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TL;DR – China vs Korea

June 6, 2014

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So, we tend to do these TL;DRs whenever we come back from traveling. We’ve done them on Australia, Japan, Europe, and Toronto. Now for one on Beijing and China. Hooray! I’m sure we’ll do one comparing LA’s Koreatown to Korea’s, umm, Koreacountry when we get back at the end of the month!

Back to Beijing, though, apart from the things we mentioned, there were a few other things we found interesting that we hope maybe you could help shed some light on.

Namely, we spoke with one of the event organizers at the conference we were attending. She’s a German girl living in Beijing. We asked her if she has a similar experience to us, in that Korean people often ask us if we’re American. She said no, people in Beijing often ask her if she’s Russian. Russian saram? Russian saram!? We asked her if there was the same kind of connotation there with asking a girl if she’s Russian as there is here in Korea, and she was totally shocked. So, for those of you in the know…is there a similar connotation in Beijing and China, or is it just what we’re experiencing here in Korea?

Another difference we found in Beijing: taxis. They’re still pretty cheap like taxis in Seoul, but it seems so much harder to get a taxi in Beijing than it is here. We only got into a Rickshaw after waiting for 20 minutes and not getting any taxis at all. I’m glad we didn’t get a taxi that night, though, because it was an absolutely wonderful experience and I’d gladly ride those instead of taxis for the rest of my life. SOOO FUN! We also saw a lot of “black cars” or something along those lines: black cars would stop in front of us and ask us where we’re going, but our guide would ignore them and only try to get the regular taxis, supposedly because the black cars aren’t licensed or something like that. Anyone have more info on this? We never experienced anything like that in Seoul.

Anyhow, we’d love to hear what you guise think. For those of you who have been to Beijing, what was your experience like, and what was different? We’d love to go to Beijing again. The food alone is reason for us to go. Korea: y u no have Chinese food here? YOU’RE SO CLOSE! Bring me some deep fried beans! Do it!

If you’d like some delicious deep fried beans from China, click on this pretty button below. Free beans for you!

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TL;DR – China vs Korea

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  1. I’ve been in China since April. You guys just pretty much described everything I’ve experienced. I haven’t been to Beijing yet though. The shirt up is a common thing where I’m at too. I found it quite odd at first. But I’ve seen it so much it doesn’t catch my attention as easily as it used to. I get stared at EVERYWHERE! I live in a part of China where there aren’t many foreigners so everywhere I go I get like what you described with the guy on the bicycle. There was a guy once that stepped in front of a bus because he was looking back at me. Also a guy who tripped on the stairs because he was staring at me. I also get the Chinese word for foreigner or American shouted at me all the time, as well as the slang word. I now walk down the street with my ear buds in so I don’t have to hear that anymore. The taxis are super cheap where I’m at. The occasional personal car will pull over for me if I’m trying to get a taxi. Here it’s just people who want a few extra bucks. So they use their own car to taxi people around. They aren’t licensed to do so, but they do it anyways. Pollution is bad here like the sky will be a hazy yellow sometimes, but it hasn’t bothered me too bad. Traffic is crazy and the way you described the lanes is the same here. But I still think the traffic I experienced in Sri Lanka was worse. I was asked only one time if I was Russian. I think the thing with Russian in Korea was because women from there used to be sex trafficked into Korea, so yeah…
    It’s interesting that your short experience in Beijing was almost like what I’m going through living here where I am in China. (And I know this is like super late replying to this, but I’ve been busy with teaching and am really behind on watching your videos. :( I feel I’ve failed as a Nasty…responsibility kicks my butt!)

    5 years ago
  2. I really dont like it that most asian people will assume i am Russian. I am Ukrainian and everything thats going on with my country because of there president. I dont want to be considered Russian. Not just that i think is flat out rude to assume that someone who is white is russian. asian people dont like it when canadians assume things. Chinese people hate it when people call them korean or japanese. Koreans hate when you call them japanese and reverse. For myself here in canada i actually get mistaken for half korean. I am tempted to just go with it lol

    5 years ago
  3. KOREAN MEN, SHOW US YOUR NIPPLES

    5 years ago
  4. Driving is like that in Cairo, too. And horn honking. Constantly! They don’t use turn signals, just horn honks. I didn’t actually drive there, or I’d probably be dead now, but I was on a tour there and rode in a bus…the stuff we saw other drivers doing was just incredible! And not in a good way. I don’t know how they don’t have more accidents.

