Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cultural Differences

While the city of Beijing is very Westernized there are still some glaring cultural differences.

1. You cannot drink the water. We have to boil everything we use. It has been a challenge to remember not to use the running water to brush our teeth!

2. The squatty potties. There not so bad. In fact the Western ones that are available are dirtier! There is no toilet paper. I'm still trying to figure that one out?!

3. Driving. Okay the government apparently does not enforce rules. I actually witnessed a van going up a set of stairs today! The cars go everywhere and the lanes are very narrow. Bikes go everywhere too. I just can't watch it's like a train wreck.

4. Motorcycles are illegal. I guess there were people riding on them and snatching purses, so they are outlawed.

5. The traffic used to be really bad in Beijing, so during the Olympics only certain people could drive on certain days. The government liked it so much that now everyone has one day a week that they cannot drive.

6. I am amazed by how much the Olympics changed the way the people live. They added transportation and cleaned up all of China. It also changed the times people work. It used to be everyone worked 9:00-5:00. Now people can work any twelve hours their company wants them too. They have gone to more ecco friendly ways. There are no more plastic bags at the grocery. Lights turn off automatically ect. ect.

7. Here's the scoop on girls verses boys. A while back one of China's leaders felt the country would be stronger with more people, so he suggested they have many children. The more current leaders decided this was bad because more people meant less resources, so the one child policy was put in place. As abandonment and infanticide climbed the leaders realized there was a problem. You see the tradition is for the girls to grow up and take care of the husbands parents, while boys were to take care of their parents. There are not many nursing homes here and that was the only way to take care of the elderly. The leader decided that parents could have one child if it was a girl, 5 years later they could try for one more child. In the country it was the same rules, but they have to wait 7 years. Anyone breaking the rules must pay a fine on that child for the first 14 years of the child's life. Our guide was one of four children. When they had the fourth child both of her parents lost their jobs in the city and had to move to the country. However, they could not own any land or property until they payed off all of their fines. Things have gotten a little better, because elderly now have insurance and are not so worried about having a boy. Insurance will pay for the elderly rather than their sons. Domestic adoption is available, but very few qualify because they cannot have any bio children. Abandoning a child is illegal, so most children are abandoned at night without any notes, so that the parents will not be found. It was interesting that some of the people we traveled with said that there were many more girls seen in the city than there were when they came five years prior.

8. We also learned that in the past before marriage the woman and the man were to go to the hospital to be checked, and the same was true for pregnant woman. Now it is their choice to go. Since then there has been a rise in children born with special needs. They believe this is due to poor prenatal care. In my opinion the environment is partially to blame. The smog here is terrible, and we've been told that it's actually much better here than in other parts of China.

9. Potty training is much different here. The children only wear diapers a short time. Once they are mobile they wear split pants. These allow the child to go to the bathroom just about anywhere. We saw children popping a squat just about anywhere. Very weird to us, but fully acceptable here.

10. Staring at people is not considered rude. When they are interested they will stand very close and just stare. They do not mean to be rude they're just curious.

11. They have many traditions. A few we found interesting were when they want to get married they will take a lock and hang it on the great wall and throw away the key. They celebrate a child when they turn 100 days old. Their first birthday is also celebrated with a big party. They are given things like a calculator, a brush, money, or bottles. Each has a meaning, whichever the child grabs tells something about their personality. If they choose the bottle they will have a happy life, money rich ect. ect. They celebrate the 16th birthday because the child is considered an adult.

12. The elderly and children are so cared for and respected. This was very easy to witness. With all the children we have seen they are treated so well. They are not yelled at and are very well cared for. It was not like when you go to Disney and see parents totally losing it around their children. That would be unacceptable here. When elderly came around people helped them. We saw a lady in a wheel chair and she had about six people helping her around.

I know this is length, but I'm using it for my journal and don't want to forget.


Crewcaton said...

Hi guys
This morning we turned on the travel channel and it was all about China! Funny to see the same places as in your pics. Rob enjoyed seeing where you are & where Jack lives. He saw your fish picture - "EWWW Gross!" We can't wait till the 3 of you get home safely.

Heather said...

So cool!!! These are the things that make the trip memorable in my opinion. Who knew we'd all be learning with you? :)

Can't wait to see Jack! (Can't tell I'm anxious to see him, can you?? 8)

Jen said...

Wow! what a lot of wonderful experiences you are having! You will have so much to tell Jack when he is older! I bet you can hardly wait until monday- I know I am so anxious to read about "gotcha day" I cant even imagine what you are going through right now!

The Mom said...

Hi! We are loving the news about your trip!
Can't wait to see the pictures of Jack!
- Kate