Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Culture Gap Through My Own Window

Living in China gave me an entirely new outlook on many things.  I learned a lot about another culture, saw my own culture in a new way, and generally gained a new perspective on the world.  That's what the study abroad office told me would happen, anyway.  But there were still some things that just didn't make sense to me.   And when it did make sense, I could find logic to why if someone thought about things logically it would no longer make sense.  Here are some confusing realities about the China I saw from my apartment window.
A few at the end weren't "through my window", but you get my point.  

This post contains a ton of videos.  Just letting you know ahead of time.  :)

My first example of things I just didn't get was the traffic in China.  Although these cars must know from experience that in this type of traffic jam, NO ONE is going ANYWHERE for a long time, they still feel the need to honk incessantly.  My confusion with this phenomenon is this: why keep honking at the person in front of you when there are 20 cars in front of them, and no one can go anywhere because the traffic jam is so bad?  Honking is not going to help anything, and of anything it is just plain annoying!

I was slightly annoyed at the time I took this video because I'm pretty sure this was around 7 am.

On a similar note, something that I completely didn't and still don't understand was this - a street cleaner that plays songs, it sounded just like an ice cream truck.  This truck played "It's a Small World."  This was one aspect of Kunming's weirdness that definitely always brought laughter and excitement, but also the confusion of "why does the street cleaner sound like an ice cream truck?"

A camo painted car in China?  Really, please just try and amuse me more.

Other things that completely confused me was the morning routine of the real estate office directly below my apartment.  Every morning, the employees went out and stood in lines on the sidewalk.  Every morning, they would sing the same three songs.  Every morning, they would perform exercises to a recorded version of one of the same songs that they just sang.  Yes, I took videos because I found it really odd...and I would never want to sing songs and jump around every morning in whatever line of work I end up doing one day.

I'm sure in actuality, this event was not random.  The color coordinated clothes, tons of students shouting and running down the street.  But to me, it was completely random...especially when it woke me up.  

I guess it is because China is a very old country, or maybe becase it is a developing country....but sometimes I just couldn't help but wonder what the people who built things were thinking.  Take a look at the pathway to my apartment...there were an unreal amount of tripping hazards...especially since there were no lights at night!

...is a big fat lie!  
It is the city of Spring during Spring, Summer and Fall.  But it most definitely has winter.  And it most definitely does not have heaters, insulation, or ample supplies of warm water.
What I don't understand is why they want to call it the City of Eternal Spring while after November hit, I had to wear a coat and gloves in my apartment, to my school, in my class, in my sleep...basically they were my new bodily extensions. 
I called this my "Where's Waldo" jacket.  It was soft and cheap, so I just wore it around my apartment.

No words.  There are just no words.

Is this supposed to be sexy?  I never understood many of their English sayings on shop names and on all the clothes.

What things did you just "not get" while living in another culture?


  1. hahaha! Oh, too funny! I have heard that office-enforced calisthenics to begin the work day are fairly common in China, but that's definitely different for Americans....and I'm pretty sure American workers wouldn't put up with it. Malaysia is very different from America...but after 9 years...it pretty much all seems normal to me.

    1. It makes sense that Chinese workplaces can get away with it since it is so much more of a collectivist society. I find it funny that some of the girls in the back row are on their cell phones though! I would (did) get so tired of singing those same songs over and over!

  2. Oh the Engrish :) The students running video made me laugh.

    1. Yes, for some reason Engrish T-Shirts and signs are especially popular in Asia. And don't the students look like they're having the time of their lives...not?

  3. Wow, some of this is just amazing, and just so funny! The bouquet of teddy-bears??

    1. I honestly thought the teddy bears were quite weird and hideous...but I learned that Chinese and Western definitions of what is considered "cute" are extremely different!

  4. I'll take a few of those teddy bear bouquets :) Very classy! And that street cleaning truck would drive me batty. It's all I can do to restrain myself from tearing out the speakers of our local ice cream truck that seems to only play one terrible song on repeat. This is the best :)

    1. haha, classy...yes! Maybe all I could ever ask for would be a bouquet of REAL kittens...maybe they'll come up with that one soon! Haha...the street cleaner was actually not that annoying because we were just so amused with it each time. But yes, here in the states ice cream trucks are totally annoying and have creepy drivers!

  5. Wow, the things you see from your window. That is just... odd. But it must be amazing to see aswell. I am a little jealous of you, haha.

    1. Haha...yes. No matter how many mornings I woke up or walked by the real estate agents singing and dancing, I never saw it as a normal think someone should do with their company. haha But the entire experience was super fun, and all the little weird things are always some of the most fun parts to look back on. :)

  6. Ah, your opening paragraph is lovely. I lived in Germany for two years and I feel the exact same way about my time there :)

    1. Thanks Kym! I think joining in any other culture gives us those type of new perspectives!

  7. Wow love this post and all the videos are great - perfect to describe exactly what you mean - it is strange singing and than dancing to a recorded version of what you just sang - in any culture I am thinking this is a bit weird, but hey that is what makes the world such a wonderful place. The one thing I never got about the older French generation while living in France was they simply don't cue, you will be standing in a shop waiting to pay for your groceries and they will simply stand right in front of you and no one says anything!
    I am giving away one of my favourite travel books on my blog and popping over from Travel Tuesday

    Laura x

  8. Haha. So many of these things remind me of growing up in Taiwan. :-)


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