Friday, August 23, 2013

A Few Realities of China

Today, I'm bringing you a list of things you should know if you ever plan to live in China.  Or at least Kunming.


Okay, I feel like I'm totally cheating by putting bathrooms first on this list.  This is what you expected to read in a post about realities in China.  Bathroom stuff.  Sorry I couldn't break the mold on this one, but for westerners it really is something you need to be prepared to encounter.
Bathroom sinks at Yunnan University international dorms.

Squat toilents are very much a part of every day life in China, and I'd have to say - just get used to it. 
For a place with such a huge population, unless the bathroom has frequent cleaning, you will be 100% glad for the sanitation that comes with the squat toilet - the sanitation of touching absolutely nothing.

They really aren't that bad once you overcome the initial awkwardness - it just might be a good idea to read up on techniques prior to your trip.  You think I'm kidding about researching how to use them, but the conversations I had with the other western friends during the first week in China was like this: "Which direction are you supposed to face?"  

Here are a few general rules for squat toilets.
  • Carry hand sanitizer.  Most public restrooms either don't have sinks or don't have soap.
  • Carry your own toilet paper with you - and get your wad of paper out prior to entering the stall.  You don't want to balance and jumble around for your toilet paper in a tiny stall with all your stuff.  
  • NEVER put paper in the toilet.  There will always be trashcans in each stall for this purpose, because the plumbing cannot handle the paper.  
  • ALWAYS roll your pants up before even walking in the bathroom.
  • Keep some change - public restrooms usually cost somewhere between a few jiao and a few yuan.
A trough style toilet - these are common in some of the older public restrooms, bus stops, train stations, roadside, etc.  This particular one was, however, in the international student dorms at Yunnan University.  Sometimes these older styles will also not have doors.

Even my apartment had a squat toilet and an older style bathroom - meaning the toilet was also the drain for the shower.  It was weird at first that there was not a designated shower area, nor a normal toilet but it quickly became normal.  However, if you're willing to pay a little more for an apartment or move further from the city center, you can find much nicer places with more western furnishings.
Squat toilet in my apartment in China..


My Chinese professor at OU liked to go on a lot of tangents during class by telling us stories about Chinese culture.  Her tangents were always really funny, and I'll always remember some of them.  One day, she wanted to prepare the whole class for daily life if we ever decided to study abroad in China.

And now, I'll quote to the best of my memory...because it was just funny.
"So if you want to go to China, you have washer?  Sure, most of China have a washer.  If you want to go to China, you have dryer?  Hahahaha, no! China no have dryer!  So if you do laundry, it will take several days, yes, so you must be prepared and do laundry before you run out of clothes!"

And that's basically how laundry day in China went.

Depending on the thickness of the material and humidity that week, it could take clothes between one day to three days to dry.  During the winter, towels and jeans never seemed to completely dry after being washed.

Oh, and your clothes will also smell like air pollution.


 Bucket 'O' Feathers right outside the restaurant door?  Yep, that used to be on your dinner.
It's okay, it happens all around the world - you just don't always get the educational experience that comes with it.


Some forms of shopping in China are really cool.  Many vendors sell products on the sidewalks, or in carts that the push up and down the streets.

This is a photo of a pet fish cart.  She was selling all kinds of fish, and she walks around and maybe you decide to buy her fish, and you pay her on the spot and get your fish on the spot.  Always remember to bargain with these types of street vendors!

Then, you have supermarkets.
While Wal-Mart is available in China, I think most people who've lived in China would suggest that Carrefour is a MUCH better option as far as supermarkets go.  They are just as widespread as Wal-Mart, if not more, and as far as food selection went I thought they had better products.

See a Chinese Carrefour below.
Carrefour is pronounced Jiā lè fú in Chinese.
Some cities will also have a store with more imports and western delicacies called Metro.  As with most imports, the price will stay true to the lack of ability to purchase such products otherwise.


Okay, this one is purely talking about Yunnan.  I don't know about other areas in China if what is said about the weather and how the weather is actually is true.

If you haven't heard, Kunming is called the City of Eternal Spring.

Its true - things stay green year round and you'll probably never encounter snow there.  But it DOESN'T mean that you won't freeze your butt off!

Most people are really confused that I laugh when I hear "City of Eternal Spring."  Sure, for the first several months, the weather in Kunming was wonderful!  It wasn't super hot, and not cold...yet.  While I was there in November, December and January, Kunming consistently stayed around the mid-30s (Fahrenheit). 

What they don't tell you when they talk about the City of Eternal Spring is that since they think it is Spring year round that that also means that building don't have insulation.  I lived in a solid concrete apartment with windows that didn't even seal all the outside air out.  There was literally an draft all the time.

So when I was up doing homework, no matter what time of day nor what building I went to, I was freezing.  My hands were so cold that I bought the red fingertip-less gloves so I could still write.  Oh, and don't laugh at my Where's Waldo jacket with sleeves too short for me.

My suggestion for anyone traveling to a new place - even if you research the weather, it might not be like what you expect with differences in humidity, winds, buildings, and altitude.  Just pack what you need to be prepared to make do with both hot and COLD weather.


  1. I think what surprised me most here is the person selling fish from their wagon... duno why but I find that really odd! :)

    1. Haha...I think it is odd, at least for people not from China! That's why I took a picture! But buying a gold fish from a street cart seems so much more fun (and risky)!

  2. We didn't have a dryer in Malaysia either--so for a family of nine,that mean washing and hanging out to dry about two loads of laundry per day. And so much about the bathrooms seem so family. The roll up your pants rule is very necessary! :)

    1. Wow, family of 9 is a lot of laundry! I can't imagine keeping up with all that, especially when things have to hang dry! And yep - I don't want to think about what happens if you didn't role up the pants! ;) Thanks for stopping by today!

  3. oh man, I don't know if I could live there, lol. my boyfriend was there for about a month for work, and needless to say had some toilet stories. even in a business office!

    1. Haha, I found when I was there the only nice toilets are in 5 star hotels! After that everything goes downhill - the toilets at our university were pretty bad!

  4. Okay, the squat toilets are totally freaking me out!

    1. Really not that bad - I wouldn't have written it if it was intended to freak you out! I wrote about the squat toilets to help others realize that if that were not a squat toilet how dirty it would be to sit on it, so be thankful that it is a squat toilet! :)

  5. I went to Yunnan Normal University briefly in November 2012 when watching the Hanyu Qiao competition, and I never encountered a trough-style toilet like the one above (though all the toilets that I did use at the uni stank really badly). Hopefully there aren't any toilets of that kind hiding in places that I didn't encounter then but might encounter when I go over there for 7 months...

    1. Maybe you won't if you are careful where you go! That pic I took is from the Yunnan University international student dorms, but you see this type and worse in bus and train stations. Honestly they aren't that bad...if ya gotta go you gotta go and any hole in the ground works!

  6. eToro is the best forex broker for beginner and full-time traders.


Copyright 2012-2014 Saxon Smith (Let's Drink Coffee, Darling). All rights reserved.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...