cultural differences

Yes, you may spit in public: Cultural Differences in Shanghai after 4 weeks

shanghai chian

[Photo taken on June 18th, 2015 while walking to the subway from IKEA]

It’s been two weeks since my last post(I haven’t sat down to write in a while) but I finally found time to write about a few cultural differences I’ve noticed while being here in Shanghai, China. Here are the main ones:

People are genuinely kind

For the most part, Chinese people in Shanghai tend to be kind. They smile at you, they laugh, and they help you when you ask for it. I haven’t had any issues yet(fingers crossed) but I don’t expect to either.

Chinese people are very superstitious

Often you will hear fireworks go off randomly around the city. Anytime a new store is opened, they shoot off fireworks to scare away the ghosts. The color gold is used to also scare away ghosts and “protect” certain buildings and stores. Also, the number 4 is unlucky because it is a homonym for the word death meaning it is the same word, but in a different tones in Mandarin and some other dialects of Chinese.

Spitting in public is socially acceptable

In public, common to hear people gathering up all the saliva and mucus in their mouth and then yucking it onto the street. It may be disgusting to hear and see but it’s most likely due to the air pollution that they have to eliminate all that gross stuff from their system. I

Men grow out their pinky nails to pick ear wax

I wish I had a picture to show for this but yes, some men will have long fingernails on their pinkies with the specific purpose of cleaning the earwax from their ears.

“scooterpooling” and “bikepooling” is common

Almost anywhere I go in Shanghai, I always see multiple people on scooters and bicycles. I carefully observed scooters and bikes when I’m walking and it seems as though almost all are built to hold at least two people. I personally think it’s awesome! They’re saving electricity(most scooters are electric) or just sharing a ride! I wish my bike back home had a seat on the back for someone- I’d give friends rides more often! I don’t have a picture I took but here’s one I found on Google Images so you get the idea:


Well, hope you enjoyed the short post with a few observations about cultural differences in Shanghai! Next week, I will write about what my experience has been like teaching English! Zàijiàn!



Milk comes in a pouch? Say what?!

It’s the last day in September, meaning I have about two months left. In today’s post, I want to share a few “aspects” that are different here in Buenos Aires.

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Mayonnaise and milk come in pouches

The mayonnaise and mustard are in pouches instead of containers. I thought this was so weird when I bought milk for the first time. It comes in a pouch. I put the bag in a pitcher and then pour it. It sounds funny but hey, it works 🙂


Coca cola signs are bigger than the names of restaurants

I don’t know why this is but they are lots of stores and restaurants that advertise the brands they carry instead of their actual restaurant. By that I mean you’ll see a restaurant with a Coca Cola sign that’s BIGGER than the name of the restaurant. I guess it makes sense in that fact that if you’re a small restaurant and you don’t have a catchy name you at least want people to know that you carry Coca Cola.

The popcorn at the movies is sweet, not salty

When I went to the movie for the first time with my girlfriend and friends, we ordered popcorn and were to surprised to taste a sweet, kettle corn flavor instead of the buttery and salty flavor we’re used to back home. It’s not bad but I personally prefer the salty popcorn.

That’s it for today’s post! It’s a short one but hopefully you enjoyed it! Feel free to share any comments or thoughts below 🙂

I have about two months left before I come home.

8 weeks in Buenos Aires: Americans are overly polite

buenos aires y lluvia

Wow! The time really flies here. I can’t believe it’s been eight weeks. Here are a few new things I’ve noticed since I’ve been here. Hope you enjoy! 🙂 Free free to share any thoughts below!

Buying groceries means 3 trips instead of just one

Back home in Arizona, I’m used to making only one trip for all my groceries. However, here in Buenos Aires, I make three! Obliviously, not everyone does this but I find it to be more cost-effective to purchase meat from the butcher shop, bread from the bakery, and the rest of my groceries at the supermarket.

Americans are overly polite

Not everyone has said this but a few people I’ve met here have said that the Americans they know are overly polite and always saying “thank you” and apologizing too often. I think the difference may be that Americans tend to be more courtesy in their words and Argentinians with their actions. I am not saying this applies to everyone but this is my hypothesis for now.

Washing dishes by hands

I almost completely forgot that dishwashers exist til I thought about this the other day! In my homestay, and other Argentine homes I’ve visited here, you wash the dishes by hand and then dry them. I think it keeps the kitchen cleaner than having a dishwasher because you simply wash each dish after you use it(for me at least).

Bus lines are run by private companies?

I researched this on a superficial level and couldn’t find much  but I believe private companies operate the bus lines. If you look closely on the inside of the bus, usually you’ll see the name of a company such as Empresa Tandilense S.A., which owns and operates line 152. However, the government subsidizes the fares.

Day 45: Door knobs are just for looks

puerto madero buenos aires argentina

Day 45 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and here are more cultural observations- hope you enjoy!

