One of the main purposes of any study abroad is to observe and experience cultural differences. I’ve definitely been doing that, and trying to note them when I can. I’ve seen many strange and hard to explain things here in China, but I think the strangest, weirdest, and by far most annoying difference has to be doors. That may seem like an odd thing to be getting up in arms about, but hear me out.
Functionally, doors in China are no different than anywhere else. How could they be? It’s a large piece of wood, metal, or glass with a handle that sits on a hinge. Nothing too complicated. It’s how they’re sometimes used that confuses and frustrates me. It seems to me that whenever I think a door should be closed, it’s propped open, and whenever I think it should be propped open, it’s closed.
Right now, for example, I’m sitting in a coffee shop on campus. It’s a cold and rainy day, and yet I’m starring at a wide-open door, rain and cold air just pouring in. I’ve set up under the heating vent to get away from the all-pervasive draft, and even that’s not completely effective. Even if I were to go close the door, whomever went through it next would just prop it open again.
Another weird door issue happened at one of our favorite dumpling restaurants. At this restaurant, you order at the front counter, get a number to set on your table, and then find a seat while they make your food. Because of this the line is usually out the door, which is fine. One door is therefore usually held open by the line of people, while the other is closed to limit the draft into the building. This is exactly what I want from a door, but the Chinese patrons don’t seem to know what to do. It was like they think the door is locked closed, or just doesn’t work. While I waiting in the line in the doorway, people shove their way past me so that we both have to occupy one doorway. Why?! There’s another door! If you were to open it, then we could both comfortably exist in this space. There’s no need to shove your way past me in this context. It makes no sense to me.
Our apartments (collectively called ‘ziroom’) have their own door issues. There are security locks on all of the outside facing doors so that you have to swipe a room card to get building access. These don’t even unlock the doors 100% of the time (they have maybe a 72% efficiency, but that’s a whole different complaint). That doesn’t actually matter though, because the doors are propped open 100% of the time. This means that anyone at all could go running around the building, and that there’s always a draft running through the lobby, making working or hanging out there a chore.
Cafeterias are their own devil. The doors there are built with one of those ‘airlock’ systems where you have to walk through two sets of doors to get into the building. This is meant to eliminate the draft, and works very well at doing so. However, it does nothing to stop the draft if BOTH FREAKING SETS OF DOORS ARE LEFT OPEN! Why oh why does this happen?! It’s so baffling to me.
The same is true of windows. Walking through the hallways at ziroom is always freezing. They’re left completely open all the time. I close them whenever I see one open, but it’s a losing battle because the very next person to walk by will open them on up. So infuriating. What makes so little sense is that all the rooms and hallways are heated, but then the windows are left open making it all a moot point. Why?! I was told before coming here that the buildings in Shanghai weren’t heated, but that’s just not true. They are heated, but it doesn’t matter since every single door and window is left wide open in the middle of winter when it’s 40 degrees outside!
Now that the weather is warming up a bit though, I was actually starting to think this would get better though. Although annoying in the winter, having the windows open on a warm day in spring is wonderful. But nope! Why would that happen? As soon as the weather outside warmed up everything reversed. All the doors and windows suddenly got closed and are closed again when I try to open them in public hallways. Why? We can finally agree that the windows should be open. Why switch positions?
Even when I do want the windows open when it’s cold out, they aren’t. When we were waiting in Guilin for our flight back to Shanghai it was stifling in the terminal and a cool 60 outside. All of the windows had hinges but they were all locked shut. What good do the hinges do then? If you’re not going to use them when it’s 90+ degrees inside, then when?
I understand this is a very strange and minor thing to get worked up over. Truth be told I’m not even really mad about it. It’s just fascinating and surprising to me how pervasive this is across all of China. It’s a weird and consistent issue I keep running into everywhere I go.