    5 years ago
  5. In England as soon as there’s sun and the temperature is around 17+ many people walk around shirtless. It’s not just the young adults who ‘work out’ but also the older men. In reality this isn’t exclusive to males, a lot of females walk around wearing those bandeau and bra-like tops as soon as the sun hits. You’d be amazed at the number of people you can find shirtless in parks and town centres. Although this is from a town near London rather than London. I’d be curious to know what it’s like over there!

    I’ve been to India about 3 times since my parents love the country so much and the traffic there is the worst I’ve ever experienced!

    5 years ago
  6. oh, and yes, here in Sichuan, the bellies are OUT! :-) It’s that time of year again….

    5 years ago
  7. I’m sure someone has already responded for the U.S., but I can say that for the most part, men are not as “modest” as in Korea. So much so that there are some men that maybe should be a little more modest. Now, I’m not talking about lifting up their shirt while in an establishment, but while outside working on the yard, washing the car, or just around the house… or walking down the sidewalk. BUT, I should say that while living in Houston, shirtless-ness happened more around the home, while in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it’s more “all over the place”…

    5 years ago
  8. HAHAHAHAHA, the shirtless thing!!! We were walking through Tienanmen Square when one of our guys decided to “do as the Beijingers do.” And up his shirt went. I still have pictures from it. To this day, when people ask me about China I always mention this. As for here in London, I’m surprised at how many people I see with no shirts. I think it’s just the area I live in. I don’t see it as much when I’m in central London.

    And… how people don’t mind defecating or urinating in public spaces. The split pants for babies threw me off at first, but not as much as a wall full of grown men urinating. And we weren’t even near a pub.

    The Russian thing is totally normal. I was in a city closer to the border of Russia and we had Russians along with Chinese people approaching us as well. My friends even had one coming up and speaking in Russian before he realized they were American. I don’t think it has the same connotation as it does in Korea (though I could be totally wrong).

    Another thing that threw me off guard was how many pictures were taken of us. At one point we had people following us around with professional cameras snapping pictures. People would walk up and hand me their kids or come and repeat “Picture! Picture!” I ended up asking if I could have their pictures as well just to remember how many people asked for one. The people I stayed with had a three year old daughter who was blonde haired and blue eyed. They would sit and stare at restaurants, take pictures, give her candy, and even try to touch her. At one point, I had to pick her up and carry her through the mall so the people would stop harassing her. They were consistently fascinated as if a doll had come to life in front of them.

    Also, I remember the bluntness of the Chinese. I’m not fat by any standard, but the shop keepers would always try to sell me bigger sizes. One woman, who was bigger than me, looked at me and said “No, you need a large, you’re fat.” We did hire two black taxis (You’re right, they are unlicensed by companies) to help our group. The driver of one of the cars chased down the overweight people in the group saying “Fat people in car.” He even patted the stomach of the largest guy in our group and asked him in Chinese if he had a watermelon in there.

    China is awesome though. Funny, but super awesome. I would move there permanently in a heartbeat.

    5 years ago
  9. I was in Beijing for several days before settling in South-West China for my semester abroad. I was lucky–the weather was beautiful, no smog to be seen. It also happened to be ridiculously hot, which–not sure if that trade-off is totally fair. Almost tricked into believing smog was an invention, but a month into my stay it was definitely noticeable. I would wipe my nose and my tissue would be black! Many companies pay employees an incentive to work in China. Pollution and hardship compensation.

    MAY I JUST SAY that your description of Rules of the Road: China is completely on point? More of a suggestion than a rule, that. I learned to look up at the skyline and pretend I was enraptured with the architecture and not the calamity that is Chinese roadways. To be fair: I never witnessed a motor vehicle accident during my entire stay.

