Saturday, August 2, 2008

"The Doctor said so"

Anyone who has worked in China during the hot, steamy summers or the cold, biting winters knows how annoying it is when your work mates keeps opening the windows, claiming they want to let in some 'fresh air.' I have three big problems with open windows while the aircon is on:


Firstly; (during summers) warm, moist air pouring into your cool-downed room? Not pleasant!

Secondly: (during winters), what's the point of heating up your room and then opening a window to let the cold air cool it down? Makes no sense -huh?

Thirdly: fresh air?! WHAT fresh air?!?!? 


I've been working in offices in Shanghai both during the steaming hot- and the biting cold times, and I've had many heated conversations with my Chinese work mates over open/closed windows. They claim the 'fresh air' is vital for a 'healthy working environment,' and when I have suggested that 'since they want the windows open we might as well turn the aircon off,' they have all looked at me as if I'm from another planet. 

"Noooo, then it gets too cold/warm in here!" they say. 

"Yes, but what's the point with the aircon if you are opening the windows all the time?"

"Well, the doctor said that it is good to keep the windows open...."


Oh, the Doctor said so... 


Apparently, the Doctor says a lot of things to Chinese people, at least if I should believe what my friends have told me? 


During a trip to Yunnan I had my first experience of a 'Doctor Say'. I wanted to buy tampons (sorry guys, maybe TMI but well... I am a girl!) and when I couldn't find a package from anywhere I asked my Chinese friend. 

"Oh, there's not that many places selling tampons here in China. They are apparently not so good to use."

"What? Not good to use? They are life saviours!! Who told u not to use them?"

"Well, some years ago some doctor said it on television and since then the sales of tampons decreased significantly."

"Oh, and did he say why they were bad?"

"Well you can get sick from them? They are unhealthy"

"I see"


I sincerely hope it wasn't a male doctor on TV talking about how tampons can be a threat to women's health....


(Note: tampons are available from Watsons and Carrefour in Shanghai and Beijing. I don't know what it is like in other Chinese cities).


Another 'The Doctor Said so' moment occurred when I was shopping with a Shanghai friend during a cold winter day. To give our tired feet some ease we went to Starbucks and ordered ourselves hot chocolates with cream. When my friend sat down with her large cup of chocolate, she said: 

"We really deserve these drinks after having worked out so hard!"

"Worked out??"

"Yes. Walking between so many shops! The doctor said that shopping is good for losing weight!"


Geeez. Either that Doctor is running between the shops, or, he is simply not moving at all except for when he shops? Buy clothes and lose weight??! That's an advice I won't pass on to my children (if I ever get any).  


Is it only me, or is this Doctor dude in serious need of an update on what is healthy and what is not?!



Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your take on this opening windows thing. My Chinese roommates have the exactly same habit. She has offered the exact same explanation. Dumb!

Anonymous said...

Open the window to let the oxygen in. What's wrong with that? The air needs to be circulated. I'm not sure if it's feng shui thing, but I do believe the idea of circulation is very important in Taoism, and Chinese people in general are influenced by Taoism. While you have time, I suggest you dig into Taoism, very interesting, and it's a great way to understand Chinese.

Anonymous said...

I agree the Chinese have some insane ideas about health, but to be fair this is no different from what we in England call "old wives tales" which are beliefs that are passed down from generation to generation and believed to be true. Examples are:

1. If you go outside in the cold without a coat you'll catch pneumonia (totally false).

2. If you eat chocolate you'll get acne (spots).

3. If a pregnant woman is carry low it's likely to be a boy and carry high means it's a girl (obviously false again).

4. Going outside in cold weather will make you catch a cold (false, colds are caused by viruses).

Although I am not familiar with Swedish culture, I am guessing you could come up with some yourself.

Anonymous said...

On the tempon one - you might want to google TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). Its connected to tampon use sometimes. So the doctor dude is not making utter non-sense.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 - I figure you are Chinese. Me too. I find it very discouraging that Chinese today still think like "frog inside a well." I have been living in America for 20+ years. When I see and talk to my Chinese friends in China, they still have this mentality that foreigners don't understand the Chinese way of doing things. And if foreigners don't understand Chinese, they are wrong. It's a moot point to let windows open when A/C or heater is on. In America we do let windows open in the fall time when A/C or heater is off. It's so nice to have fresh breeze come in at night. But in hot summer or cold freezing winter, I don't see the point. Air inside the house is clean and healthy. Now in China with so much pollution (I was in China last month), there is really no point to let polluted air in to your house if you can manage. My point is this: Chinese people need to be able to look beyond the old ways of doing things and ocassionally learn something new and good.