Filthy habits


One of the things I noticed when I first visited China many years ago, was people spitting in public. Over the years China has changed a great deal but although it doesn’t seem quite as prevalent as it was, people are STILL spitting in public.  So forgive me for having a bit of a rant about it.

I loathe it, it is disgusting, not to mention unhealthy.

Today I was in a taxi when the driver hawked up a bolus of mucus and spat it out of his window where it hit the passenger door of another car – charming! – and then a few minutes later he did it again.

I am always nervous when walking along a pavement here that some passing cyclist will hit me when he spits, and believe me this is not an idle fear, I’ve seen it happen – yuck, yuck and double yuck.

In Europe during the Victorian era, most men smoked either pipes or cigars, or took snuff, and in those days they also spat a great deal.  Pubs, railway stations and many other establishments had spittoons (or cuspidors as they are sometimes called) in place to keep the sputum localised instead of all over the floor. Fortunately times changed and as the practice of spitting won public opprobrium so it died out – actually I wonder whether the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 didn’t have a lot to do with it , as folk became fearful of catching the disease. Fearful with good reason, public expectoration is one of the best ways of spreading respiratory diseases and other viruses.

The Chinese government has tried valiantly to put an end to this filthy habit over the years with various anti-spitting campaigns, but even President Deng Xiaoping was a great one for spitting whenever he felt like it, so although  many other ‘reforms’  have succeeded this is one reform that has not made much headway.  In the run up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 there was another concentrated effort by the government to stop public spitting.

Mind you I get just as ticked-off when I see over-paid Premier league footballers spitting on the pitch during a match in Europe or the UK

Sies! –  as we would say in South Africa.

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About herschelian

Recently moved to Beijing from London - its all new to me! Trying to learn Chinese, and what makes this city tick.
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3 Responses to Filthy habits

  1. John Rollason says:

    Beware, Jo – it’s not just the Premier League, runners also spit. I shall have to run with a cuspidor in future! There is a new opportunity for you: portable spitoons for sportsmen sold online from Beijing!

  2. norwich marj says:

    Yes sies and double sies- Nick tells a story of a train trip from Beijing to Chifeng where he opted to travel in a compartment of ladies to avoid the spitting!!!

  3. Teuchter says:

    One is not always safe from the ladies . . .

    I was once wandering through the large, posh and expensive shopping mall near Wangfujing, heard some very energetic hacking and turned round in time to see a very well dressed, middle-aged Chinese lady neatly depositing the contents of at least one lung into a waste-bin. It was a shock because the noise I heard suggested its maker to be a very large man.
    Sies, indeed.

    I was told they find our nose-blowing habits equally disgusting, especially if we then stuff the used tissue into a pocket or handbag.

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