    I was warned about the staring–I didn’t realize people would want to take pictures, too! I threw peace signs at people subtly and not-so-subtly aiming camera phones in my direction. I didn’t mind it, but thought it funny that I’m in somebody’s photo album right now.

    China has much to offer. I’m glad you took the opportunity to visit. I hope you’ll be able to visit less populated regions someday!

    5 years ago
  10. Hi. I’m Lauren from LA. You guys pretty much summed up my experience in a nutshell. My classmates and I were blessed with the opportunity to in 2012 and one of the girls got her foot run over by a scooter/bike on THE FIRST DAY. I’m mean not even 15 after we stepped outside our hotel.
    I was surprised by all the shirtless people, but it seed to me like most of them were older men.
    Don’t feel bad about the stares and picture taking. Yes you’re weird (but in a good way) but that’s not the reason why. We were stared at to and asked to take picture ( some with people’s children) and I have locs so that increased the amount of stares I got. It’s really because a lot of Chinese people ( especially those from rural areas) have never seen a real American (or in your case Canadian) outside of tB. We actually had a student from Peking University tell us that we were the first group of American teenagers he’s seem in real life.
    The formally dressed foreigners were probably business people or ex-patriots.

    Despite all that (and even the air) I would definitely go back. I love the food and the atmosphere.

    Did you guys check out the 798 Art District or see some of the really cool graffiti?

    5 years ago
  11. TL;DR Question
    Where I live, views on divorce are varied. And are different for different religions, and family views. After watching a Drama I started wondering Is it frowned upon, and considered a failure in Korea. Or is it just not talked about much. -Thank you

    5 years ago
  12. In Israel I don’t think there are many shirtless men, at least not in the cities.

    5 years ago
  13. I see shirtless people in the states ALL THE TIME!!! Even girls will go out with minimal clothing. It’s usually people running or going to the pool but everyone seems to jump at the chance to not wear clothes… Even the gross old men with big, hairy bellies. Ew! But on the more serious side, people really don’t care it they see shirtless people. It’s really just part of the culture. However they will take notice if a person shouldn’t not be wearing a top.

    5 years ago
  14. Summer is a very scary time in England. The sun only needs to make one brief k-pop idol in sunglasses walking through an airport appearance and the guys go crazy. It’s like a race to see who can whip their top off and get a can of beer into their hand the quickest. Finish line is of course, the pub!

    5 years ago
  15. OOOOMG I JUST FOUND THE SONG THEY ARE SINGING AT 4:49 THEY ARE SINGING A 2 PM SONG FROM AN ADVERTISEMENT. THEY TALK ABOUTE IT ON THE “Advertising in Korea…with Boobs.” VIDEO! oyyeah! (Proude of myself.)

    5 years ago
  16. I live in Texas and topless men are a normal sight here. My brother who is 12 years older than me (Im 29) is a big fluffy guy and has so much body hair ALL OVER that I actually braided his back hair once when I was a teenager, well he rolls his shirt up as well and slaps his stomach and picks belly button lint out of his navel. Growing up with a monkey man desensitised me to topless guys, so im like ehhh so what show your nipples I HAVE SEEN WORSE TRUST ME!!! oh and one time he put on a long hair braided wig and rolled up his shirt and pranced around outside and my neighbors gave him THE LOOK o_0 and he flipped his hair and in the most diva voice ever said “dont hate me cuz im beautiful!”

    5 years ago
  17. Here in Finland people just don’t seem to care if they are shirtless or not. Especially if they are biking. I have no idea why, but biking + men + even a little bit of warmth is the ultimate combo for shirtlessness.
    I have even seen people inside stores without shirts, which boggles my mind (it is NOT hot inside the stores here, ever!). On the actual first “warm” day (it was about 18 degrees Celsius outside) I saw many men walking around shirtless in our town centre. Thank god our town is small, only about 20 000 people live here so the amount of men in the centre was rather small… But I didn’t think it was that warm yet!

