Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's' the small differences

One of the things that makes traveling so intriguing is discovering all the differences between cultures. For instance...

Small appliances
All the appliances here are small. The fridge is about half the size of a standard American model. The washing machine is tiny, and it has a weight sensor, too. Throw in a single wet towel and nothing else, and it won't start. Did I already mention that we don't have dishwasher?

Laundry service
Due to the small appliances (see above), if you go more than a few days without doing laundry, it's gonna take a while - and a whole lot of tiny loads - to get it done. We decided to try a nearby laundry service, so we dropped off a bunch of clothes and linens. We got it back and all our shirts were pressed, folded and sealed in celophane, complete with cardboard stays for the collared shirts - just like a new dress shirt you buy at a department store. Same for Andrew's shirts, even. Each piece of underwear had a laundry tag sewed into it. The total for all that craziness was about $40 - a helluva lot more than I want to pay for laudry.

No diapers
What do you do with your toddlers if they're not toilet trained and you live in a country with no diapers? Simple! Put them in pants with an open crotch, and they can go whenever and wherever they want! Apparently it's socially acceptable - and not at all unusual - for small kids to just do their thing right on the sidewalk.

Traffic rules
  1. Might makes right. The biggest vehicle wins.
  2. If you wanna cross the street or make a left turn, you'd better have big cajones.
  3. The bus isn't full until it's physically impossible to cram another human body on board
No legal-size paper
Don't get me wront - I hate legal size paper. It doesn't fit anywhere. But today I wanted to print a quick reference sheet that was specifically designed to fit perfectly on legal size paper and fold into a nice little booklet. Forget it. They never heard of legal paper here.

Most Chinese are unfamiliar with the modern home bathroom, or are only recently becoming acquainted with it. So it's not surprising, perhaps, that they haven't mastered the finer points of bathtub/shower drainage. For instance, you want the water to drain into the tub, not into the silicone-filled trough around the tub, which in turn drains onto the floor, which should then make a bee-line for the floor drain -- but only if the floor drain is at the low point of the bathroom floor, which it's not. Of course the result is a perma-puddle on the bathroom floor.

Fat pork
Lean meat might be all the rage in the good 'ol US of A, but not here. A favorite local dish is a hot chunk of pork, a cube about 1.5 inches on each side, which is 95% fat with a thin sliver of lean meat on one side and a thinner sliver of skin on the other, served in a little cup of melted pork fat. In fact, some of my colleagues who lived in the US said they sought out a specialty Asian market to satisfy their craving for fat pork. Artery-clogging goodness!

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