Bizarre Beijing

I have spent more than a year in Beijing, and every day I discover something new. It really is an amazing place full of rich history and tradition, magically melding with modern technology.

However, some things about Beijing I will never get used to. In fact, I’ve started a list. In no particular order here are some things that I find Bizarre in Beijing:

  • Beijing Bikini – when a man rolls his shirt up over his belly to cool himself off. Especially attractive when he’s got a huge beer gut and is wearing dress pants.

A Beijing Bikini spotted in the wild.

  • Bicycle Seats – Almost all bicycles in Beijing come equipped with a rear seat. It’s common to see a young woman riding sidesaddle on the back of her boyfriend’s bicycle. There are also bicycles that have seats for children. Car licenses are expensive and difficult to acquire, so many families just have a bicycle or two. Mom, Dad, or even Grandma and Grandpa, will take Junior to school by bicycle. The bicycles also come with a weather cover. Gotta keep Jr. warm in the winter, shady in the summer, and dry in the rain!
Keeping kids temperature controlled on bicycles is of the utmost importance!

Keeping kids temperature controlled on bicycles is of the utmost importance!

  • Scooter Safety – Seeing a whole family on a scooter. Dad’s in control driving, Mom’s sitting behind him, sometimes with an infant squeezed between the parents. Often there’s a toddler standing between Dad’s knees who can barely see over the handlebars. No one is wearing a helmet.
  • Split Pants – Most infants don’t wear diapers in China, and to avoid accidents they wear pants that have no crotch. This allows parents to easily hold Junior over a toilet to relieve him or herself. However, it means that Junior’s crotch is on display for the rest of the world to see. I’ve seen more baby penises in China than I’d care to count. (Girls are potty trained earlier and/or wear dresses that cover a lot more.)
Split pants at their finest.

Split pants at their finest.

While these kids don't have the split pants, the little boy is sporting one of the oddest haircuts I've ever seen.

While these kids don’t have the split pants, the little boy is sporting one of the oddest haircuts I’ve ever seen.

  • Public Urination/Defecation – it’s usually infants, but I’ve seen children as old as 10 pull up a dress or drop trou’ in the middle of a busy block and just let go. Sure there’s a lack of public restrooms in Beijing, but still! I’ve also heard tales of grandmothers holding infants over trash cans in shopping malls to allow their charges to relieve themselves; often when there’s a public restroom within sight!
  • Traffic – It feels like taking my life in my hands just to be a pedestrian. Cars head straight for each other only to swerve at the last minute. Cars, buses, and scooters all fight for supremacy, though in Beijing it’s all about size. The bigger the vehicle (or group of pedestrians) the more likely they are to get the right-of-way.
  • Parasols – I thought sun umbrellas went out in the 1800s, but they are alive and well in Beijing. Paler skin is thought to be beautiful here, so women are always carrying around a parasol. Not an umbrella, no, though they carry those too. Parasols are special, pretty, and lacy around the edges.
This woman still has her parasol up, despite being indoors in a subway station.

This woman still has her parasol up, despite being indoors in a subway station.


  • Kitchen Size – Back when I was looking for an apartment I couldn’t get over just how teeny-tiny all of the apartment kitchens are. There’s no counter space! It’s almost like kitchens were added as an afterthought, converted from what used to be a bathroom. I can’t imagine cooking for more than one person at a time in any of the kitchens I’ve encountered.
  • Spitting/Hacking – I’ve always hated the sound of someone hocking up a loogie, but here it’s impossible to escape. Everyone does it, from kids up to (and especially) old men. I’ve had students do hock up loogies in the trash can in my class only to have the whole class dissolve into giggles at my reaction (horrified skeeving).
  • Pollution – It’s hard to see very far in the winter the smog is so thick. One prays for rain, wind, snow…anything to blow away the smog so that Beijingers can enjoy a day or two of clear skies.
  • Personal Space – There isn’t any. I once read that Chinese people think that “Americans treat family like strangers and strangers like family.” If I keep this in mind, I can usually understand the lack of courtesy (how hard is it to hold the door for the next person?), but personal space is a little harder. On the bus and subway, particularly during rush hour, there is no personal space. People are packed in like sardines. It’s awful in the summer. I’ve gotten off the bus to find that my back is sodden with someone else’s sweat. Gross.
  • Dressing Alike – Couples wear coordinating outfits all the time. Sometimes it’s cute, most of the time it’s just weird.
Matchy matchy is all the rage for couples!

Matchy-matchy is all the rage for couples.

That’s all that I can think of right now, but I’m sure there’s more. If you think of something bizarre in Beijing that I’ve missed let me know in the comments!

See the original inspiration for this post here: 19 Crazy Things That Only Happen in China by Mamta Badkar on Business Insider.

Categories: China, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Bizarre Beijing

  1. Those definitely aren’t aspects I could get used to either! But I do hope to experience China in the future!

  2. I have only lived in China for a short time and you covered everything that I could think of! Very funny read since I’ve seen examples of everything!

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