    5 years ago
  18. Hmm reading all of these comments and about the bad air quality, I’m not sure I’ll visit unless I win in a free trip or something. hehe.

    5 years ago
  19. I live in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, and in summer, guys go around shirtless allllllllll the freaking time. Maybe I just live in bogan-ville.

    As for bad air, I went to Hong Kong a few years back in the middle of summer, and like you two, I literally died when I went outside. Even with a mask on, I had a headache, my throat was so dry and swollen and on top of that my eyes decided not to function anymore so I couldn’t see anything either… It sucked, it really did.

    5 years ago
  20. As far as I know there is not a connotation with Russian girls in Beijing. More than likely they misunderstood her German to be Russian.
    After seeing the “masks” that you were wearing in Beijing, I can totally understand why you got sick. Cloth masks don’t cut it here. If you’re sensitive, you need a FULL MASK with a filter and such. Looks a bit like Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear, but it works.
    And with the cab thing…what time were you trying to get a cab? You probably got it during a shift change or rush hour. Cabs absolutely will not take you during rush hour, because omg traffic.

    5 years ago
  21. I’m from australia but my parents are from vietnam, i dont know if anyone else has seen this but 3-5 people on a motorcycle…HOW THE EFFFFF i mean i’ve been on a motorcycle with 3 people when i was in vietnam but 5?!!!. It gets better they also carry furniture on the motorcycle like sometimes a whole mattress…yes a whole mattress how is it even possible. And when you cross the road in some parts of the country, don’t bother looking out for cars and whatnot just close your eyes and cross and they will avoid you.

    5 years ago
  22. I’m in Korea now for summer abroad, but I live in Hawaii normally and there I’d say its pretty normal to see people in just straight bathing suits almost anywhere so like bikini tops for girls and just swim shorts for guys and some people don’t even wear shoes (but I find that kind nasty). People don’t always dress like that, but the normal wear is pretty much as little as possible most of the time. Tank tops, shorts, and slippers are the standard uniform :P

    5 years ago
  23. Just yesterday I was walking outside and almost naked man came towards me with only boxer shorts on…yhhh
    In Finland, when it’s summer men don’t usually walk all around shirtless in city centers but elsewhere they are not ashamed to show their skin… and especially old men are REALLY comfortable to be shirtless.

    5 years ago
  24. I didn’t know you could knit Martina! I can crochet but can’t knit… we should teach each other!

    5 years ago
  25. Wah Gwan Eatyourkimchi!! I’m from Jamaica and men being shirtless is not really uncommon. From lil kids to old men either tend to be shirtless if it’s either too hot or they just felt like it. Though it’s not usually done in the town more like in the community or home setting. If they are shirtless downtown it’s either they just don’t care or dem a mad man (homeless), no one really cares just as long it is not in a formal settings.

    5 years ago
  26. As I’m a Chinese, When I was young I consider all the foreigners as American, I think that’s what similar to Korea,also people refer to foreigners “American”. I don’t represent all the Chinese but I think it’s a common thinking back then. But now there are a lot foreigners in China, so people won’t assume you are American. And if people guess you are from Russia then it means you look European,(people think you are from somewhere Europe):p, Apology for my bad English.

    5 years ago
  27. Haha I lived in Beijing for a year and you guys have made me miss it so much! I can’t wait to see the food episode <

    5 years ago
    • Ah I can’t edit >< lol I meant to also say that people there would generally ask if I was English or Russian. But Russian doesn't have the same connotations as in Korea :) I think there are just quite a lot of Russian people in Beijing what with them being neighbours and all.

