AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then…

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 8, 2012

Photo from the South China Morning Post

BAIDU, the most widely used search engine in China, has a bulletin board for discussion. One user recently started a thread asking, “Why are Japanese Roads So Clean?”

That someone in China thought this would be a worthwhile subject for public discussion contains the implicit assumption that Chinese roads are not as clean. Indeed, many Chinese who come to Japan for the first time are surprised at the cleanliness of its public places because they’re accustomed to streets filled with trash. The Japanese explain this with the general observation that roads and other public spaces in Japan are not for an individual’s exclusive use, so they think they have no right to throw trash there. Public spaces in China are not for the exclusive use of the individual either, but for the Chinese that means they don’t care what they do.

In fact, the thread title claimed that Japanese streets were 10,000 times cleaner than Chinese streets. Here are some of the responses the OP received to his call for opinions.

* Because China is 10,000 times dirtier than Japan. Are you satisfied with that answer?

* It’s the degree of civic awareness. Japan has become urbanized and has a high degree of civic awareness. Large Chinese streets require cleaning 10 times a day, but in Japan once every 10 days is sufficient.

* It’s because China is a developing country. It’s universal that developing countries aren’t as clean as developed countries.

* Japan has a maritime climate.

* 10,000 times? Are you saying that all Chinese streets are like toilets?

* Just because it’s dirty where you live doesn’t give you the right to say that it’s typical of China. It’s clean where I live, anyway.

One factor behind the objections to the thread itself might be that the people responding know only China and have no standard for comparison. The Japanese are relatively restrained in their comments about Chinese cleanliness — at least for public consumption. But Westerners aren’t restrained at all. You know how they can be.

One blogger from England let it rip:

Despite armies of street cleaners China is incredibly dirty. Streets are often littered with discarded food, fruit, paper and other waste. Even in some supermarkets the grime seen on floors would shock most westerners. The most noticeable dirty habit of many Chinese people is spitting. Chinese men especially have the disgusting habit of making loud hawking sounds and spitting the contents of their actions on the road, pavement or wherever they happen to be. While it is mostly men, women too can be seen participating in this vulgar habit. Some people even spit on the bus, and onto the floors of restaurants and public toilets. Many Chinese people also seem to blow their noses in a most indiscreet and vulgar fashion. Handkerchiefs or tissues appear to be too much trouble. Instead people are often seen to use their thumb and forefinger to press their nose and loudly blow out the contents onto the street.

He’s just getting warmed up:

If you’ve managed to survive the food prepared in unhygienic conditions and made it past crowds of spitting individuals, you will at some time need to use a public toilet. You will wish you never had. Chinese toilets are arguably the dirtiest and smelliest in the world. Even festival toilets are no match for what you’ll meet in a Chinese lavatory. There are cultural differences that can and should be tolerated, and there are just plain disgusting habits that hark back to an era of primitiveness when mankind still walked on all fours. China has squat toilets and Western style toilets. The squat toilets are traditional and are a cultural difference. But the toilet habits of many Chinese are not. They are extraordinarily dirty. Sometimes one might think even a dog has cleaner toilet habits than many of them.

He was so worked up, he continued his rant on another site. (At least I think it’s him.)

Could it be that the Chinese are practicing for the littering Olympics? Maybe, though a glance around China would prove otherwise, they feel that to win first prize in that event, they need more practice and so everywhere becomes a target for litter, including bus and train floors. Once I traveled from Wuhan to Beijing. At the end of that journey, the train’s floor was covered with spit, wrappers of all kinds, tissue, sunflower seed husks, apple cores, banana peel, orange peel, piss, more sunflower seed husks, egg shell, plastic bottles and bags, and bread that some bitch didn’t want to eat.

If you tell them not to litter, they look at you like you are a weirdo and ask you what you are doing in China. You are a foreigner; it’s not your business.

