This short post comes from a friend living in Inner Mongolia, and is brand new to life in China. I asked her what had surprised her and this was her response. Her and her husband keep a personal blog about their adventures, which can be found here.
Spring is in the air, and as I was walking back from class recently I took a deep breath and realized that the smell of urine is also in the air. When I first came to China, public urination surprised me. Now it doesn’t surprise me, but it is one of those mild Chinese irritants.
Men and children urinate here, there, and everywhere. I have yet to see a woman assume the squatting position, but every day men unzip, drop their pants and spray or trickle against brick walls or on the sidewalk. Even if there’s a public toilet or a secluded alley close by, they seem to prefer to relieve themselves in public. Toddlers with their split crotch garments add to the urine deluge, and I’ve seen parents or grandparents hold their children or give them a lesson in public peeing.
What’s going on?
I read that back in the 1950s when public urination and defecation was at an all-time high the government implemented a public nuisance campaign, combining education and enforcement that dramatically reduced the behavior. But then I guess things slacked off, bladders filled, and it resumed.
While I have no data on the public health implications of using the streets as toilets, if you look at man’s best friend producing 1000 tonnes of dog excrement in the UK, the Chinese production must be staggering. Granted, doing anything to curb dog fouling is a long way off in a country that can’t curb human fouling.
For more on public nuisances read Can “Culture” be a Problem?
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