Although the culture shock for first-timers in China is nowhere near as bad these days as it was 20 or 30 years ago, certain Chinese customs still, to this day, continue to baffle foreigners. Some may seem backwards, others counter-intuitive, more still just plain weird. But when you take a step back and look at the science, in some cases at least, these Chinese idiosyncrasies actually make a lot of sense. Let’s take a look at five ‘weird’ Chinese habits that will actually improve your health.
Last year, a new roommate moved into my Chinese dorm before immediately moving out again when he discovered, to his dismay, that we only had squat toilets (*gasp*). With the astounding economic growth China has seen since its reform and opening up, one might assume squat toilets would be one of the first things to go. Chinese people, however, still often maintain that the squat toilet is superior and, when given a choice in a bathroom with both, stick to the devil they know. As far as many Chinese people are concerned, sit-down toilets are for elderly people who can no longer ‘assume the position’.
As much as Westerners tend to hate them, squat toilets are actually more healthy for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are arguably more sanitary as there is no skin-to-throne contact, although the less said about the situation on the floor, the better. Secondly, the Chinese have long known that the position from which they do their business is much healthier for the body. Studies have shown that pooping is quicker and more comfortable while squatting as, without going into too much detail, everything is at the right angle. Even wellness freaks in the West have started to catch on, with ‘pooping stools’ — which can be placed in front of a toilet to raise the knees up to a more squat-like position — the must-have accessory of the moment.
Daily squatting activities are also clearly good for flexibility. Who isn’t impressed by the old folk in the parks with their legs up on the railings? I heard Chinese people have extra developed leg muscles from using squat toilets, which in turn makes that position much more comfortable. Now you know why the so-called 'Asian squat’ is such a popular resting pose here, even outside of toilet duties.
When my family visited China recently, they were quite taken aback whenever they were served lukewarm/scalding hot water and room-temperature soft drinks and beer, especially since it was the middle of summer. Even among those who are aware of China’s preference for hot water, many assume it’s simply a necessity to fight the notoriously bacteria-tastic tap water.
Sterility is definitely part of it, but the Chinese also prefer drinking warm/hot water because they think it brings health benefits, as does an increasing consensus of experts in the West. Many of China’s beliefs about the benefits of drinking hot water come from the laws of Chinese medicine, which dictate that cold drinks are bad for your chi. Search the web for "health benefits of drinking hot water”, however, and you'll find a slew of more Westernly acceptable factoids that you might never have thought of.
For example, warm water, being closer to blood temperature, is more easily absorbed by the body and therefore more thirst quenching. Drinking warm water in the morning before breakfast is also said to clear out the kidneys, prepare the stomach to digest food, and regulate bowel movements. Good to know. Perhaps the most alarmingly, some believe drinking cold water after eating a meal causes the oils of the just-consumed food to solidify in your system, gradually turning to fat which can lead to — you guessed it — cancer! While the Western medical community has yet to completely support this theory, perhaps it’s best to err on the side of caution and stick to warm drinks from now on (excluding beer and milkshakes, of course).
Kicking the addiction to AC seems to be another trend that the West is slowly adopting from China, perhaps in light of rising energy costs and the climate crisis. The Chinese have long theorized about the hidden dangers of air conditioning and, therefore, try to use it as little as possible. Their logic is similar to the above point; basically that cold things are not good for your health.
We can consider the logic behind this from two different angles. Firstly, it’s been proven that regions with warmer climates tend to have slimmer, more healthy populations for the simple reason that the body has to work harder to do less in hotter climates. Conversely, people will instinctively pack on a nice thick layer of fat in colder climates to insulate themselves from the frigid temperatures.
The second argument against excessive use of AC is that those clogged up fans and filters are a breeding ground for dust and germs. Many also believe that the frequent passing in and out of polar opposite climates messes up your body's immune system and makes you more prone to getting sick. I honestly think I can attest to this myself. After a few months of waking up every day last summer with a sore throat, it dawned on me that the AC might be the culprit. Now I use a fan and I am sore throat free!
Do you remember how confusing your first Chinese banquet was? Sitting at a giant lazy-Susan packed with 30-odd dishes you didn't recognize. By the time dinner was over, you had sampled everything, were no doubt stuffed, and three hours had gone by. Surely there must be a more straightforward, quicker way to eat.
In the West, although we love a good buffet, it’s more common that each person eats their own dish to themselves with little sharing occurring, except maybe at the dessert stage. But this is China! If you go out to dinner with other people, it’s downright insulting to order for yourself.
