13 Things That Are Normal In China (But That Might Seem Weird To You)

Jen Murray   |   August 31, 2021

When I lived in China there were many things that would probably be considered pretty ridiculous by our standards, but by China standards were and are extremely normal. (TIC or “this is China” comes to mind.) I got used to them pretty quickly, but whenever I tell people who have never travelled to China about some of the things considered normal there, they laugh and joke about how weird or ridiculous that is. So I decided to compile a list. And here it  is:

1.  Air Conditioners Are Considered Evil

Well, not “evil” but they will make you sick. Obviously right? Well it doesn’t matter what you think. This became fact when I lived in China because every single Chinese I ever came into contact with would tell me this. They are just bad for you and they will make you sick. “Having cold air blown at you is bad for your health.” “You are sick because of your Air Conditioner.”

2. Hot Water Is A Cure For Everything.

Whether you are sick with a cold or sick with cancer, hot water is the answer. (For the record, I didn’t mean for that to rhyme). This particular idea I came to accept because drinking hot water did legitimately make me feel better when I had a cold, which made what my co-workers and adopted Chinese grandmother kept telling me to be true seem all the more persuasive.

3. Pushing Is An Appropriate Response 

At least when it comes to the Subway, Bus, or a really crowded public place like a market. Seriously. Get out of the way. Get on or off the bus and do it quickly before the bus driver starts driving or before that bell starts dinging telling me that my arm is about to be chopped of because YOU ARE NOT MOVING.

It sounds rude, but it is in fact the way it is. And its normal. Pushing is not necessarily seen as rude, as long as it is within the appropriate circumstances I listed above. And had I not accepted it, I would still be waiting for the bus right now.

4. Babies Can Poop Wherever They Want

And they don’t wear diapers. They have little slits in between their legs so they can just go whenever they want. And sometimes it happens on a train. Or a bus. It all depends on where you are in the country. But it’s ok.

5. Puking And Then Continuing To Drink Is Ok

 Just smoke a menthol and move on.  Who says you cant tackle another shot of Hennessy (real or fake).

6. Getting Drunk Every Night is Fine

I’m not just saying that because did it all the time. The Chinese do it too, they just do it differently than you or I might.  They instead go out early and go home early so that they aren’t as  hungover in the morning. But they still go out all the time. Speaking of which,

7. The Club Closes When Everyone is Gone

Where I come from, the club closes at 3 am, but not before the booze is cut off promptly at 2 in the morning. It sucks. It really does. But in China the club keeps going until there are only a few stragglers left. And even then you might end up drinking with the staff. I did it all the time. Who knows.

8.  Spitting Is Considered Normal. Rather Out Than In!

Now, not so much with the younger generation, as with the older ones does this really apply. But it does happen a lot. You see people spitting everywhere. And its not considered rude. In fact, if you are eating something with bones in it, where do you think the bones are going to go? You are going to spit them out! Onto the table… or floor depending on what kind of place you are in.

9. The Half Shirt Up

Ohhhh yeah baby. Whether they have just eaten too much or its hot outside, men love to roll their shirts up. Not take them off, just roll them up halfway. Why? Cause f*ck ‘em, thats why!

10. Hello, Nice To Meet You. Here’s A Cigarette. 

I freely admit that when I lived in China, I picked up smoking. Most people in China do in fact smoke, and the statistics are easily found on the internet.

In China, when you meet someone for the first time, it is perfectly normal to give that person a gift. And since most Chinese usually carry cigarettes, that gift usually ends up being a cigarette. And it’s considered pretty rude not to smoke it. You might lose some serious face.

11. Buying Food In Bulk Is Taken To A Whole New Level

You get it. 

12. Bars On Windows

And here we have the lovely view from my old apartment in Shenzhen.  Bars are a common thing in China, and they are there for your protection. Or at least, for the protection of your belongings. I have heard tell of burglars that could scale buildings 20 stories tall. So naturally, all of the windows, even the ones on the top of the building, have bars.

13. Nowism (Not To Be Confused With Maoism.)

This me with a class of seniors that I was told I would be teaching English to in the community centre of the neighbourhood I lived in.  I was told I would be doing this about half a day before it happened.

“Half a day?!” you ask.

Well, half a day was actually good. It usually happens on the spot. Which is why it’s called nowism. Because it happens in the now.

(The word Maybe when used by Chinese means you are, in fact, doing these things.)

“Maybe, you don’t have class today.” Someone might tell you as you are literally entering the class you are supposed to teach.

“Maybe you will judge a competition in 45 minutes.”

“Maybe you should give the students an exam. Today.”

“Maybe your power will not work.” (I was already at home with no power when I was told this.)

“Maybe we have a banquet today.”

“Maybe we will go to lunch with the principal.”

“Maybe we will go to KTV.” (This one never actually ended up happening and it damn near broke my heart. I really maybe wanted to go.

Maybe this blog post is over. 

Jen Murray is a writer/blogger/historian/know-it-all that currently lives in Canada. She spent two years living in Shenzhen, experiencing the culture, meeting locals, and learning Chinese. For more information, please go to www.theglasseyeproject.com or follower her on twitter at @JenMurray41