It has been over 6 months since my family and I made the move to China. While we have become more familiar with some of the earlier mentioned aspects of culture shock, we are still being introduced to other examples while trying to assimilate. I thought I would run a third installment of this series to show you what I am talking about!
When I moved to China, I understood that the country has a communist government. This led me to incorrectly believe that there would be fewer examples of companies marketing their products. I can’t tell you how unbelievably wrong I was. I have seen formats of advertising here that are truly amazing and I can’t believe they haven’t been copied in capitalist countries like the United States! If you have ever seen that episode of Futurama, when they were able to beam advertisements straight into their dreams, it almost feels like that. There are advertisements everywhere! You can’t even escape them if you are at home. We bought a Chinese SmarTV and commercials pop up before we are able to use it or whenever it is on but not being used. Apartment building elevators have either TVs mounted inside the elevator or have a projector that screens a promotion onto the doors the minute the doors are closed. It is not just home life, transportation is obviously an even better way to promote brands. I once entered a hallway changing subways that was plastered with a KFC ad. It wasn’t the typical ad with the colonel either. The colonel we know in the states was replaced with what I can only describe as the ‘young, hot, Asian’ version. It was a little unnerving that he was on all of the walls and the ceiling. It is not just the subway hallways that are plastered with marketing, but also the subway itself. There are posters within the subway, more marketing on the hand-holding straps and even advertising that passes through the window as we go at high speeds. The ones that appear at a fast pace outside are typically commercials for beer or restaurants, but they fascinate me the most. I am sure I will find even more examples of over-promotion as I continue to move throughout Beijing.
The next topic I wanted to bring up was the sale of counterfeit items again! I brought it up in my last post on culture shock, where I was able to find stores full of fake Gucci and Supreme shoes, etc. However, what shocked me enough to mention it in this post was that I found the counterfeit Disney goods. My family and I went into a store to look for baby gifts and found a TON of fake Disney items. Some of the items were fairly convincing but others were the most obvious examples of counterfeit. Those in the states know that this type of rip-off merchandise could never be sold in stores where we are from, but those kind of laws don’t exist in China. This means they can fake everything down to the Disney logo and still be legal to sell. I mentioned this to a friend at work. He wasn’t shocked at all and said that you could find all of the counterfeit Disney merchandise for sale IN DISNEYLAND Shanghai. There are no legal ramifications for it and so it is just something that just slides. That is what shocked me, that expensive designer objects weren’t the only things copied, even children’s toys could be knock-offs.
The next one I want to mention, I actually didn’t believe when I had heard jokes and rumors about them. I had already been through a similar culture shock about squatty potties and thought I had finished with any toilet-related concerns. It wasn’t until I saw the ‘fabric toilet seat cover’ myself, that I went through culture shock again. As western toilets became more popular in China, the Chinese had to go through a sort of culture shock as well. To go from a squatting toilet (where essentially none of you touches the toilet) to a sitting toilet also brings its own set of shocks as well. The fabric toilet seat cover seems to be an attempt to make the sitting western toilet more comfortable. We have all had been there, you sit on a cold toilet and experience that .02 seconds of discomfort before your bum warms the seat. My first contact with this contraption occurred at my birthday party. I was stunned as it was old, odorous….and stained. I could not imagine why anyone would want to have this instead of the sterile plastic seat I had become accustomed to. I will not lie, I was grossed out. The bathroom stunk so much due to this ill-kempt cover that when the door was accidentally kept ajar, the whole party room began to smell. Keep in mind, I had to live here six months until I had encountered my first fabric toilet seat cover, but then I feel like I kept seeing it everywhere afterwards. I would go into a grocery store and see them for sale next to the plungers and toilet cleaners. I am sure typical Chinese families keep their toilet seat covers in much better condition, but I was still turned off by it. Anyways, this is a part of the culture that I will not be emulating.
Continuing on, this one is a little embarrassing because something as simple as a calendar gave me culture shock! This is another thing you don’t expect when moving, that a calendar would give me trouble. With the beginning of the new year, I needed to purchase a new calendar for the 2020 year. I was surprised that the Chinese calendar (and probably many other calendars) don’t start on a Sunday as they do in the United States. Countries like the USA put a lot of religious significance in Sunday and it is always the first day of the week. China, on the other hand, has its calendar weeks start on Mondays, with Sundays bringing up the end of the week. It may not seem like a big deal, but I can not tell you how many appointment dates I have messed up thinking that it was day before! I just see the appointment or party listed on the day that and my mind says that it is a Thursday when in actuality it is on a Friday. It has been annoying to say the least, but overall just another symptom of living in a different culture!
The last thing I wanted to touch on may come up if you consider teaching in another county, it is the gun culture. I have mentioned it in other posts before but I thought I would bring it up again for those that don’t follow my blog regularly. In America, guns are weapons. Even toy guns have many sanctions on them. You can not bring them onto any school campus, they can’t appear real; must have different colors proving it is fake, etc. Consequences for having pellet guns or BB guns in schools can cause expulsion, it is considered extremely serious. However, this is not the case in China. Because guns are not available to citizens in China, the only access to them is toys. This creates a gun culture where guns aren’t necessarily weapons, but more toys and for fun. I have had two gun-related incidents in my school due to this, and neither was considered serious by the local students or teachers. The first incident included a student chasing another student in the hallway with a black handgun. I was absolutely startled but then stopped myself from reacting as if in a active shooter situation, which is how I would in the USA. I took the gun from him and marched him to his advisory teacher, who took possession of the pellet gun but did not seem as upset as I was. The second incident involved my own son. His Secret Santa bought him a full-sized functioning BB gun that is popular on a video game here. I couldn’t believe that he brought it to school, even more surprised that the school security didn’t try to stop us when we tried to leave with it. Just another example of a difference in culture!
After living here for half a year, I realized that it may take me many more years to discover and become accustomed to all of the differences in Chinese culture. It has been fun and exciting to see how the people live and compare it to my own experiences. I am even guessing that there may be some trouble acclimating back to American culture after getting used to how things work here. I can’t wait to see what else there is to find!