China Elevator Stories

5 cultural differences connected to water

I find out that people have many different perceptions of water.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


Ruth Silbermayr with husband AMWF

When my husband and I first got together, there were a few things we did differently, which were influenced by our different cultural upbringings. A lot of them were connected to the topic of “water”.

1. Washing your face

My husband washes his face with soap every morning. I don’t wash my face other than when I take a shower. I don’t like using soap on my face and splashing water on my face, making my hair wet. Just like my husband, his father also likes to wash his face in the morning. When he’s done, the whole floor around the sink is wet. He’ll then usually mop the floor, to make sure it doesn’t stay wet.

2. Taking a shower

Siping kang water - Ruth Silbermayr

I use to shower in the mornings (especially when working). I prefer drying my hair in the morning rather than going to bed with hair that isn’t yet completely dry. Also, I prefer going to work nice and clean. My husband, however, prefers taking a shower in the evenings. My not showering in the evening really bothered him in the beginning, because bed sheets will get dirtier more easily if you don’t shower before going to bed.

3. Drying plates

In China, it’s pretty common to wash dishes by hand and just put them into a cupboard without using a towel or putting them aside to dry first. In Austria, most people have dishwashers and plates will be dry when putting them into the cupboard anyways. But even if you don’t have a dishwasher, you’d still use a towel to wipe them dry or set them aside and wait for them to dry before putting them into your cupboard. Putting wet plates into cupboards can be a problem during the rainy season in Shenzhen where things start to grow mold easily.

4. Mopping the floor

flat in Shenzhen - Ruth Silbermayr

When my in-laws used to live with me and my husband for a few months at the beginning of 2014, my father-in-law used to mop the floor every single day. Vacuum cleaners are a rarity in China. My husband had one even before we met, but he’s the only Chinese person I know who uses a vacuum cleaner. Considering the fact that many new apartments in China have really shiny floors, vacuuming just won’t do. In Austria, most of the time we use to vacuum the floor – but usually more on a weekly than on a daily basis. Mopping the floor is only for rare occasions.

5. Rain

rain - Ruth Silbermayr

As much as Austrians are afraid of the wet when it comes to bowls and plates – when it comes to rain, we’re pretty relaxed. In China, people will take out their umbrellas even if it rains only a little. People are really concerned that they will get a cold. In Austria, we don’t care too much about a little rain and we’re not too afraid of catching a cold in the rain. I guess we just don’t learn from experience.

It seems like Austrians fear water in the house. Chinese are more afraid of the water outside (aka rain).

Have you ever fought over which way is right?

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