So what are the health benefits the Chinese eating style? Although many Chinese dishes are literally covered in oil, the the act of sharing multiple plates makes up for this with the sheer amount of foods groups that can be covered. A burger and fries is basically just protein, fat and carbs, while the ingredients of a variety of Chinese dishes will more closely resemble one of those old ‘food pyramid’ diagrams. You’ll get a whole range of different meat, fish, plant proteins and veggies, meaning you’re getting your daily dose of phytonutrients and omega-3 fatty acids (and all of that other dietary jargon).
What’s more, the drawn out nature of Chinese dinners are better for your digestive system than shoving down a whole bunch of food super quickly. Just be sure to use serving chopsticks so you don't spread germs!
Weird and wonderful fashion items that help Chinese people stay out of the sun are often a topic of ridicule among foreigners — facekini, anyone? But while it can be fun to poke fun at particularly out-there ensembles, it’s important to note that some of these…unique…fashion accessories are more than just statements of individuality. They are, in fact, both practical and healthy.
Take, for example, the GIANT reflective visor hats that you will see people wearing (often while on a bike or moped). Tacky? Yes. Practical and healthy? Double yes! Wear one of these bad boys and you won't just protect your eyes and face from sun damage, but also from all that kicked up dust from the road. The same can be said for the detachable sleeves that many Chinese wear and the use of umbrellas on sunny days. We may find these things weird when we first move to China, but the ever-youthful locals arguably have the last laugh.
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Very nice article, and much of it has a lot of validity....a couple of things, however. While eating with a "lazy-susan" cuisine, it's very unhealthy to use your own chopsticks to take the food; why serving spoons aren't mandatory, especially with the virus, is beyond me. Also, there probably is something in the Chinese diet (perhaps the numerous unhealthy fats and oils) that causes Chinese to have 4x the stomach cancer rate than Americans. Most Chinese have week stomachs and are subject to frequent diarrhea. So maybe they need to change their diet a bit. And while basking in the sun is unhealthy, the sun does provide a lot of nutrients, so a bit of sun is healthy. As for toilets, you said it - don't talk about the floors. And don't mention that many times the toilets don't allow for flushing of toilet paper and the used TP is in a garbage can next to you, along with all the pee and poop around your feet. Also, the toilet can not be covered when flushing, like American toilets, so germs are much more easily spread when flushing. The position of squatting might be better, but that's about it. Better off with a stool for yourself and a standard toilet. :)
Nov 23, 2020 18:28 Report Abuse
Although sugar in desserts is less, this is a function of supply and demand. There is not enough sugar for 1.4 billion people to consume it at the same rate as Americans for example. The land for growing a supply is limited and America has the sugar cane fields of South Florida and exports a lot of sugar. The assumption that people will eat less sugar because of culture or health reasons based on knowledge is really bogus. If the supply was there people would consume it and the food companies would have a cheaper way to produce food to market with little nutritional value but good profit margins like the cereal companies in the west.
Nov 27, 2020 10:56 Report Abuse
Drinking cold water helps you to lose weight. Your body has to heat it up (search how calories are defined), we didn't evolve drinking hot water and it doesn't cause cancer so that point is, quite frankly, fang pi. Doesn't stand up to scrutiny at all.
Nov 20, 2020 10:47 Report Abuse
The extra melanin makes your skin look darker or sun-tanned. In some cases, the sun causes an uneven increase in melanin production, which produces irregular coloring (pigmentation) of the skin. The sun can also cause a permanent stretching of small blood vessels, giving your skin a mottled, reddish appearance. source: www.mayoclinic.org
Nov 22, 2020 06:40 Report Abuse
sunshine is a great mood booster - especially for people in northern hemisphere countries that have long dark winters. it promotes the production of Vitamin D, which in turn is good for bones. It is good for the immune system. it is true that too much sun is bad for the skin, but you seem to be focusing only on that, and not the many benefits sunlight has for life and health.
Nov 22, 2020 14:55 Report Abuse
Well, is okay if you don't believe in scientific findings as revealed in the link. It does not concern me with your belief. Please note that when I used the word "frequent" exposure to sunlight. As mentioned you ain't ant doctor, unlikely better off with your own belief. Your sister is a doctor and not you.
