What do you think of when you hear about travel in the country of "China"? Do images of panda bears, chopsticks, people-filled streets, a Great big Wall, or the modern architecture of Shanghai dance around your mind?
While yes, you will find these as you unwrap China's many layers, I am here to share with you a few lesser known aspects of China. My name is Megan Lee and I have studied and lived in China for almost 2 years now. It's funny, because some parts of my life here do not even strike me as anything but normal anymore. Oddly enough, it was only brought to my attention after my parents came to visit me in the Spring.
"Of course it's normal to sit down and eat at a table with strangers!"
"Why wouldn't that man be singing loudly to himself as he walks down the street?"
"I've come to realize that traffic lights are more regarded 'suggestions' instead of 'law'."
As China moves forward, it's vital we keep up. There has never been a better time to study abroad in China!
Here are some fun facts about China:
1. Elevators in most chinese buildings will NOT stop at floor five or below. This encourages people to instead use the stairwell to reach their destination and save the elevator space for people who actually need to use it. I think this is a great strategy for not only reducing energy consumption, but also encouraging a healthier lifestyle.
2. In some older Chinese buildings, there is not a “fourth floor”. The floor numbers will simply skip from three to five. This is because the word for death (死) and four (四) are both pronounced “si” (fourth tone). The fourth floor has been seen as unlucky for years!
3. Most Chinese girls wear heels — every day! Even their winter boots have sneaky high heels placed on the inside. I have even seen girls wearing heels while climbing a mountain. Though I was once confused as to why ANYONE would ever want to wear high heels every day (especially when perusing the streets of Beijing), I have now changed my perspective due to the realization that if these girls didn’t wear heels, I actually would feel uncomfortably taller than most of them!
4. Among the many interesting cultural phenomenons I have come across here, one of my all-time favorites is the assless chaps all the babies wear. To me, it started as a comical site — adorable children, running around with their baby butts hanging out. They claim it helps potty train them at a younger age, and I can agree it is less wasteful than a bunch of diapers, but I always feel a little queasy when I see a baby relieving himself on the side of the road.
5. Chinese celebrate "Singles Day" every year on November 11th. It's a fun tip of the old hat to China's growing youth pop culture. Some celebrate this holiday by trying to say “goodbye” to their single lives — attending both formal and informal mingling events / blind dates / the like. While others wallow in self pity or even laugh.
6. Fact: more than half of the World’s construction cranes are in China (http://bit.ly/cpojyy). With such abundant human labor (think: a fifth of the world’s entire population) coupled with a lack of safety regulations/loose planning restrictions — it 's no wonder that buildings are regularly (and quickly) knocked down and put up.
Come join me in this Nation and discover some of these fun, quirky parts of Chinese culture that you may not find in your travel book.
Born in the year of the Rabbit, Megan Lee's (twitter: @peglegmeg) first expedition to China ended in failure when she tried to dig there from Indiana at the age of eight. Now living in Beijing, she is a content editor for Go Overseas and enjoys writing about travel and study abroad, especially in China.
All photos belong to Megan Lee.