I’ve lived in China for almost two years now so there are many things that no longer surprise me (although I have no doubt first time visitors from the United States would be shaking their heads in amazement) Still, I continue to notice a number of definite cultural differences.

Arm in Arm

You see the couples strolling along arm in arm. Each one appears very happy as they walk along. You can almost feel their fondness for each other. It’s a common scene in China. But often it’s not a man and a woman but two women together. If you think this is an observation about gay couples, guess again. You will often spot two women strolling arm in arm. It’s done by both young and older women.

It’s a cute sight and it’s evident the women are either close friends or in some cases family members. So a sight that might get a second look in America and possibly draw some comments is almost completely ignored in China.

Yes! We Have Some Bananas…Red Ones

I’ll bet you’ve had brown bananas in your home unless you’ve kept them just a little too long or maybe you were preparing a banana pudding. But I doubt red bananas have ever graced your shelf. But they can be found in China. They’re called apple bananas and I’m told they taste somewhat like an apple (When I was offered one, I was full at the time and never had the chance to try another one) That’s because they’re not common although regular bananas are in certain provinces.

One of those provinces is Guangdong Province where I live. It’s a coastal area which is quite temperate in the winter compared to the rest of China. So bananas thrive all throughout the year. In fact, there are banana trees in the apartment complex where I live. There’s even one right outside my back gate. But I’ve never picked one since I did not know who the tree belonged to. I would hate to be arrested for stealing a banana!

Check out the Corn

Corn’s another farm product that’s grown and sold here in all seasons. The way it’s “showcased” here is quite different. Western New Yorkers like to see their corn in the husk. That gives the impression it’s freshly picked. But in the Chinese markets the corn husk is almost always removed. If they see the husk on Chinese buyers they get suspicious that the corn is bad or the grower is trying to hide something. In their minds, I guess it’s preferable to have flies landing on the unhusked corn (which I see frequently) as opposed to maybe hiding a defect.

Condoms to Go

In American pharmacies and supermarkets, of course, any product of a sexual nature is usually confined to the back of the store. That’s especially true of condoms. Not so in China. They are prominently displayed at the checkout counters of drug stores and markets among other places. Often they’re right alongside products kids would pick up like candy or gum. I guess retailers are more concerned about convenience than moral stands of sorts. On the other hand, perhaps China’s One Child Policy is at work here. That’s the law which restricts families to only having one child to keep the population explosion in check. Maybe these condoms at the cash register are a not so subtle reminder of your obligation as a Chinese citizen!

The Postman Always Rings twice…On Sunday

The US Postal Service is continually talking about eliminating Saturday service as a way of cutting costs. In China not only is the mail delivered on Saturday but Sunday as well. The service is called China Post and besides mail delivery it also operates newsstands and even banks! ( I imagine the US Postal Service would love to have a source of income like that!)

The Chinese have apparently figured out other ways to save on delivery costs. Many of the carriers use bicycles…not the jeeps or gasoline vehicles that are common in the U.S. Actually, there was a time when the US Postal Service did deliver on Sundays. When I was in grade school in the 1960s, I clearly remember Sunday deliveries at Christmas time. That was in the era when people used to send out lots of Christmas cards.

Of course, Sunday deliveries have a down side…and not just for the person who has to work on the “ day of rest”. It means an extra day of receiving bills. Bills and junk mail are about all I receive at my China address!