Making a good impression

Some days I’m just stunned, amazed at what is happening in our world as it shrinks and people from vastly different human experiences come into increasingly closer proximity.

Other days, it all just looks like blaring, inescapable, absolute utter nonsense in the midst of which we’re all slowly losing the ability to think. Do you ever feel that way?

I’m not sure which applies most to these pictures and the social engineering project they represent. They’re from an Olympics display that was up recently at the new soccer stadium. They put English on there, so I assume this is part of the China that ‘They’ want you to see. The title at the top of the photo on the right says something like “…explain civility, establish a new atmosphere: Civilized etiquette” (讲文明树新风 文明礼仪), but you don’t want to take that translation to the bank.

We have yet to personally witness any of the behaviours showcased in these photos. And conspicuously absent were the photos of people learning “to spit in a more civilized manner” or stop cussing each other out in Beijing dialect.

But speaking of spitting, I had my first China spit this morning when we were out walking through a parking lot and I ended up with a big loogie to spit on account of a lingering smoker’s cough (even though I don’t smoke). So I just aimed for a manhole cover. But many (most? but not all) locals don’t just spit whenever they feel the need; they go out of their way to produce spit to spit, especially in the mornings. One interview I saw with a guy charged with the job of getting people to change their spitting habits said he wasn’t trying to get people to stop spitting, but just to make sure to use a garbage can or a handkerchief. I suspect there is some kind of general feeling about it not being healthy to swallow spit, or something. Once I can figure out a way to ask someone without making them feel bad, I’ll let you know what they say.

Can’t believe I almost forgot to include this cute 30 second anti-spitting video from the 1950’s:

Note the saluting.

4 thoughts on “Making a good impression”

  1. I recently had lunch with a cantonese gentleman who ate his apple by biting off the skin, chewing it and then spitting it into a knapkin in his open hand. Totally not related to standing in line ups, but I felt a little out of place just eating my apple whole. Maybe he knows something I don’t about pesticides…

  2. Do you think the spitting has any superstitious background, like hitting and slapping oneself to get the X out. I don’t remember what it is anymore, but something like spiritual worms.
    It seems like a lot of the “strange” things people do with their bodies are based in some superstition that make it imperative to get the chi and the chai and whatever else out of the bodies and become pure.

  3. I don’t really know, but if I had to guess I guess I’d guess that back in the day people had certain health beliefs about spit and how you should spit it out, and people did it so much that now people just spit out of habit, and maybe only the grandmas still actually believe anything about it not being healthy to swallow. But I really don’t know.

    That’d be a fun thing to ask Lao Zhao about. I assume the slapping has to do with stimulating circulation and maybe reflexology stuff. That’s what those little embedded rock paths are for – stimulating reflexology points on the bottom of your feet to help you be healthy. If you go to that huge park in the middle of Taibei (Dà ān, I think), they have a panel beside one of those paths that shows you where on your foot relates to what in your body.

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