So I've been composing this post in my mind for a while now and thought it was about time to write it down. I will absolutely need to update as time goes on, but for now, here is a short lesson on Chinese manners from a foreign perspective:
1. Always remove your shoes when entering someone's home. Sometimes they will offer you slippers, other times not so much (which does not bode well for my family members with Deckelbaum feet...!)
--if it would be awkward for you to remove your shoes (because, say, you're in a kindergarten), you will likely be offered blue elastic footie things to put over your shoes so as not to track outside dirt.
--you might also bring a pair of "clean shoes" along with you, and change upon entering the foreign space.
2. If you are sick or have a cold, drink water. More water is the solution to every ailment.
3. If said cold causes nasal drip, for goodness sakes, GET IT OUT! Spitting from any location, at any time is quite necessary to help you "get well soon." This means that if you are on the subway or in a restaurant and the urge arises, by all means--your countrymen know your health is important. Spit away.
--(I have a serious cold at the moment and have been able to spit some amazing loogies on my way to work. Thank you, China, for providing me with this opportunity. I feel better already).
4. Do not flush paper down the squat toilet. Better yet, don't use paper when using a squat toilet. That way, there will be no need to use soap (or even just water to rinse your hands) after using said toilet.
--This is the motto my co-workers use when going to the bathroom, which is why I am constantly washing my hands.
5. Everything should be clean all the time, particularly when children are involved.
--Each class has at least 1 "ayi," a teacher whose sole purpose is to clean and serve meals (the windows, floors, chairs, and individual toys are all cleaned at least once per day).
--This is confusing to me, considering manner rule #4 (see above).
6. Do not tip. Ever.
7. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
--This is mostly for children, whom I have spotted peeing on the subway platform, on the stairs leading to the gym, and on various street corners, among other places.
--That being said, when you are in the countryside, anything goes. Example: en route to the desert in Xinjiang, our driver needed to go to the bathroom, so he dropped us and our guide off to "take beautiful pictures and go for a nice walk" along a bridge while he "waited" for us at the other end. I found what he did while he was waiting when I went into the bushes to pee. After all, "when you gotta go, you gotta go."
8. When waiting for the subway, queue up in nice, orderly lines. When said subway arrives, push your way to the front to get on the train first and hopefully get a seat.
--This is my morning commute. It is also the worst part of my day, every day.
9. If your stop is next, stand as close to the subway door as possible so you can get off.
--This would be a great idea, except that people gather around the door while people are still filing onto the train. This means that it seems overcrowded, but when you finally push and shove your way through, you realize there is plenty of space to stand in the middle of the car.
--Another reason why my commute is the worst part of my day.
10. When speaking English, adding the word "maybe" makes it sound better and more correct. Therefore, do it all the time in inappropriate places.
--"Maybe we will have noodles for lunch today." Yep, we ate noodles.
--"Maybe Gordon will not be here for one month because our principal told his parents he must 'have a rest.'" Yep, Gordon is absent for another week (YAY!)
--"I think maybe we will have a dance lesson today. Maybe you give your lesson later?" Yes, there is a dance lesson in the morning, and yes, I will clearly have to postpone my lesson again.
So there you have it: Alison's lesson on 10 easy-to-learn rules for manners in China. Don't worry, I'm sure there will be more eventually :)