They Do What???

Chinese Habits Explained

Every now and then you might see Chinese people doing things that are out of the ordinary by foreigner standards. Here are a few explanations so you don't get caught off guard.

Drinking hot water


I recently read an article about a Chinese student’s life in Germany. One day she felt uncomfortable, and she was thinking about getting some hot water. When she asked the host mother for a water boiler, the mother offered some tea bags. Of course you boil water for tea, the mother thought! But this poor Chinese girl just wanted some hot water. The mother tried to offer something else to put in the hot water before she accepted her guest wanted simple hot water. Then she hesitated a bit, and asked the Chinese girl, “Do you mind I call my kids downstairs to watch?” I bet that was the first time they had seen a person drinking hot water in their lives. There are different explanations for this common practice. China’s large number of followers of traditional Chinese medicine and its huge consumption of tea are likely candidates. No matter what the reason is, it’s such a common practice that you should specifically ask for “冰水bīngshuǐ” (ice water), if that’s what you want.


Using umbrella to screen sunshine

Do you know how crazy Chinese woman are about white skin? You will be amazed by how many types of whitening face cleaning cream, body lotion, hand lotion and bath soap we have in market. With summer coming, you will also find Chinese girls make better use of their umbrellas: to screen the sunshine! A tanned people obsessed with white skin – That’s interesting.

Wearing pajamas in public

Living in Shanghai, when buying groceries in a supermarket, buying vegetables in a wet market, or having a walk in the park, you will often find Chinese people in their pajamas. I know your first thought would be “Why don’t these people dress nicer in public?” Local people live in traditional Shanghai alleys, and they know all the neighbors, so they don’t bother getting changed if they aren’t venturing far. Some people think it’s very entertaining, but there are also people who regard it as a bad habit.

Maria writes columns for the GoEast Blog on studying Chinese and Chinese language. She completed her MA atBeijing Foreign Studies University and has over 6 years experience teaching Mandarin. She founded GoEast together with Wang Rong in 2010.