I have decided to add a series of posts that will share my experiences with Chinese culture here in China. Of course this may not apply to all of China because there are subtle differences in culture depending on the location and ethnic group the Chinese people I interact with are from. These are just my personal experiences living here in Baoding, Hebei Province, China.
One of the first things I noticed about Chinese people back in Botswana and here in China is that they always have a flask or bottle of water or tea. It’s almost obsessive the way they never forget to carry some kind of liquid around. To the rest of us who have to remind ourselves everyday to drink x amount of glasses of water it seems pretty impressive. Having lived 8 years in a country which has temperatures that can get up to 40 degrees in the hot season you would think this is a habit I should naturally have by now but it was only when I moved here that I picked it up.
The Chinese are strong believers in the power of keeping hydrated, more especially drinking hot water or tea to keep hydrated. In restaurants, that is the first thing the waiter or waitress puts on the table, a pot of hot water or tea (one of the few things that’s free). I once asked my teacher for medical solutions for stomach cramps and her response was “you could do A, B or C but the best method is to drink more hot water”. Another time I went to the hospital because of an infection and again after a prescription was given the doctor followed it up with “drink more hot water”. And whenever one is suffering from a cold (which is pretty much every other week during winter) the advice that follows you is drink more hot water. Old people, young people and doctors will say it to you; drink more hot water!
When I asked one of my teachers why Chinese people are always telling us to drink hot water, she explained that they believe hot water has the power to clear the body of toxins (it has to be hot). I think the other reason may also be that drinking unboiled tap water is not safe so they have gotten into the habit of boiling water before drinking it. This of course is not necessary if you drink purified water which you can drink at room temperature. But go figure, I’ve gotten into the habit of boiling it anyway. I’m not sure if it actually does help when I’m ill but it sure does make me feel better when I have a cold and warms me up in winter.
I have taken to the tradition like a duck to water, can’t have a meal at a restaurant without having a cup or two of hot water first. Every morning before heading out to class, I make myself a flask of hot tea (even in summer) and when travelling, my heart leaps for joy when I find a hot water dispenser. I will certainly get some stares when I return home for this habit. 🙂