Big Brother (and Everyone Else) is Watching


A 20-something woman takes off her pants in a doctor’s office. She stands wearing purple-striped bikini-cut underwear in a room full of strangers.

A mother holds her toddler over a bush in an elevated squatting position. A convenient tailored opening allows the kid to do his business, major or minor, without the burden of diapers, or any protective layer.

Eight college students sleep in military-style bunk beds in a room that looks more like a hallway with a door. Handwashed briefs decorate the room on wire hangers.

For an American visitor in China, the line between private behavior and public dispay often appears wafer-thin. Sharing intimate moments with strangers, in fact, seems to be the norm. Hawking a wad of spit on the sidewalk, for example, will draw a disgusted look only from an inexperienced foreigner.

In a one-room clinic, the doctor reads the pulse of a patient while at least seven others in the crowded space listen intently. One of those waiting chokes back a giggle and says in English, “The doctor says she should stop eating so much!”

So much for doctor-patient confidentiality.

Students who live in university dorms have just a few complaints about sharing a tight space: room for work, bathroom facilities and heat top the list.

The girls compare the experience to a year-long sleepover. “We get in bed and chat and laugh until we fall asleep,” says Chen Yuehuan, a second-year textile design student at Shanghai Textile University. “Everyone is friends.”

Malodorous clouds weigh in as the boys' top complaint. “Too much smoke,” says Zhuang Jinyue, a junior at the textile university. “But everyone smokes.”

Chen and Zhuang say they are close with all their roommates. Growing up in one-child families, the two say they don’t mind living with peers. “We play a lot of video games,” Zhuang says.

As for space, “We just stand,” Zhuang says, jokingly. “We have to tolerate it and be friendly.”

Reply

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.