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Friday, September 21, 2007


Bad habits

When I was in Malaysia one of my Chinese Malaysian friends warned me about two things in China, disgusting toilets and spitting. I had to say at the time that Malaysia had the worst record on both counts in my experience. To be fair, on my last visit to Malaysia perhaps the situation had improved.

So how does China rate? I can only speak of my own experience. In Nanning, Wuzhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Xiamen I found the overall standard of toilets to be good. They were generally both free and clean. I occasionally found something objectionable but this seemed to be an exception. It may be different in the countryside. Travelling between cities the bus would occasionally pull in for a toilet stop. While I didn’t encounter anything as bad as the worst in Malaysia I did consider these toilets to be below an acceptable standard and perhaps a little uncivilized.

As for spitting, in Nanning, Wuzhou, Guanzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai I did not encounter this practice more commonly than in Malaysia. I understand the Chinese government has had a campaign to eradicate spitting since the scares of SARS and bird flu. It seems to be reasonably successful in these cities. Xiamen was the exception. Generally it was more common there. The worst example was the driver of a bus I caught one night. I had the misfortune to sit close to the front of the bus. The driver sounded like he had the flu. I would hate to think that I had the responsibility for the lives of all those passengers if I felt as bad as he sounded. He was constantly clearing his throat in a very noisy manner. Every half-minute or so he would stick his head out the window and noisily dispose of whatever he had collected. I’m glad I wasn’t driving a car, or worse still a motorcycle, alongside.

So Yilan, if you get the opportunity to visit China again, hopefully you will find it more pleasant than before. Just be careful if you go to Xiamen.

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