Sunday, June 24, 2012

Culture Shock 4: Black in China

First things first, I am not the only black person in China. Infact, there are hundred thousands of us from all walks of life. Some of us are students, teachers, professors, ambassadors or a foreign delegate of some sort, business men and women, tourists, entertainers, professional workers and the like. You already know which group I belong to :)

It's difficult for many locals to accept this fact, since nothing comes to their mind when they hear those two words - black people. Who can blame them? I mean media reports on Black people is mostly negative. From AIDS and Corruption in Africa to criminal activities by Black men in North America. And so since they are limited in the amount of information they receive from the outside world, most just sit back and passively take in what their government present them.

                                                 Advertisement poster on the subway train

I like to take photos of black men and women in the media because it shows that not all locals are close minded and it's possible to make it big in the country despite popular believe.

Some popular stereotypes of black people in China
1. The men are drug dealers while the women are prostitutes. Oh, I forgot to mention that some of us (Nigerians) are also drug dealer and prostitutes. Infact, this has made it nearly impossible for Nigerians to get Visas to the country. As a result, many schools and businesses are forced to reject a Nigerian applicant due to visa laws.

2. Every black person is from Africa. Most times I just tell people i'm from Africa, since they won't believe that I can be from another continent. This is a very stupid misconception since many male Chinese absolutely love basketball and they keep up with various teams and games religiously. So although they are aware that Black people are living outside Africa and the president of a White country is even Black, somehow being a Black American still sounds foreign to them.

                                                    Adidas poster on the subway

Ignorance is a disease. On some personal experiences
1. Having many locals asking me how I styled my hair, if my hair is fake and then wanting to touch it.  Now when they ask me such question, I simply relay the question back to them and ask them if their hair is fake and if I can touch it. I mean they don't ask me if my skin color is fake, so i don't see why they are so curious about the structure of my hair strands

2. Looking for teachers from Canada and the U.S, only  WHITES will be considered. Most jobs will ask for teachers to send a picture with their application.. Sometimes I will send a resume without my photo and will then immediately receive an email saying they liked my resume but i need to send a picture before they ca n schedule an interview. After sending it in, I then get no response. Luckily since there are more demand for teachers than there are supply, I eventually get jobs

3. Blacks are clowns or masquerades: it's common for people, particularly men to point, stare and laugh at every black person they see, i'm yet to figure out what they specifically find funny. Some babies on the other hand will cry when they see a black person or sometimes a while person.

NBA stars. Many Chinese LOVE basketball

P.S: not ALL Chinese are ignorant, I have met many who just see me as a human and don't ask me dumb questions as to why I am not so dark or why I am Black but claim to be from Canada.

Culture Shock 3: Chinese Food is Healthy...NOT

A common explanation as to why Chinese and other Asians are skinny is because their food is healthy.
Although this might be partially true, I think it is more false than true. Because I believe there are many biological and social explanations as to why most are skinny.
There are no fortune cookies in China BTW

Below are some of the reasons why I think Chinese food is NOT as healthy as it is thought to be and eating it can make you FAT.

1. Practically Everything is stir-fried and often with too much oil. I've had to pour out as much as 1/2 a cup (125ML) of oil out of my food.

2. They eat fat, because it's believed to be good for the skin. I guess this explains why many don't use lotion. I usually have to remove fat off my meat which often times leaves not much meat, so I end up eating the fat, and then feel fat after eating it. :(

3. Primary meat is pork: Most dishes are served with pork, which explains "why they walk so slow" according to a Nigerian friend of mine. lol!

4. Portion sizes are HUGE! This was a big culture shock to me because I have never seen serving bowls that huge on dinning tables, unless its at a big event. Also, I would expect portion sizes to be smaller since there are more mouth to feed. These excess food often goes to waste because it is just impossible for people to finish them. Especially if they are served to a group of girls who are "watching" their weight because they think they are fat. So it makes me wonder why they don't reduce food portion to reasonable sizes, also since people often order multiple dishes

5. Staple food is Starch: depending on what part of the country you are from, your main food will be either rice, noodles or bread. It's not uncommon for many Chinese to eat rice three times a day everyday. Although they eat a very small portion of it with lots of meat and veggies as side dishes

6. Food is cheap and abundant: Thanks to advancement in science and technology, most Chinese can now enjoy a variety of food from all parts of the country and globe, and they can have it in abundance. Just about 30years ago, China was like North Korea where many thousands were dying of starvation. May be this is why portion sizes are so large, because the older generations are trying to catch up on eating???