      5 years ago
  28. Oh China, driving is a matter of “Let’s shorten our life if not looking constantly on both sides”. I went to China twice (Shanghai and Beijing) and even experienced being in a car with locals (not taxi) and believe me I thought I was going to die more times than normal ^^”
    Concerning the question about being “Russian” it doesn’t have the same connotation in China. To put it simple your are “Russian” in China as you are “American” in South Korea. This comes mainly from history and relation between the USSR and China.
    For the “black cars” these are “illegal taxis” they ask you where you are going and give you a flat fare for the travel as they don’t use any monitors. Basically it’s a tourist trap, or another way to scam foreigners.
    I was in Beijing two years ago with some classmates (I started studying chinese 8 years ago) and my most vivid memory was :
    1) Traffic : it took us 3 hours(!!!) to get from the train station to the outskirts of the city !
    2) Pollution : if you looked up at the sky it was blue but when you looked at the horizon it was grey. You could litteraly SEE the pollution.
    But overall China is a really nice place and the people there are also incredible when you get to know them and they aren’t to shocked to see a foreigner (or taking a picture of you…. -.-‘)

    5 years ago
  29. OMG i have to agree with you guys about the AIR in CHINA. When I was in Beijing a few years ago, I could not even breath at all and felt sick all the time, it was so polluted, crowded, squashy….Here, it comes I must strongly agree with Simon, I prefer more spacious places, so yes for me coming to China on a holiday YES, but live there permanently — IT’S DEFINITELY A NO – :(

    5 years ago
  30. Well.. i used to live in nicaragua and you could see those fat old guys without shirt scratching their bellies and all of the hair
    .. that so disgusting!! But i got used to it and i had never saw a well fit man without t shirt that could be great And also little boys did the same!!

    5 years ago
  31. I live in Australia so seeing shirtless guys is very, very common, even in winter.

    5 years ago
  32. LOL.Shirtless men slapping their bellies is pretty common in Vietnam especially in you are in the rural area. I use to live in Vietnam and my house is next to a middle age guy. Everyday, in the morning when I get ready for school, I would saw him shirtless exercising in front of his house or scratching his belly while talking on his phone. It’s pretty disgusting,but funny at the same time !

    5 years ago
  33. Omg guys look what I found! #12 http://www.buzzfeed.com/adamellis/surprising-food-etiquette-rules-from-around-the-world?s=mobile sorry if this is not so relevant lol

    5 years ago
    • Yeah! I remember that from a while ago. Buzzfeed has mentioned us a couple of times in their articles :D

      5 years ago
  34. I was in China for a time a while back and I definitely experienced a similar reaction to the air quality that you did. Initially I was staying about an hour outside of Beijing and my reaction wasn’t as bad, it was more like I was experiencing Mid-Summer allergies in the middle of winter. Every time I blew my nose I had to pause and try to remember if I had stumbled through any coal mines in the last 3 minutes, or if I had gone dirt-biking around an erupting volcano in the recent past, it was gross but not painful. But once I moved into Beijing my reaction to the air was so insane that initially I considered seeking medical help because I thought I had contracted some kind of airborne illness. But the people who I was living with assured me that it was just because of the air and advised me to seek out “pit stops” everywhere that I went, which just meant that I had to map out indoor locations near my every destination so that I had time to clear out the smog from my poor lungs before I continued on adventuring. It was an experience to say the least, I absolutely loved Beijing, except for the whole relinquishing your life to the fates whenever you got in a car part. But, I loved the city and the people and am looking forward to the next time I get to visit!

    5 years ago
  35. Where I live in Alabama if people are outside especially since it gets so hot and you can get really sweaty You often see males with no shorts on. My Brother and Father regularly walk around with no shirt on, and down the road there is a guy who sits by the road in gym shorts and no shirt on. I also really often see guys mowing grass with no shirt on as well.

    BTW when Martina started talking about the man with the cut out for his belly, I had tea in my mouth and Itried so hard not to laugh like i wanted. It was so difficult.

    5 years ago
  36. Hi everyone! First time posting with the new system.
    And I felt compelled to post about the staring in China. I’m a British-born Chinese girl and found that I got stared at a lot as well in China (& a bit in Hong Kong)… In general, everyone I’ve spoken to who’s been to China (and sometimes HK) have gotten stared at. We think it might be just in general, there’s not this “stigma” or social convention to not make eye contact and staring isn’t rude like in the UK for example. So even if you stare back, they don’t back off. So… I think you could’ve been stared at for all sorts of reasons, your height, your tattoos, your hair colour, the way you’re dressed (I noticed that there’s more modestly dressed women in China…), you’re speaking English, you’re speaking loudly, you’re the only one speaking on the public transport… the list goes on. People stare and it’s normal…? o_O
    Omg that belly-exposure LOL Sorry you had to see that, it’s just normal with middle-aged men it seems…

