Friday, January 29, 2010

Strange Chinese Habits 1 - Spitting in Public

One of the first things I noticed about my wife's behaviour when we first started to date was her constant spitting.

We would be walking in a shopping centre and she would frequently walk up to a bin and spit.

When walking on a public street, she would at times spit on the street.

This is not something particular to her alone, it is in fact quite common amongst the Chinese. This need to spit repeatedly is so common in China that the Chinese government had gone to great lengths prior to the Beijing Olympics to re-educate the Chinese against spitting in public.

So why do they do it?

I can't be certain.

It could be argued that its a reaction to the extreme air pollution in some Chinese cities, however my wife left China before it really began to industrialise with a vigour, and she herself has never experienced high levels of air pollution.

I would add that the spitting continues day and night, inside the house and out.

Although as a Westerner I find this practice quite distasteful, I have simply learned to ignore it when it comes to my wife. I have even learned to get used to the two or three times during our love making that she will stop, run to the bathroom, spit, and then come back.

But what I find disturbing is that now my son is starting this habit as well. There are times when I am simply having a conversation with him, and while talking I can hear him making a strange noise in his throat.

This strange shrilling noise is a common pre-cursor to the spit, and not long after, my son runs to the bathroom to spit in the toilet.

When I ask him why he does it, he explains that he doesn't know.

My wife did make a comment once that she considered mucous to be unhygenic and bad for the body, and so she prefers to spit it out rather than swallow it. Maybe its something as simple as that. We as Westerners simply clear our throat by swallowing, whereas the Chinese clear their throats by spitting.



Anonymous said...

I see it on the street all the time. I live in a suburb with many chinese and its seems that it is done all the time.

Faye said...

Its not just Chinese, Indians do it too.

In fact, your wife is actually considered quite polite and considerate for doing it in a bin. (As for the love making part I can actually attribute it to hygiene. Odd, but one cannot imagine having a nagging spit lodged somewhere in the middle of love making!)

Most just spit on the floor - no warning.

However, in SE-Asia its usually the older Asians who spit - younger ones would never dream of doing it in public.

I was acquainted with a friend of my partner - an Indian fellow.

We had just finished dinner and were standing around our car chatting holding our coffees when all of a sudden, he snorted, almost snarled terribly and let rip this absolutely disgusting spit onto the ground in full view of me.
It landed with a sickening splat beside me.

Needless to say I was a little impolite when I recoiled and yelled 'Oh, that that is disgusting!' but lucky for me the fellow had extremely thick skin and did not find that as offensive as I found his.

In fact he now offers to warn me to cover my ears the next time he let rips another one of those blobs.

Oh, the horror.

Anonymous said...

I'm a chinese but I'm from Hong Kong, but I never ever attempt to spit in public and even at home, I just found it's not necessary and impolite, this spitting habbit is really make me feel disgusting, I think it's really depends on the person, no matter how pretty you are, when you spit like this, I feel this person is ugly as pig.... This make me sometimes hate people from China, not regarding about the personality yet, but only this can make me feel they are really sick, yes I know I'm chinese as well, but doesn't make me spit everywhere, if saying spitting out something "unhealthy" outside your body, you are making others unhealthy in the public, consider other people please

Dave said...

My girlfriend only clears her throat in the bathroom, first thing in the morning and perhaps at night. Never in public, never in the street. She lives in China and is a teacher there.

Anonymous said...

Spitting isn't confined to one race, it depends on who you meet from that race. My mother is Chinese and she finds it disgusting when football/soccer players spit on TV and tells my dad to change the channel as it's putting her off her food. She also complains when we go to a supermarket and she sees caucasian people spit in the carpark. What I'm trying to get at here is that not all Chinese people spit, it just so happens that your wife does.

Anonymous said...

Australia is really different from Canada...I am from Chinese background but not of Mainland China origin. The spitting where I grew up as a kid was not something that educated people do in public (and that's Taiwan). Farmers may engage in that... My family immigrated to Canada and I've never seen people spit in public before in Taiwan but see it all the time here. Same with littering...

It's all about upbringing, not necessarily cultural. I am perusing this blog...and I am wondering if this is a real blog or just someone's creative blog about what it would be like to be married to an Asian lady.

If your stories are true, your wife doesn't really love you in a Western sense. Not the kind of love that people write about in books, songs or portrayed in art and movies. Probably way more practical. Love as a responsibility and a means to an end. Also, I highly don't recommend that you ever let go of your terms of being educated in China or whatever. Children need both parents... and that's advice from a literature and personal stand point.

Plus, as wonderful as Chinese culture used to be before the cultural revolution kinda destroyed people's morals and compassion for others, if your son goes over to China, his view of the world would be corrupted too.

Simply said, I am more of a Canadian then Taiwanese, but I loved the Chinese for the work ethic and some of the traditions. But the Western/European view of openness, challenge to be better than oneself and creativity is going to be better at shaping your son to be a global citizen.

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?