“The bus comes when it comes”

When it comes to transportation, it seems as though there is all the time in the world. People simply wait at the bus stop or at the subway platform and get on when the bus or subway arrives. No one seems to be in rush. However, the reason for that may be because the public transportation is really useful and the most time I’ve had to wait for a bus or subway is 15 minutes.

A lot of Argentinians talk with their hands

Not everyone uses their hands to talk but those who do paint a picture of what they’re describing with their gestures. I believe this is because a lot of people have Italian roots and Italians talk with their hands.

“Muy amable” expression

This is my favorite expression in castellano. After someone gives you directions, or really shows you kindness in anyway, you hear this expression. I interpret it as “That’s very kind of you.” I love it because I don’t feel like there’s an expression in English that we use to express gratitude in the way an Argentine person might. It’s really cool!

Description words are used as names

Instead of using the person’s name such as “Nico” or “Sara,” people sometimes call a person by the adjectives one might use to describe that person such as flaco(skinny), gorda(large), linda(pretty)etc. I wouldn’t consider it “labeling” a person but rather using words that actually relate to what the person is. An example would be, “Oi, flaco. Vení acá,” which directly translates to “Hey, skinny, Come here.”

You always greet the people that live in your building

I live in an apartment and every time I see someone walking out the front door, in the elevator, or on the stairway, the person always greets me and says hello. I wouldn’t know if it’s the same in New York or Chicago or another big city in the United States but it was something that stuck out to me.

Most doors in restaurants don’t shut automatically

I’m not exactly sure this falls under the “cultural” category but one thing that caught my attention is the fact that at some restaurants, the doors don’t close automatically. You have to actually shut it and this is something I’m not used to in Arizona.  There are doors that do shut automatically but I also see a lot that don’t compared to in Phoenix where I hardly see any. 

Door knobs are just for looks

It amuses me that there are numerous doors that have door knobs just for looks. By that I mean you need to turn the key like a doorknob to enter the building. This also means that if you forget your keys and no one is home, you can’t get in.

Feel free to share any thoughts below 🙂


3 weeks in Buenos Aires: more observations

street in buenos aires argentina

Today marks my 3rd week here in this metropolis called Buenos Aires. This will be the second post(read the first one here) I have written regarding my observations and things that have caught my attention while living here.  Just a fore-warning, this one is longer than the last one but should be just as interesting!

The custom for introducing yourself is a kiss on the cheek

The most common way to introduce yourself to a person(male or female) is to kiss them on the check(or kiss the air next to their cheek). I remember learning about this in a class during my first semester in college but I completely forgot and made a fool more than once during the first week.

It’s uncommon to walk barefoot in your house 

At my host family’s house, everyone walks around with shoes on. Now I don’t know how widely practiced this custom is but I do know that it’s practiced in other host family houses, according to a few other students.

When you go out for the night, you probably get home til 7am

Before I came to Argentina, my friend Nico told me that when you go out at night here, you stay out until the sun comes up. I told him that wasn’t going to be me. As it so happens, he was right. Usually, you leave your house around 11 or 12, go drink at a bar until 2 or 3 and then afterwards, go to a boliche, or club to dance.

The traffic light shines yellow light before a red light AND before a green light

I have no idea if this happens in other parts of the United States or even world but before the traffic light shines green, it shines yellow. I don’t if this has positive or negative side effects but I noticed this while riding in a taxi home one day.

You have to weigh your fruit/vegetables/meat/etc. before you checkout at the grocery stores

Instead of weighing your fruits and vegetables at the checkout, you have to wait inline near the produce section and have a clerk weigh your items and stick the price tag on them before you pay-not a big deal. It was more something that I didn’t realize would be different.

Professors don’t use Powerpoint presentations in class: they only lecture

Wow! This was totally unexpected. Since the classes are taught in Spanish, it’s especially hard to take notes AND listen to the professor lecture at the same time. I know I’ll get used to it after we move more along into the semester(this is the second week of the semester).

Everyone cleans their driveway/storefront

I don’t believe this is common in larger cities but I wouldn’t have enough experience/knowledge to say if this is common or not. Basically, in the morning you’ll see store owners or janitors cleaning the sidewalk in front of their complex or property. Where I come from, it would be very unusual to see someone scrubbing their driveway.

Cigarette smoke is UBIQUITOUS

It would be realistically impossible to go a day without breathing secondhand-smoke. Everyone smokes here and there is no escape. Even at the university! People smoke near the single, university building and sometimes the tall, wide doors open just enough to “click” and stay open to allow the unpleasant cigarette smoke to linger all the way to the eleventh floor.

That’s the end of my observations for this blog! Next week, I plan to write about the gastronomy of Buenos Aires that I will have encountered thus far. If you have any comments or thoughts, feel free to share them below 🙂