Our 10 observations of China
After nearly 2 months travelling around China, we pulled together our 10 memorable observations:
#1 Better out then in!
A common sound and sight to witness, especially from Chinese men: a loud, deep snort of phlegm followed by a dramatic expulsion of said substance from the body, pretty much anywhere in public.
It was quite hard to capture this impulsively, but we managed to get this sweet old man in action:
We put this down to cultural differences. In Europe, we’re brought up to be ashamed of bodily fluids so we hide it and swallow it. We found that the Chinese however believe that keeping it in will make them sick and prefer to expel it and just spit it out.
#2 Easy access trousers for baby boys
This is kind of cute but absolutely disgusting at the same time. We commonly saw little baby Chinese boys wearing open “easy access” shorts exposing their bottoms:
At Shanghai’s main train station, we noticed the real practical purpose of these shorts: one couple with their baby boy stopped in the middle of the busy, public hallway gate area for their sun to squat down, wee on the floor, get up and move on to catch their train! Take care on those slippery Chinese surfaces people!!
#3 Public exercising and dancing outdoors
We try to keep fit whilst travelling by finding a local park wherever we go for morning circuit exercises or some form of cardiovascular work out.
We found that in almost every public green space in China, there would also be people working out.
In Jingshan Park in Beijing, we noticed these boys practising their boxing, despite the numbers of tourists around:
The elderly in particular would meet in the morning to practice Tai Chi together. This might be more reflective of the lower retirement ages of China (currently 60 for men and 50 for most women).
This one lady at Dali’s Yuer Park had her sword to hand and was just incredible to watch:
The most touching was noticing groups of people of all ages meeting at certain points of the day randomly just to dance with each other, like this group of people in Pingyao:
#4 Pollution and face masks
China is crazy big with many many people, with 20% of the world’s population. But this brings a lot of pollution, covering big cities with a haze of smog. The beautiful financial skyline line for example is almost hidden behind the pollution haze:
We learnt that the pollution in China is particularly bad in Winter time when there is little or no wind to blow it away and the face masks are worn more frequently:
Some people tend to go a bit over the top with the face masks – we frequently saw a few enthusiastic wearers in the cleaner mountain towns like Dali (2,400 metres above sea level) and Shangri-La (3,200 metres above sea level).
These particular girls made us chuckle as they spent a long time trying to get this selfie perfect:
#5 Plastic bottles collected by the elderly
A common sad sight to see when travelling is plastic waste. In China however, the government has a clever initiative in place to minimise plastic bottles wastage. People (usually the elderly) collect the plastic bottles found anywhere and can exchange this for money, keeping the country that little bit cleaner:
#6 Free public toilets are everywhere in China!
Free public toilets are in China what vending machines are to Japan – they are everywhere!
However, unlike anywhere else we have been, these toilets are free to use.
We noticed that there would be a free public toilet even in the more remote mountain areas like in the villages in the Lonji rice terraces:
#7 One child policy
We always knew China had a one child per family policy (the “Family Planning Policy” was introduced in 1979). But we didn’t actually realise it was still in place and strictly enforced!
One of our friends in Beijing, Leox Woo, is a second born. He told us that it is quite hard for family who have a second child. The parents have to pay a hefty fine to the government called a “social maintenance fee” based on their city’s average annual post-tax income. This obviously varies greatly between each city/area in China.
If the fine is not paid, then it means the second “black” child cannot obtain a household-registration document (“hukou”), which brings basic rights such as education.
But apparently the One Child Policy is to be laxed slowly. For example, a couple who marry who are from no sibling families, can now have a second child for free.
#8 Dramatic glamorous hats
Hats are popular in China with both sexes.
For men we noticed hats with brand names were more popular, especially these “Ronaldino” hats:
Ok – so this observation was really more of an excuse for us to buy and show off these gorgeous hats which are sold and worn everywhere:
Sebastien got a bit upset when he realised he couldn’t quite fit his new hat and bag into his backpack:
#9 Shrink wrapped cups and cutlery in restaurants
In almost every restaurant we ate in (whether a small one down a back alley, or a larger more frequented one), we noticed all cutlery and cups came wrapped in shrink wrapped plastic on the tables:
#10 Airport style security in most public places
Whenever we took a metro ride in any city in China, or entered a train station, or any tourist/sightseeing attraction, we had to first queue before entering and place our bags into airport X ray like machines then go through X ray scanners and usually be patted down.
This is a scene from Kunming’s main train station:
BONUS: the Chinese love having a photo with us foreigners
Our final and favourite observations about China was the enthusiasm Chinese people have towards Westerners. Chinese tourists travelling around China in particular liked having their photo taken with us. We obviously loved it and were always more than happy to oblige.
Stefan however was strict in some cases and would only allow himself to be photographed on condition he could pose with the very dramatic sunglasses of some of the Chinese girls:
And it wasn’t just the young, it as all ages who wanted to have their photo taken with the foreigners:
For more, watch our China travel video as we ate our way from Beijing in the North all the way to the south via Pingyao, Xi’An, Shanghai, Yangshuo through to Shangri-La: