August 16th, 2008
The westerners’ image of Chinese people as inveterate spitters has resulted in a cadre of spitwatchers in Beijing — a city that will go to any length to clean up its act for the Olympics. Spitting is not allowed any more than a girl with crooked teeth can be shown singing the Chinese National anthem.
If you’re like me — an American man — you spit. Maybe over the curb and into the street, or into the gutter, or on the patch of dirt surrounding a newly planted tree. Naturally, you expect your athletes to spit anywhere, even on artificial turf. However, American women do not spit — probably because men would be too grossed out. Roseanne Barr proved that twenty years ago when, in a parody of a baseball player, she stepped into the batters box in San Diego, adjusted her crotch, and spat.
In San Francisco’s Chinatown, both Chinese men and women spit. I’ve been with enough of my male friends to know it’s not really welcomed.
But one of my friends had it put it into perspective for him. He once talked Chinese man about it. The man pointed out that, yes, his culture had no problem with spitting in the street. But this man had a hard time understanding an American’s willingness to hawk up a wet one, deposit it into a square of fabric, then wad up the sticky fabric and stuff it into a pocket. Or a purse.