Nov 24, 2020 08:28 Report Abuse
Source: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/anatomyvideos/000125.htm The skin uses sunlight to help manufacture vitamin D, which is important for normal bone formation. But sometimes its ultraviolet light can be very detrimental. Within the skin's epidermal (outer) layer are cells that contain the pigment melanin. Melanin protects skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays, which can burn the skin, and over time, could reduce its elasticity and cause a person to age prematurely. Suntanning occurs because exposure to sunlight causes the skin to produce more melanin and to darken. The tan fades as these cells move toward the surface and are sloughed off. Too much exposure to ultraviolet or UV rays can cause sunburn. UV rays penetrate the outer skin layers and pass into the deeper layers, where they can damage or kill skin cells. People who do not have much melanin and sun burn easily should protect themselves by covering up sensitive areas, wearing sun block, limiting their total exposure time, and limiting their sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Frequent and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays over many years is the chief cause of skin cancer. Examine skin regularly for development of suspicious growths or changes in an existing skin lesion. Early detection and treatment are key in increasing the cure rate for skin cancer.
Nov 24, 2020 08:38 Report Abuse
It is worth nothing that anything that is too "frequent" may contribute to increase in melanin production and etc, lead to unnecessary consequences. In all cases , moderate amount can be beneficial. Worth reading article: source: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/anatomyvideos/000125.htm
Nov 24, 2020 08:59 Report Abuse
and you are not a doctor either. which is why a doctor can talk about the health BENEFITS of sunshine, I listen more to them, than someone who keeps pasting links from the internet. By all means, keep copying links if you want, it is not going to make anyone listen to you. All that means is that you can copy and paste links. please keep it up - this website can do with more entertainment! And I LOVE the way you still post so many replies to me. please keep this up too.
Nov 24, 2020 14:40 Report Abuse
In what capacity you are assuming you sister as a doctor represent your own hard mentality assumption who does not believe in scientific and medical research? It is pointless to blow something from the air without substantial evidence. Why can't someone mind your own business if you aren't an admin. It you think continuing to talk without any evidence by purely your own claim should deserve any praise or make your better off, go ahead.
Nov 25, 2020 06:53 Report Abuse
Ask yourself are you better off by believing yourself rather than medical research. Please also pay attention to the word "frequent ". According to Cambridge English frequent definition: 1. happening often: 2. to be in or visit a particular place often: 3. happening often: As stated the link are meant to provide evidence from which medical and scientist who had spent great amount of time. It is really a complete waste of time for someone who does not see any advantage of such research rather than his own personal agenda.
Nov 25, 2020 07:14 Report Abuse
@ kenneth, so you say that 'Dr Baidu' or 'Dr Google' is better than a real life doctor with their medical experience and ability to consult colleagues? And you say that real life evidence (like talking to real medical professionals) is not as good as anything I can learn on the internet? Do you think you have more medical knowledge than someone who has studied Medicine and works in a hospital? Just asking. Sounds like you have all the answers at the click of a button - who needs real life experience when we have you with 'all' the answers, and the ability to use a computer! So if you broke a bone, would you look on the internet for how to fix it or go to, for example, a DOCTOR? If a car crashes, do you try to fix it yourself using the internet or go to a mechanic? If i have a medical question, or want to know about a particular area of health, i TALK to people with the professional knowledge. This is a public forum so you don't get to tell people who can and can't respond to what you post. I am not looking for 'praise' or '面子' - all i am doing is having a conversation - that is what people do in 'real life'.
Nov 25, 2020 14:53 Report Abuse
You can share your believe to medical students. Tell them your assumption as a doctor, also, please do not make reference to anything from the internet that were produced by medical research. Good attempt ..by assuming your sister capacity as a doctor represent the medical view in general. One important element of respecting boundaries is accepting other people’s right to their own values, beliefs, and opinions. While you may disagree with them, it’s often best to mind your business rather than trying to interfere with others’ belief systems.
Nov 26, 2020 19:15 Report Abuse
@Kenneth, Again, are you saying that I should ignore REAL LIFE PROFESSIONAL doctors who are able to perform a diagnosis of a patient. I am not 'interfering' in a belief system, all i am doing is saying that I would have more trust in a REAL doctor, who has been 'scientifically trained', who can hold a (respectful) conversation and answer questions, as a proper basis of reaching medical conclusion. How do you find my expression of my own opinions and experience disrespectful? This is a public forum and I am disagreeing with your assertion that the internet is a better source of medical information, and how to interpret it, than a REAL LIFE doctor who can hold a conversation. If you post on a public forum, of course you can expect lack of agreement. I don't care one way or the other if you chose to base your medical information on the internet, but there are people who disagree, like myself. If i have a stomach complaint, i would sooner rely on a doctor to find a solution than the internet which might tell me that I have anything from cancer to indigestion. I know you are not going to read all of this comment, but that does not bother me in the least. Again, this is a public forum, and you chose to copy/paste links and I chose to say why i would not trust the internet as a source of medical advice.
Nov 26, 2020 19:25 Report Abuse