The Three T’s on the Two S’s

I’ll let you discover for yourselves what the two S’s are. (Hint: they’re cultural phenomena that frequently catch genteel Westerners off guard during their first trip to China.) A must-read.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

Thanks for the compliment!! You might want to change the link to, ‘cos I’ve put something else there now.

June 18, 2005 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

Great post! Could add ‘squatting’ as the Third S. (as in what you must do to use the toilets in China!)

June 18, 2005 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

As I mentioned on the OP’s site:

The staring in China doesn’t really bother me so much because I recognize it as the curiousity that it really is (he makes a great example for illustration). On the other hand, it can be a bit much when you are sitting in a restaurant trying to enjoy your meal and there are people staring at you and laughing each time you take a bite as if you were some zoo animal on display.

I’ve tried doing the same thing to them just to satisfy my curiousity and they don’t like it one bit. Ironically, the find it to be (gasp!) rude!

(The Horse’s Mouth)

June 19, 2005 @ 12:10 am | Comment

On my first trip to China ten years ago I wrote in my diary about the “Seven S’s’: spitting, staring, squatting, smoking, slurping, shoving and shouting [laowai]. China is more modern now and I don’t think you would see most of these in big cities anymore. Except perhaps spitting. smoking and slurping. Are these the Three Represents?

June 19, 2005 @ 1:37 am | Comment

Maybe I’m just jaded because during my first China experience, I really was a space alien. I was literally the first foreigner a lot of folks had ever seen, at least the first young ‘un not hiding behind the windows of an air conditioned minibus.

Now when I go back I feel almost anonymous. I just don’t notice the staring and so on. Being able to talk to people helps. And I guess I haven’t been in that many places that are off the beaten track in recent years, so people seem pretty used to laowais.

June 19, 2005 @ 1:45 am | Comment

I’m gonna try and do a Shanghai Slim-esque type of comment here. Here goes.

Don’t forget that a lot of local people here, particularly in the big cities and particlaularly the educated and the young, also consider spitting, staring, shouting, slurping etc to be rude and uncultured behaviour.

They see it more as a class/culture, city/countryside thing and yes, even a male/female thing as well.

It’s a shame that often all mainlanders are tarred with the same brush on this.

My Chinese family wouldn’t dream of doing any of those things and I haven’t seen someone spitting on my (no other foreigners) estate, well I can’t remember the last time.

June 19, 2005 @ 3:00 am | Comment

This issue of staring is off putting to me, more just bellyaching than anything of substance. I have always been looked at and talked about in my travels in China. So what what’s the big deal? After all you are in a foreign country, not in your home town. It is not like spitting that has health issues with it. Don’t you stare/look at Chinese when you travel? I know I do. I take pictures of the interesting looking Chinese. Isn’t that a form of staring? What if a few Martians walking down a street, say in Chicago, NY, D.C. or Topeka? It would cause quite a lot of staring, no?

Those who complain are here in China voluntarily I presume. Just get used to it I suggest or don’t go out.

June 19, 2005 @ 3:35 am | Comment

Your point’s valid pete, though a bit harsh. Unfortunately, if you have load of people coming from countries where spitting/staring are taken as being so rude and put them in China, this is what you get.

Anyway, whenever you live in a foreign country there are aspects which you don’t care much for. Same goes for mainland students in the west.

I met a lass once in Guangzhu who said she studied in the UK for 2 years. “Oh” I relied, “How was it?” “Awful” she said “I hated every minute, every single awful minute”.

Now THAT’S bellyaching haha.

June 19, 2005 @ 3:56 am | Comment

I remember a story about an English guy who went for a walk in the hills among some isolated villages. When he would arrive in a village, everyone would stare at him, and a number would follow him. When he went into a local pub, everyone would stop talking and turn and stare at him until he left. He felt really uncomfortable at being treated this way by a bunch of bloody ignorant peasants … but what did he expect when he went for a walk through the Welsh valleys in the 1800s???

June 19, 2005 @ 4:43 am | Comment


To be honest, a lot a pubs in the north-east of England are like that, paticularly if your accent is that of a hated southerner, or even worse, a Londoner.

June 19, 2005 @ 4:51 am | Comment

You know Pete, there is some merit to what you say, but at the same time there is staring and then there is staring.

It’s one thing when you’re a tourist that doesn’t understand the language, but when you live here and here and they stare at you as I mentioned and it’s accompanied by laughter…that’s a different story..especially when it’s followed up with the word “monkey”.

It’s one thing to go to a distant village, but it’s quite another thing when you’re in a big city.

As for the spitting. Well, yes, it has health issues…so does the whole communal dish concept. I may find it rude when they spit outside, but it really throws me up the wall when I have guests over and they hock up and spit on my floor. FUck that!

I had a university student tell me that only peasants spit like that and after he spit one of his own a few minutes later, I replied that I never realized that.

I really don’t mind the staring as long as I know it’s not malicious. Personally, I don’t stare at people (minus the beautiful girls, which means I stare a lot) because I don’t like it myself. Oh well, that’s China. Push, shove and fuck everybody else.

June 19, 2005 @ 6:34 am | Comment

Yes, I agree it is harsh as I wanted to make a point as well as it is a left over habit from my litigation days. Writing for clarity and impact in the adversarial process does that for a litigator. You don’t want the judge or the jurors to misunderstand your points.

If apology is warranted I give it.

Fortunately for me perhaps, my Chinese is at the taxi level, so I do not catch all the bad mouthing that goes on. A short story. Back in 1992 or 93 I went on a trip to Guizhou to see the San Yue Jie in a way out town. It was in a foreigners prohibited area, at least the local PSB thought said. I had an article from a magazine, China Today or some such, about it and showed it to the PSB office, so they said I could go. They assigned one minder and an local English teacher to accompany my female companion and I to the festival area. When we reached the village we stop for lunch at a noodle place. The English teacher told me that the young men at the next table (4 or 5) wanted to fight me. A quite nice reception. What was I supposed to do? I just smiled at them and then took a photo of them. No trouble after that.

Its the adventure I like.

June 19, 2005 @ 9:12 pm | Comment

Apology not warranted mate.

Looks like we were travelling around South China at around the same time pete.

Yes, we used to get that a lot, people wanting to fight us and/or gamble with us. That’s right, some actually wanted to do both. Morons.

The last time someone asked to have a fight with me was only last year sometime when I was in Guangzhou’s Botanical Gardens with the etended family. (By the way, you can give the botanical gardens a miss mate).

The perpetrator was of course a Wai di ren, a tourist from outside of the province.

The mother-in-law told me to pay no attention to the silly peasants! Nice one mom.

June 20, 2005 @ 4:06 am | Comment

Only time in my life I’ve been slugged in the head (not counting primary school and my brothers) was by a waiter in Yangshou, near Guilin. Guess he wanted a fight too.

June 20, 2005 @ 5:24 am | Comment

…and it sounds like he got one FSNo9!

June 20, 2005 @ 3:31 pm | Comment

I feel uncomfortable if they spit when I have passed by, does it mean what it looks like (disgust)?

June 20, 2005 @ 10:46 pm | Comment

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