Thursday, October 6, 2011

did you know...

Some interesting things I’ve learned about China, gleaned from observation, reading the news and having conversations with my students/relatives/friends:

The imbalance of guys to girls in China is pretty widely known – about 116 boys for every 100 girls (quoting my second grand uncle, I/he could be wrong) – but there’s definitely a preference for boys over girls. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but my class of 30 students only has 5 girls. No kidding. Apparently, many parents are less willing to invest in girls and give them a higher education (past a bachelor’s degree) because they expect their daughters to marry at around 25 years old and then stay home to raise their children. Women who are around 30 and unmarried are called “shen nu ren,” which means left-over woman. Yikes.

You know how in the U.S., women still earn about 78 cents to every dollar a man makes? That doesn’t go on here – both sexes are paid equally for the same job. The U.S. needs to learn something from this. However, foreigners (say, if you are white and from America/England/France, etc.) are often paid significantly more than their Asian counterparts who do the same job.

On gender equality- I find that both sexes still aren’t really “equal” like they are in the U.S. For example, when I went camping (if you can call it that, at the Chinese military base), it was really apparent they expect all the guys to do the grunt work, but not only that, the girls are okay with it—okay with not being given the option to help out, while I was kind of offended. Another thing— I’m helping plan the annual basketball tournament for the students (about 140 students total), and there are 4 teams: all boys. When I was meeting with one of the administrative staff, she said that the girls had wanted to form a team too, but "nooo, we can’t have that." I was shocked and offended when she said that! They would have a lawsuit slapped on them quicker than anything if this was the U.S.!

Native Shanghainese are often preferred over people from outside the city (wai di ren, “outside land people,” basically people from the countryside who emigrated to Shanghai in hopes of making a better future for themselves)  for jobs such as nannying or housecleaning, because they can be trusted (aka tracked down in case anything happens). They have a reputation to uphold because all their documents are in Shanghai, whereas you don’t know if people from the wai di are trustworthy, and if they do happen to screw you over, you might not be able to track them down because they have fake papers (not that they do, but that seems to be the stereotype around here).

Guns are illegal here. No one owns one. Only a specific department of the police are allowed to have them, and they often abuse the privileges (or so I’m told). They are dispatched when there is social unrest, and well, you can probably guess the rest…

There is no minimum age for buying alcohol or cigarettes. Sure, you’re allowed to drive at 18, but when you’re 10 and want to buy some baijiu (white spirit, the stuff is disgusting, kind of like rubbing alcohol), no prob. In fact, the Chinese government owns the China Tobacco Company, whose popularity accounts for about 10% of the country’s annual revenue (read in The Economist) – so of course they’re not really going to educate their constituents in the harms of smoking!


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