We’re not in Kansas anymore. Just about everyday I see something in Beijing that surprises or shocks me. Some things make me laugh; others just make me shake my head in disbelief. Here’s just a sample of a few of the strange things I’ve noticed around town.
Dogs Wear Shoes.
And cute little t-shirts.
Sometimes they get really decked out.
And if there’s a special event coming up, they can even take their owners to a shop that sells haute couture for pooches.
Hot is Cool.
From drinking hot water to layering on sweaters in mid-summer, Beijingers like things steamy.
At first I thought I was just suffering through hot flashes, but my expat friends are constantly fanning themselves as well. Maybe my internal thermometer speaks a different language, because I can feel perfectly comfortable in short sleeves and get tskd by a jacket-wearing local for being under dressed. I’ve had people in the elevator comment on my capris when it dipped below 60 degrees.
Last winter we didn’t have to turn on our heat because our neighbors kept their places toasty enough to permeate ours. There’s even a Chinese word – pa leng – that means “fear of the cold.”
Gloves aren’t just for winter.
If you can’t pick it up with chopsticks, you’d better put on your gloves.
Pizza, wings and other hand-held food come with disposable plastic gloves so you don’t have to gasp touch the food with your naked hands. With the shortage of soap (and sometimes water) in public restrooms, it’s probably not such a bad idea.
Skin care is a big deal.
From whitening creams to foot masks, there’s a poultice or potion to firm, lighten or moisture just about any body part. Porcelain white, smooth skin is the goal here, and it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
Beijingers hide from the sun under parasols, arm sleeves or whatever item they might be carrying (I’ve seen laptops, jackets and squares of cardboard) as they hurry down the street to reach the shade.
Traditionally, dark skin was a sign of an outdoor laborer’s heavy toil and lifestyle of poverty; thus fair skin reflected wealth and status.
There’s so much more I could tell you so stay tuned for another “strange but true” post in the future.
If you want a glimpse of Chinese culture, head to a local park. Tucked away between high rise buildings and busy motorways, neighborhood parks are the lifeblood that runs through the heart of Beijing.
So much life takes place in these multi-functional spaces. Of course you will find people exercising, and built-in gym equipment is common.
Walking and running are also popular past times, and many parks have a circular loop for this purpose.
In addition to running, you will find locals practicing tai chi, yoga, jumping rope, hula hooping, lifting weights, and dancing.
Parks also serve as a place for social gatherings. People read or meditate. Men bring their pet birds in little cages and hang them in the trees. Some parks have ping pong tables and built in Mah Jong tables.
You can bring your own snack, or buy one.
Parks are a place where traditional culture is preserved, including architecture, physical activity and more.
There are a few rules to follow though, which takes some getting used to. No sunbathing, bike riding, playing ball, picking flowers or talking on your cell phone during a thunderstorm.
And most importantly, stay off the grass. There are so many lovely green spaces in Beijing, but grass is off limits.
Carnival rides and water parks coexist with centuries-old traditions at many parks, and this blending of ancient and modern is such a reflection of Beijing as a city.
There’s nothing like a walk in the park.