Tim Foolery

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Thoughts on Shanghai – Cultural Differences

My recent trip to Shanghai was my first trip to Asia ever.  I noticed a few cultural things that were quite different from my other travels to Europe and  Africa, including:

Service People Not Wanting to Say “No”

  • At the hotel, I asked how long it would take by Metro to get to Central Plaza. The response “You would be much more comfortable in a taxi”.  Undoubtedly, but I want to take the Metro.  How long will it take, I have to be there by 10h00, can I make it? “I would think a taxi would be better, let me get you one.”  No, how long will it take? “You have to transfer, a taxi will be better and very cheap.”  So are you saying 30 minutes or 45 minutes or an hour? “Yes, a taxi is better.”
  • I never saw a single person cover their mouth when coughing. I even had a face full of cough a couple times on the Metro (maybe the guy above was right, I would be more comfortable in a taxi). Wide open mouth coughing like Typhoid Mary – a very common site in Shanghai.
Hocking a Loogie
  • I don’t think I’ve ever written about Hocking a Loogie – I had to look up the spelling of both of those things.  As we walked around the City we constantly heard the coughing and hocking of loogies.  Young children, men in suits, women with babies and grandmas so old and shrunken you could put them in your pockets — all spitting their mucous on the sidewalks — or if they were very polite into the gutter.  You couldn’t walk the sidewalks without seeing wads of mucous every dozen meters or so.

What are some of the personal/cultural differences you noticed while in China — or other places around the world?

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