Chinese people refuse to accept that they have a problem. They will deny it. As an example, when I was teaching a class on cultural differences, spitting came up and one lady vehemently denied that Chinese people spit more than in any other culture. She noted that her husband had been to Germany recently and saw people spitting on the street too, with a greater frequency than Chinese people. So I questioned my German friend: do people in Germany spit like the Chinese? My German friend was vehement: that’s bullshit. You will hardly ever see people spitting on the street in Germany, except maybe the Chinese there.

At the bottom of the page he has a link to part two of his rant:

City people will claim these are dirty countryside habits but this is a blatant lie. For two years, I lived in a provincial capital in China’s northeast. I worked in a modern high rise building on the eleventh floor in the most cosmopolitan area of the city. You could smell the toilets when you got off the elevator, despite the doors to the toilets being shut. The act of going to use the toilet was filled with apprehension, because 75% of the time, when you entered, the toilet was unflushed by the last occupant and full of reeking shit. Judging by the amount of shit, sometimes it was the last 2 or 3 occupants. On many occasions, I almost puked. And even in the squat pots, they spit on the floor, not in the pot. So when you go in and squat, you’re staring at frothy spit in front of you.

And it isn’t just him, as a quick look at the comments will demonstrate.

It would seem the person who started the thread on Baidu wasn’t exaggerating when he said Japanese streets were “10,000 times cleaner”.

Remember: These are the people who use “flower” as a synonym for “China” and who think their behavior is the standard by which everyone else should be judged.

But it’s human nature to find someone else to look down on. There was a feeding frenzy and teapot tempest in 2010 when the Chinese amused themselves by passing around photos of Dirty India. You can read the response of Rajesh Kalra in The Times of India here. It’s called, “Do we need the Chinese to tell us we are dirty?”

I hope not.

Here’s a segment from a Japanese television program examining this issue in China from the perspective of pollution. It’s in Japanese, but language ability isn’t needed to get the drift. The fisherman says the river is so dirty there’s no fish to catch. A man and woman say the land is so polluted the farmers can’t grow crops. There is a lot of talk in the studio about water standards, and they mention there are 19 places in China where you’re not even supposed to touch the water.

Their first film clip is of air pollution on a city street in Fukuoka City caused by yellow dust storms from China. The second, when the Chinese man in the studio speaks, is back in China. He notes that rather than calling China the world’s factory, it should be known as the world’s trash can.

Another previous post explains the reason Japanese insist on buying domestically farmed fish when they get the chance.

But is all that just a prelude to the final disillusionment?

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2 Responses to “If cleanliness is next to godliness, then…”

  1. Ken said

    There is no human rights in China. The Chinese are cattle of Communist Party.
    The suspect of poisonous dumpling incident is missing. When a reporter visited the parents, the reporter was asked whether he knew any info about their son on the contrary. It is said the suspect might have been minced to ingredient of dumpling.

    http://sankei.jp.msn.com/world/news/121108/chn12110803280000-n1.htm

  2. yankdownunder said

    I used to work as a relief English teacher in Sydney. Many language schools set up high school prep English courses. Students studied English for a few months before enrolling in one of the local high schools. The students were 99.9 % Chinese, some Korean and Vietnamese.

    Most schools had signs in the toilet with instructions on proper use in Chinese/English.

    I was more shocked by Chinese students behavior. They were the worst behaved of any students I’ve taught. Other teachers also were always complaining how difficult they were.

    Also I was a little shocked when I saw what the Chinese students had done to all the atlases at one school. Every atlas had Japan crossed out with words like f**k Japan and Taiwan map
    was marked as being part of China.

    These future Aussies wont have to speak English or be toilet trained(maybe).

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324073504578106531767288270.html

    Goldman Affiliate Launches Fund for New Australian Visa Program

    A new investment fund overseen by an affiliate of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. aims tap into the boom in applications from Chinese seeking to emigrate to countries like Australia, the U.S., Canada and the U.K., at a time when capital is flowing out of China at an unprecedented rate.

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