Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Spitting/or being TOO accustomed to a different culture

PRE-SCRIPT: in the event described below, no one other than the author’s own sensibilities were offended.

Spitting in a national past-time. It is culturally acceptable in a variety of situations. Say, at your average restaurant when you have something in your mouth you don’t want to swallow. If it is morning, and you are riding the bus to work and have a gigantic wad of phlegm just begging to be released… and so forth and so on.

We were driving our friend’s car home the other day, after going on a family outing. I cheerfully sat in the front seat, peeling small mandarin oranges for the girls to eat in the back seat. I noticed the sign for “Construction Bank of China” across the next intersection and hollered at Matt to pull over so I could withdraw some cash.

I hopped out of the seat, wallet in one hand, a peeled orange in the other, happily humming the song we had just been listening to in the car. (something about “do to others, DO to others, as you would HAVE THEM DO TO YOU”)

I waited in line for my turn at the machine. Munching little orange sections.

Spitting the seeds out on the floor of the bank, without a thought.

Not a glance my direction from the guard, the business man in front of me, or the average looking girl at the machine next to me who was in the process of shooting a “snot rocket” onto the floor.

I stepped up to the machine, and caught my reflection in the little mirror you can use to watch people behind you.

I took a second look.

Had I just spit an orange seed onto the FLOOR OF THE BANK????!!!!

I looked at the floor.


Horrors. I looked behind me and saw a trail of about 5 seeds.

They were all mine.

I soberly spit my remaining 2 seeds into a Kleenex I found in my pocket, withdrew my money. And turned silently toward the car.


Samantha said...

I'm having to retrain myself while temporarily here in N. America to pick up trash that I drop out in public, because in China, with all those wads of phlegm, feces, urine and other unmentionables all over the ground, once it hits the ground, it stays there. I don't dare pick it up considering the possibility of what it landed in. This goes contrary to all I've been taught about being responsible, not littering etc. Yet, after 10 years in China, I've learned some different ways of coping and I guess that's one of them. Sigh.

Heather Ziebart said...

Bahahahhaha. I am not sure to feel embarassed or giddy at this. But, I understand your mordification :)

Deanna Fraser said...

i've been leaving my chicken bones on the table ever since i got here and don't realize until after i do it that i totally shouldn't do that here. yay for adjusting to china culture!

Harmony said...

This cracked me up. I find myself wanting to taunt you just a little, "haha, you're ADAPTING!" :)

We were there during the SARS epidemic, and the school had signs posted everywhere saying "spitting causes SARS!" (To no avail, I might add.)

I remember trying to teach at the front of the unheated classroom, in the dead of a bitter cold winter, a room full of students hacking, and seeing student after student spit out their phlegm on the floor. Trying to train them otherwise was fruitless. :)

rosebark said...

Fantastically disgusting. I always thought of the Chinese as respectful, neat, conservative, etc.

But I like them better now.

I still snot rocket!