7. They eat too much: Because many can still remember what it feels like to be Hungry, they will often go all out at restaurants to show how far they've come and also to ensure everyone has enough to eat. See Chinese eat in a communal style where several dishes of foods are shared amongst many people.But back in the day where people didn't have enough to eat, this means siblings had to have a "eating race" during every meal. This is when the older and often faster eater with a bigger appetite will "out eat" the younger and slower ones. I guess this explains why many Chinese can eat while the food is hot and also eat fast.

I think this communal eating style is a huge sabotage to one's weight. Depending on how big a group is and what the occassion is, one can have about 15 different dishes on the table for. These 15 dishes can include pork, chicken, beef, lamb, fish, potatoes, noodles, bread, rice, sweet potatoes, and assorted veggies. It's only in China that I started eating all these foods together in one meal.  Also because you just eat a little bit from each plate, you don't really know how much you've eaten until you suddenly realize you've had too much.

It's common for girls to gain weight when they come to China while the men loose weight (mostly muscle mass). I was one of these girls, but I lost all these weight when I stopped eating like the Chinese and started cooking my own food. Because, I realized I would need the special gene they have that allows them to eat a lot and stay skinny.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Culture Shock 2: Women's handbags, a fashion accessory or a burden?

I guess handbags are thought to be a burden for a woman here in China. And so since Men (the strong one) are suppose to help relieve a woman's (the weak one) burden, they will often offer to help carry any heavy item that she is carrying, including her purse.  

It doesn't matter how long I have lived here, I still consider this to be weird and funny at the same time. Sometimes I will look at a woman and admire her outfit, but then I'll immediately notice that there is something missing in her outfit - her purse! Then, I look to her left or right and notice someone else is carrying her purse, and it looks out of place on him.

What's even weird is that the men will carry the woman's purse on top of his own bag, so he now has two purses on him. The men carry a shoulder bag because they wear fitted clothes which leaves no room for thier   cell phones, wallets and what not. This is also for security purposes as there are pick pockets everywhere, especially in the subway stations, so a secured bag keep thieves away. Infact many foreigners find themselves carrying men purses after coming here. 

Most times I just wonder, "Why carry a purse at all if you know it will be too heavy to carry?" Perhaps Chinese girls are yet to understand the importance of purses in the completion of a woman's outfit. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Culture Shock 1: Spitting

Anyone who has ever been to China can agree with me when I say that one of the most unpleasant behavior of many locals here is the spitting. I mean, it is completely gross! No "civilized" human being spits in the subways (stations and trains), buses, classrooms, offices, hallways, streets and EVERYWHERE! I quoted civilized because the Chinese like to boast about having a LONG history with many thousands years of civilization. However, I don't see any sign of these in the people (more on this later).

Back to the subject, it's not just the spitting that grosses people (mostly foreigners) out, but it's the forceful expulsion of the mucous that completely grosses ME out. I mean, weren't they taught in Bio class that their system needs those mucous for the proper movement of materials in their body?
And then what annoys me the most is that they don't look around them for any passerby before spitting. So, you could get spit on while walking past someone. Fortunately I have never seen this happen, but I've come really close few times in the past. 

I remember walking across the bridge behind a man on a windy day, who then decided to spit over the bridge, only for the wind to blow the spit back in tiny mists on the faces of the unfortunate people behind him. Gosh I was ANGRY, I wanted to throw him and the rest of the spit inside him over the bridge! Just kidding, but indeed I was angry.

So what do I do to avoid being spit on?
I just simply say a quick prayer before I walk past a guy or I will tap him on the back to let him know I am about to walk past him so that he can hold his spit while I walk by.
Mind you, it's mostly the men who do this, along with many other gross and questionable behavior.And of course, the kids do it too. I always pause teaching a class whenever I catch a kid spit in my classroom, I make sure he cleans his spit before I can resume teaching the class.

I guess the only positive experience that has come out of this culture shock is the fact that I am more tolerant of gross habits, and I can even continue to eat while someone or millions of people are snorting and spitting all around me :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On to the next chapter

As I  prepare for my exit from the factory of the world, the orient, China, or whatever name you want to call it. I will be launching a new series on culture shock. These blog series will also talk about some of the things I will definitely not miss about living in the country. And because I like being fair and not bias, I will also be posting on some of the things I will definitely miss about China. I purposely mentioned "some" because there are just too many things that I will miss about this country that I might be unaware of.

So, hope you enjoy the series.