Few Americans spit in public. Spitting in public is much more common in China than America. Before a Chinese person spits, he or she will usually engage in loud, guttural throat clearing. When you hear the throat clearing, that’s a warning to steer clear of that person.
I was surprised by some of the places where Chinese people spit. I’ve seen Chinese people spit on the floor in bathrooms, department stores, restaurants, trains, buses, taxis, pharmacies, and even hospitals. Then there’s the spitting on sidewalks, streets, running tracks, in sinks, in urinals, in toilets, and on themselves by accident. It’s quite disgusting not to mention incredibly unsanitary.
It’s not like every Chinese person goes around spitting. In fact, public spitting has persistently been on the decline in China. Much of the spitting is done by older Chinese men. Also, there are differences in civility between regions in China. If you are in a first-tier city such as Shanghai, you will rarely see a person hocking up a phlegm wad and spitting near your feet. However, if you are in central China, spitting in public is quite common.
In a few more generations, maybe public spitting will be no more prevalent in China than it is in America.
This post is part of a series of posts concerning the differences between China and America.