    5 years ago
    • omg… no more editing comments. But I meant that in the UK it is considered rude to stare and really awkward to make eye contact with strangers

      5 years ago
  37. I would never be looking forward to guys slapping’ their bellies… especially hairy dudes… 0.o…

    5 years ago
  38. I’ve never been to China but my brother is playing in a small rock band in my city and his band was contacted by a chinese label some time ago to do 4 concerts in China (2 Beijing, 1 Jinan, 1 Shanghai). There’s some things that shocked him: the people there always gave him coca or over drinks but never water… and when he insisted to have some a woman gave him boiled water he still doesn’t know why xD When he talked about the beach the chinese guy from the label told him that it’s a bit dangerous as the water could be polluted. And last thing, when they went to a small restaurant, they ate some meat, and when my brother asked the waiter what kind of meat it was the answer was “meat” then he asked again thinking that the guy didn’t understand but the answer was still just “meat”… xD But there’s one thing he really appreciated, he found chinese people really kind, friendly and not shy at all ! They were curious about him and his friends, tried to talk with them a lot, they were not just staring at them ! And the concerts were crazy, with people climbing on the stage, some chinese punk and all… He still thinks that was an amazing experience :) (here a picture of the chinese rockers ;D https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151136776276617&set=pb.403785676616.-2207520000.1402086731.&type=3&theater)

    Anyway good TL;DR, can’t wait to learn more about your experience with food there ! Haha the shirtless thing was hilarious xD I have a QUESTION maybe okay for a TL;DR… I’m planning to go to Jeju with some friends and we’re all wondering what kind of swimsuit people wear in Korea ? If they do expose as much as us in France (shirtless for guy and bikini for girls). I remember seing T-shirt with short considered as swimsuit when I was in Korea and as korean fear the sun… I don’t know, I’ve never been to the beach so just wondering if we will be the only people like that in Jeju xD

    5 years ago
    • Chinese people generally dont drink cold water. They probably gave him coke because they know foreigners dont like hot water.

      5 years ago
      • Oooh so that’s why =O ! Thanks for your answer :D I really had no idea that chinese people generally don’t drink cold water.

        5 years ago
  39. I have been to China about 2 or 3 years ago for a whole month. I got student’s scolarship and studied Chinese at Xiamen University. Xiamen is not far from Taiwan and the weather there was soo exhausting. It was hot, and humid and the air was extremely heavy, so as you can imagine every time I walked outside I immediately felt wet and dirty. But weather was not as suprising as Chinese who would take photos of me wherever I went xD those more couragious would walk up to me and ask if they can take photo with me. Wow such fame. Still all Chinese people were extremely nice and the customer service was soooo good. Maybe I feel that because in Poland shop assistants and cashiers are often realy mean and it makes you really uncomfortable, but in China shop assistans were always so nice and helpful (that makes me wonder how is it in Korea?).
    The air was not as bad as in Beijing, actually you could see sky and sun what is a rare thing in Beijing.
    When I talked with my frien who lived in China for about two years she said that foreigners often take a nap in the middle of the day because of the polluted air and taht tired feeling you got after being outside and breathing chinese air xD
    (and I never saw men rubbing their bellies, maybe it’s a Beijing thing?)

    5 years ago
  40. There have been cases of kidnap and murder of black-car(heiche,黑车) riders, better not use it. I rode black-car several times from Dongguan hotel to Guangzhou airport, but it was recommended by a friend who knew a reliable company that operated many black cars and telephone the company to pick me up at appointed time and place. The fare was negotiated over the phone by the friend. They offered a lower fare than taxi for a long distance driving. In Guangdong, even a licensed taxi driver can turn into a knife-wielding robber when he senses the customer has a lot of money. The taxi driver took all the money but gave the victim just enough money to ride taxi to hotel…

    5 years ago