Beijingers training etiquette for the Olympics

I just read an interesting article on how to prepare the Chinese for international guests during the 2008 Olympic games. According to the article curb public spitting, public cursing and littering are the main problems in Beijing, as well as a missing consciousness to properly line up and signs that badly translated into English.

I would agree that Beijing is a city where you every day see somebody who noisily spits on the street or at other places. I’ve even seen people spitting in a restaurant. During the first days I was shocked, but by know I guess I’m used to it – I was re-alerted again to this special behavior just when someone from Germany paid a visit and was new to this way of Beijing’s mostly male spitters.
A reason for spitting might be the dirty, dry air which might have some impact on the production of spit, but foreign visitors during the Olympics might still be offended.
There are some signs telling you not to spit, but so far this is limited only to certain places and has only shown little success.

No spitting
A “No spitting” sign in China. (By Harald Groven, released under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Another problem mentioned is the the lacking awareness to line up in Beijing. This phenomenon can be seen at various places: At subway stations, where everybody wants to get in the train even before other passengers had a chance to get off (I guess that traffic in general is a place where everybody is trying hard to push forward as fast as possible), at the cafeterias on Campus (well, it’s okay if you are able to maintain your position once you lined up) and so on.
At other places however, the Chinese aren’t too bad: Although the lines at the train station often reach 20 people in front of each counter, there is not jumping the queue.
There has been an official “queuing day” on the 11th every month, but so far I have not noticed any change (even on April 11, but I probably wasn’t in one of those lines where volunteers were telling people about the special day).

I don’t know about the public cursing mentioned in the article. It’s a little strange to watch Chinese use their cell phone: If the connection is not very good (or in cases where the other person is far away, who knows), Chinese start to shout when on the phone. It’s not that they are having an argument, it’s more that they want to make sure that the words are not lost on the way to their dialog partner.

The translation of some signs might be funny, some is simply not to understand if you don’t know Chinese. So you might order a “crap” dish instead of a “crab” dish or a sign on a mountain path warns you of slips (“Caution, slip”). But this is a large topic, I might want to write about it separately another day.


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