While there are a lot of different things that could stand out as defining the culture shock of the moving to China experience, I have tried to narrow it down to a few.
1. Public toilets...
I live in a 6th floor walk up. I always walk up to use the bathroom when it requires any extra amount of time... or sitting. There is something about squatting (and yes, I mean squatting) over a public toilet that makes me really want to wait.
I have gotten into the habit of always carrying some form of toilet paper with me, just to be prepared. Always, and I mean always carry a small amount of soap and toilet paper with you in any public restroom in Southeast Asia. Period. Just do it.
2. Eating in public...
I no longer want to put my arms on the tables. At any noodle house that I have been to, the custom is to take the things out of the bowl that you have either eaten and want to discard (think of the heads of shrimp or shells on different mollusks). While they do come by and wipe off tables... just... you know.
Perhaps I forgot what it was like to be in the US when smoking was still always allowed in public spaces and restaurants, but wow is it all coming back to me now. It is not uncommon to eat lunch in a noodle shop, see a man finish his meal, take off his shirt and light up a cigarette. Just go ahead and make yourself comfortable why-don't-ya?
Yelling, honking, music, flashing lights... everything. While most everyone can and will be respectful, it is just different. You just have to remember, it is different and that is just the way it is done. For example, see my earlier blog post about the funeral near our house. The family rented loud speakers and played funeral music for about 3-4 days straight.
There are always fireworks going off somewhere in the area. I think I hear the pops from fireworks about... three to four times a day.
I have been working at the school now for a little over a week. So far we have had teacher's day and the mid-Autumn festival. While we did work on teacher's day, the local government did give us a bonus of about 200rmb (30USD) and we also got a gift from the school of a few trays of moon cakes. The school really does seem to respect this profession far more than most people respected teachers in the US.
Yes, you might say that people say they respect teachers in the US, but when push comes to shove, good luck getting them to sign a petition or come to a parent night. Here in Asia you have to find ways to politely turn down gifts because of how much more they respect you.
The 30USD also made me laugh because a few years ago, our teacher appreciation gift from our union was an empty bank bag with Hawaii State Teacher Association printed on it. At least here in China they gave me something to put inside the bag. (I still have that bag to remind me just how much HSTA cares...).
Buying food might seem like an easy thing, but when you walk into a lot of resteraunts here in China, they might have a live animal staring at you to pick from. Now, this is not just the usual lobster in a tank or a few fish, but snakes, turtles... yeah... anything. You literally play the hand-of-God and select your meal. Needless to say, after trying some cobra-whisky in Cambodia, I am pretty much turned off of snakes for a long time.
Side note - if someone offers you Cobra whisky, always say no. You are not Archer... You cannot ever be Archer. Deal with it like an adult. Just say no.
7. Door Handles
So many of the handles over in our area or just the... key. You literally just put the key in the door and turn. The key then locks into place so you can open the door with the key. Honestly, it still confuses me.
8. The deadly silent mopeds
The mopeds in our city are all electric. They run perfectly silent. They drive anywhere they want. The last thing I hear before one kills me will be the little beep they make. I am sure that will be the way I die.
Crosswalks are basically pedestrian zones, but ones that are more of a target area than anything else. You walk/dodge across them, but the cars still continue to make turns. You as a pedestrian do not ever have a right-of-way here. Cars can and will come from any angle and run you over. I actually think it might be safer to cross the road outside of a crosswalk zone than inside of one.
10. No internet for almost anything, and the android market place is full of fake apps. Have a Chinese friend download apps for you. Literally everything on the android market place is completely fake.
11. There is always a better deal. Case and point of this would be when we got our cell phones. The plan was 80rmb a month. We did not like that, so they dropped it to 50. You know, because why not? Then we went back and needed to get some cheap phones that connected to the "4g" network. (Notice I used quotation marks). They took another 30rmb a month off of the plan then too. We are now down to paying 20rmb a month for our phone plan. Combined we now pay 6 USD a month for two cell phones, and 4gb of data. Yes, you read that right... 6. I can keep our two phones on for about a year for the cost of one month of service for one phone in the US. Really makes you think...