter they can take a shower only at the weekends when they get back home. I just couldn’t believe. How come? They do morning exercises at 9 am, then boys play basketball and girls play badminton or jump a rope on the school yard during their lunch break, go back to the school for afternoon classes, then run and dance in the afternoon and evening exercises at 9 pm before bed time. These students are so physically active and they need to take a bath or shower at least once a day. If they don’t, that means they stink all day long till they go back home on Saturday. Wow, still can’t believe it!! When I told them that I must take a shower at least once a day they were like “Wow! Teacher, you are so clean”. Additionally, during Chinese New Year (see “Happy Chinese New Year 2012!”) I noticed that people didn’t take a shower at all. There was no hot water there and they just washed their faces and went to sleep wearing the same clothes as they wore all day long.
15. Bad quality products.
There are two possibilities when buying an item in China. It is either super cheap and super crappy, as it will probably break down after you touch it, or it’s very expensive (for Chinese standards which equal European prices) and its quality is very good. I was so frustrated when I bought an IPod which turned out to be a fake and I had to send it back to the seller, shoes which fell into pieces after a week or so and a bike which keeps breaking down (two days ago both tyres got punctured). Unlike China, Hong Kong is a place where you can get good quality products for a little money. Therefore, every time I visit Hong Kong I make a list of all items I need and get from there.
16. Lack of rules on the roads.
Junior 1 campus is a 20 minute walk from the main campus where I live and where Junior 2, 3 and all senior classes take place. For this reason I bought a bike to get conveniently from one place to another. Additionally, I ride a bike to the supermarket when I need to do some shopping and go to other villages around Huayuan in my free time. To be honest, every time I ride my bike I keep getting frustrated as people seem not to have a clue how to behave on the road. The red light is always green for them and they always try to overtake. It’s pretty scary I must say especially when I listen to music while cycling. After a bike accident which happened to me about a month ago when the taxi driver drove and crashed into my bike so powerfully that the bike wheel broke into two pieces, I am extra careful now. Fortunately, nothing happened to me. I just fell on the ground and got some bruises. Chinese, when it comes to driving, go from one extreme to another. They either drive a car freakily fast and dangerous or way too slow. The bus drivers are the worst though. Every time I get into the bus I pray to get off it in one piece. It’s madness. You can get sick because of unexpected turbulences. Once I was in rush and took a motorbike from the school gate to get to the bus station. It was raining and the guy was driving so fast and I was pretty scary. He didn’t even give me a crash helmet. Since that time I prefer to walk. It’s the safest option.
17. Tasteless sweets.
When I feel like eating something sweet, going to a shop to grab some chocolate isn’t the best idea. Why? The chocolate is tasteless here. Not only the chocolate itself but also the other sweets such as cookies, muffins, biscuits or lollipops. I don’t know why. I’ve heard before that Chinese are still learning how to make a good chocolate (so far with no results) but I didn’t know that all sweets might be like that. I am used to eating delicious and creamy éclairs, chocolate brownies, yummy cakes and I am addicted to Maltesers! I can keep eating Chinese sweets and it can’t satisfy me in terms of consistency and good taste. The only one product which taste as good as it should is Pringles crisps but I’m not a big fan of them. So Chinese, there is one more thing to work on- SWEETS!
18. Telling wrong directions.
For unknown reason, if you ask a Chinese for direction, he or she will always tell you where to go. Yes, always even…… if he or she has no clue where the place you are heading to is!!!! I don’t know if they want you to get to a wrong place on purpose or they are just too kind or/ and proud to say “I’m sorry. I simply don’t know” They look at your map, they think for ages to give you the answer being so sure so you believe them. After a 20-minute walk you ask another person for help and you find out the way you’ve gone through so far was wrong and you need to turn around and completely change your direction, mostly go all the way back till you get to the place where you asked the first person for direction. Wrrrrr! One of my friends explained to me that surely most of the time Chinese don’t understand our Chinese language and they don’t want to upset us by saying “I don’t understand your Chinese” so they just pretend they understand what they are asked for and show a random direction to get rid of us.
19. The number of students in the classroom.
Teaching more or less 80 students in one classroom is not an easy job, especially when it comes to practicing oral English. It’s almost impossible to ask each student a question and wait for his/ her response for more than a second. For me, as a teacher, it is something I really struggle with as I want them all, one by one, to practice oral English. Because of this, I don’t know all the names of my students by heart and when I see their faces in the street I can’t tell what class they belong to. I only know that I have seen them before. Of course, there are some active students whose names I will never forget but there are only a few of them. The rest of the class is very quiet and, will all respect, all Chinese faces sometimes seem to be the same for me. I recognize all teachers though and I know their English names. You can image what happens when all of my students start to talk, chat or shout. It gives me a headache. Junior 1 and Junior 2 are very active when we work in groups. They have lots of ideas which they want to share with me- all of them at the same time. In this case, the best idea is to drill pronunciation all together, but most of the time they want to talk to me one by one which is extremely difficult.
There is always a stack of paper to fill in when it comes to applying for Z visa or extend the L visa. This is the time when I often lose my patience. What’s even more frustrating, Chinese confuse themselves with bureaucracy. You can go to the police station in Chongqing when you are asked to provide some documents from Hunan police station. At Hunan police station you get told off for not providing all documents from Chongqing police station and you are sent there to get more papers and so on. It’s pretty much like a never ending story. The next annoying thing is that Chinese, for some reason, are not willing to translate to you what, for example, the policeman or policewoman just said. They just say “It’s ok.”, “We are ok”, etc. I guess language abilities don’t allow them to translate word by word properly so they just give up and say what they say.
Despite all of these, mentioned in the 1st as well as 2nd part of the note, difficulties and frustrating things I find in China, I am still enjoying myself a lot. Undoubtedly, I’m having a time and adventure of my life and I wouldn’t have a thing. As long as I am myself and don’t fuss over trifles, keep smiling and stay positive I’m absolutely fine to face another challenges! CHINA, bring it on!!