culture

Fan Death

Picture from the instruction manual of a fan I bought a few months ago.
It’s a widely held belief in South Korea that sleeping with a fan on could kill you, but this has generally been debunked: http://www.snopes.com/medical/freakish/fandeath.asp

It’s a belief also held in Japan and I have young friends in Asia who believe in it. The long and short of it is, in this Junior Scientist’s opinion from reading about fan death and sleeping with her fan on many a night, it’s not true. Unless! You have a plain ol’ fan in a room that doesn’t have any windows open and it is excruciatingly hot that night. Because there’s no breeze, you can cook yourself. Maybe. Possibly. If you have the worst luck in the universe. 

More and more, younger Koreans don’t really believe in fan death, but I do, on occasion, meet someone who will defend the theory. Whether or not they really believe it or they’re just defending a cultural aspect is another thing. Korea has a lot of national pride that can extend into many, many other aspects of life (sports, art, testing, etc) including urban legends! 

Typically if someone believes in fan death I just kind of shrug and change the subject. It’s so often an ingrained belief from childhood that they’re not going to change their mind any time soon. And, frankly, you can come off as quite the douche who is trying to ‘educate’ the poor, misguided Korean, adding further insult.

Besides, every culture has these little quirks. As far as I know, I never went cross-eyed from sitting too close to the TV or caught a cold from going out in the winter with damp hair..!

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matchmaker market

Springtime is upon us and love is in the air, especially alongside West Beijing Road where an open-air matchmaker market has sprung up.

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Hopefuls compile short biographies about themselves (date of birth, job, height, etc.) and a list of what they’re looking for in a mate. Then the info is printed onto signs, pink for women and blue for men, and hung like laundry out to dry. Find someone you like? Leave your phone number on the placard.

Interestingly enough, most of the attendees to the markets are parents with thick journals, copying down phone numbers and bios for their daughters and sons. A friend even suggested to me that many of the bios are actually written by parents—which explains why some of them require a potential mate to be respectful to their own parents. Who wants a daughter- or son-in-law that isnt’?

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About 90% of the female signs say that they want a mate who has his own apartment or house. Unfortunately, Nanjing is pretty notorious for expensive apartments, leading to a lack of individuals who actually own one. The apartment system is pretty interesting; people don’t really rent apartments, instead they buy them. But you don’t really ‘own’ the apartment after you buy it, so you can’t leave it to your children in a will. This is done—supposedly–because of the high population in China; everyone gets a fair chance at an apartment instead of them being left in one family through generations.

The male signs with the most phone numbers—like this one below—are written by men who have their own living accommodations and work for the government, earning a nice steady paycheck.

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This sign says that he’s looking for someone who was born in the year of the rabbit, but tigers are okay too.

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Another good way to get phone numbers is to be a lone foreign girl, presumably perusing the signs looking for love.

Woman: Hey! Hey, what are you looking for?
Me: What?
Woman: What kind of man are you looking for?
Me: Er, no, I have a boyfriend, he’s standing over there–
Woman: Then do you have a cousin? Or a sister in Nanjing?
Me: I… need to go…

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Have another intriguing discussion said behind my back at the matchmaker market:

Man: Hey, why do foreign girls have such a nice curvy-cut figure?
Another man: Don’t you know? It’s because their diet is different from Chinese girls. The foreigners eat raw beef.

I don’t eat raw beef, just for the record.

an outsider’s thoughts on sex-ed and such in China

Thought #1: You know that you’ve lived in China for a few months when you get on a public bus and all of the adverts are for abortions and you don’t even blink.

This one advertises them for about 300 yuan, or, say, $50 US abouts. The commercials on the TV have green hills and girls dancing in white skirts. I thought they were for laundry detergent until I saw the hospital name.

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Thought #2: Birth control pills are available in China over the counter for about $3 for a monthly pack, compared to the needed prescription and outrageous prices in most western nations. (I’m looking at you, America.) However, most people here don’t know too much about how the pills work—a friend who’d never seen the pills even suggesting to me that you don’t really need to take a pill every day, just the days that you plan to have intercourse. (And yes, the instructions in the box are written in Chinese.) And those people that do know about the pills believe they mess with your body’s natural chemistry and energy too much to take them. So birth control pills are not a big ticket item; there’s actually only ever about two or three brands to even choose from at the pharmacy. Culturally, the pill just isn’t big in China. It’s easily available and affordable, but the idea of messing with the natural order of a woman’s body is unappealing to many.

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Thought #3: Sex-ed in the classroom was explained to me by a friend as a chapter in a biology book Chinese high school students read for class, the teacher asking the next day if there were any questions, no one being brave enough to raise a hand, and on to the next chapter. Parent’s don’t typically broach the subject either. Some simple math for you: Lack of sex ed + wariness of birth control pills + cheap abortions = a high amount of abortions in China.

Thought #4: The one-child rule is pretty heavily enforced. Unless… you live in the countryside where nothing is really enforced, have twins, have an additional child overseas, pay the hefty fine, or get divorced and have another child with your new spouse. Or find some other loophole, of course.

Thought #5: Just a random, interesting note: It’s illegal in China for a doctor to tell the expecting parents the gender of their unborn child. According to my friends, a lot of the younger generation don’t hope for a girl or a boy one way or the other, though. Kids are doted upon by their parents—and grandparents—which sometimes can backfire and turn them into ‘Little Emperors’ or stressed out students burdened with the thought that they’re the only one around to support their parents when they retire.

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Christmas in Nanjing

Nanjing has a pretty strong western community, plus a lot of folks who love shopping. Christmas Eve is a big date night, with people selling flowers and balloons that say ‘I love you’ on the side. Also, the center of the city is incredibly crowded and reminds you more of New Years Eve than Christmas. There are Christmas lights up here and there, and any mall hoping to attract shoppers has a tree or dancing Santa in the lobby.

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Church services are usually pretty packed. This is a picture of Sacred Heart in the middle of Nanjing; I was told that it was founded a few hundred years ago by the French and is the only Catholic church in Nanjing recognized in Rome.

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In any case, Christmas in Nanjing is–for most people–just another day, but with more lights and an excuse to go have a party and wear a Santa hat while shopping. Then again, that’s true for some people back home too. Merry Christmas!

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