I have had the honor and pleasure of taking many Americans to China, and one of the things that is consistently commented on is the hocking a luggie and spitting that some Chinese do in public. Now this occurs in many places most Americans wouldn’t consider spitting, but it happens often in China. Some consider this as a cultural difference, but I would suggest it is more of a physiological need, not a cultural thing.
In defense of my friends in China, I think there is a very good reason for their frequent clearing of their lungs and throat then spitting. As has been widely reported, the air quality in some places in China is not exactly pristine. In fact, in the following pictures you will see a code red day in Beijing. These photos were taken at about 2:00 PM, and you can see the haze is amazing.
My thoughts are that if you had to breath in air like this all of your life, you would probably cough, spit, and do anything you could to help yourself get some oxygen into your system. In 2003 I was teaching at a university in China when SARS broke, the government launched a program to get people to stop spitting so much. As you can imagine, that is hard to enforce!
So, let’s embrace our cultural differences and not think less of someone from different country, because there may be a very good reason for what they do and why they do it!