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Nations & Customs
Did you have a nice nap?

Public Displays of Affection

Caught a shot of these four friends huddled together just as they were leaving the store. Typical sight in China.

Although this is slowly changing in China, particularly among college students in major cities, it is still generally considered inappropriate to display physical affection towards a member of the opposite sex in public. Elderly Chinese couples may be seen holding hands as they embark on their evening stroll together, but, typically, middle-aged and younger couples will not engage in the same practice.

Conversely¡ªand paradoxically so perhaps¡ªit is not unusual to see two members of the same sex expressing fraternal physical affection towards each other. Occasionally, one will notice two close male friends (usually teenagers) with their arms around each other"s shoulders or waists and, quite often, you will observe two girls or women (within and across all age groups) holding hands or interlocking arms while walking in public as two very young Western sisters typically might when crossing the street together. For many Westerners this sight does take some getting used to, because it is one typically associated with homosexuality in our culture¡ªbut it has absolutely no such meaning in China. From our perspective, it is one of the more delightfully innocent aspects of Chinese culture that we as foreigners find to be utterly endearing.

Did you have a nice nap?

As is customary throughout the Mediterranean countries, the Chinese, particularly those in the southern and southeastern regions, take what could be called an afternoon siesta that lasts from approximately 12 noon to 2:30 pm everyday (in other words, a two-and-a-half hour lunch). This practice will be adhered to at any private or public school you work for, in that classes will never be scheduled during this time frame, nor will your FAO be anywhere to be found during siesta. Many foreigners who have lived in China for awhile tend to follow suit. Irrespective of whether you too decide to nap in the afternoon or not, you will need to keep in mind that many Chinese do, so if you have something that needs to be attended to, it is highly advisable that you do so before 11:30 in the morning or after 2:30 in the afternoon.

Although public offices and facilities (post offices, police stations, hospitals, banks, etc.) are technically open during siesta, they will often be grossly understaffed. Local, family-owned stores and businesses will also be open, but the owners will most likely be sound asleep in the back room (or on a cot right inside the store front). On the other hand, showing up at the Bank of China or post office between 2:00 and 2:30 is a great way to beat the crowds.

Going My Way?

About 65 to 70 percent of China is still rural and agricultural and, as such, many Chinese who move to the cities have never ridden inside an elevator before. A few will push the wrong button (typically they will press the "up" button in order to summon the elevator "up" when they want to go down) and, as such, the elevator will often stop at floors that have absolutely no one waiting. When the elevator eventually does make it to the first floor, it is not unheard of for those who have been waiting to hurriedly push their way into the elevator without first allowing the people inside to exit. It"s one of those small yet common annoyances that gets overlooked by foreigners who have been here for awhile.

 
   
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