Posted by: sharemore1 | December 6, 2011

China: Great Roads, Lousy Toilets

Conical hats, water buffalo and rickshaws that captured my fancy as a child were not to be seen during our recent visit to China.   Instead we watched high speed trains pull into large, modern stations and Chinese-made Audis and Mercedes cross the city on elevated freeways.

When I was growing up, it was a special treat to eat out at a Chinese restaurant.  In Shanghai today, families eat out at McDonalds, Subway or the ubiquitous KFC and have a soft ice cream at Dairy Queen.  Those not impressed by all the tea in China can sip a $7.00 latte at Starbucks. Americans can visit the country without once lifting a chopstick.  They can even shop at Walmart, where the Chinese-made products are right at home.

The Oriental Pearl Tower and the Golden Arches

Bull on the Bund

The Red Menace feared during my youth also seems missing in action.  The McDonalds logo occupies prominent real estate by the Oriental Pearl Television Tower, the second highest structure in China.   While the Bund Financial Bull has a reddish cast, its kinship with the Wall Street Charging Bull makes it an unabashed symbol of capitalism.  The Shanghai bull even charges to the right, unlike its counterpart in New York, which lunges left.

Although I don’t patronize fast food chains at home, they have their value in China.  Their restrooms usually have toilet seats (not squat toilets), toilet paper, hot water, soap and a way to dry your hands, all routinely lacking in Chinese bathrooms.   To avoid offending your sensibilities, I’ve restrained from illustrating my observations, except for a sign in a particularly disgusting bathroom.  The authorities must have felt that making everyone responsible for public hygiene relieved them of the need to provide basic amenities.  BYO toilet paper, hand sanitizer and a good pair of knees.

Public Hygiene

Riding and Texting

Beyond primitive toilets, other aspects of Chinese life might not appeal to our teenagers.  Education is taken seriously, with high school students usually living at the school and only going home Saturday night.  China’s one child policy results in intense pressure on that only child to do well.   Exams to graduate from high school and get into a good university are famously difficult.  Once they enter the university, students rely on –-not their own car—but bicycles or electric motorbikes for transportation as they continue with a challenging curriculum.

Returning from China with admiration for their trains and roads, we learned that Congress had just killed a national high-speed rail project in the U.S.  But there’s hope.  China plans to invest in the U. S. infrastructure—including rail, road and electrical networks.   “This type of investment…can help resolve the unemployment issue in the United States,” Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming announced recently.
Now that China is planning to help fix our lousy roads, do you suppose we can reciprocate by helping them improve their public restrooms?


  1. Sherry, Great writing about the differences between China and US. I was taken by the arty use of modern neon lights in downtown Chengdu. Did you see these where you were? We had a similar experience with local Chinese restaurants – great food, but iffy toilets. Museums had great exhibits frequented by many middle school classes whose kids were eager to practice English with us. Tanya

  2. Thanks Sharon, I have enjoyed receiving the Sharemore Adventures so very much. Was particularly interested in China’s plan to invest in the U.S.
    Maybe we will be able to get something going here. Deanna

  3. Hi Sharon, don’t eat those double meat double cheese burgers ! Enjoyed the adventure stories, video?

  4. $7 latte? Wow and we whine about prices here. Funny that fast food might have some redeeming value though I’d never have guessed it was the toilets. The squat toilets–well, I’d rather not go there.

  5. Love this post. I was equally surprised during my visits to China. Sad to think that China is more willing to invest in U.S. infrastructure than the U.S. is.

  6. So great to hear about all your adventures. Funny I found the same bathroom situation in Japan 30 years ago. Bet that has changed now! Hugs and keep up the great times.

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