Friday, October 28, 2011

The Wrong Side of the Road

I remember one of my teachers correcting me when I said that people drive on the "wrong" side of the road in Europe. And I'm grateful for her correction - it was a good lesson. Different doesn't equal wrong. But I confess that when something in this country is not done my way, I feel it is in fact being done the wrong way. And it happens a lot.

For example, washing dishes. My Chinese friends wash their dishes with little or no soap in cold water and then put them away dripping wet without first letting them dry. I find this practice... difficult to swallow. Especially since the water is unsafe to drink and I have just eaten off of said plate.

Another example is the lack of diaper usage. Chinese parents dress their children in split pants. It might be negative 100 outside, but there are bare bottoms out in the cold. Many Chinese feel that diapers are unsanitary (probably because anytime you see a diaper on a Chinese baby it is full enough to drag the ground). With split pants the kids just go wherever and whenever they need to, and the parents clean it up. Our family has yet to adopt this practice.

Anytime I go shopping and there is a blob of people at the register where there should be a queue, something within me wants to take each person by the hand and arrange them in a straight, single-file line. And if anyone tries to skip ahead, pushes, or shoves they will be immediately sent to the back of the line!

There are probably 30 more examples of how the Chinese way sometimes frustrates me to the point that I feel like yelling, "Just do it the right way!" But what I mean of course, is just do it my way.

Here, I am the foreigner - I am the one with the strange customs. Not my friends. I am the one driving on the wrong side of the road. So I have to bear this in mind when 5 different people stop me on the street to let me know I have not dressed my daughter correctly, or that diapers are not sanitary, or that using soap is not a very healthy way to wash the dishes. They are always polite about it, just a gentle acknowledgement of my car on the wrong side of the street. But I have realized they are actually loving me when they tell me these things, trying to save me from a head-on cultural collision, and I want to remember that.

Today I am grateful for friends who keep me in line, even if the lines are different from the ones I'd previously drawn.



Unknown said...

Thanks for your honesty. I know I would also find those very things frustrating. Thinking of you guys as drive on the "wrong side" of the road!

Tina said...

Same here with cold water and soap. I heat water on stove then wash. Lol....amazing how even though the countries are different no one gets really really sick. Amazing! Xo