My friend Sally, a Master’s in psychology exchange student from Taiwan, is studying at Peking University (Beida) this semester. I’ve been happy to help her with some translations and she’s kind enough to contribute one of her stories here:
“Taking a shower at Beida”
Every evening there are many students walking through campus, bringing their plastic bags or little baskets to the students’ communal bathroom. When I first came to Peking University, there were two things that were most surprising to me. The first was that there are no bathrooms in the dormitory building; the dorm only has toilets. The second was that there are no doors to close in the student communal bathroom. When I first arrived, one of my roommates told me that when she uses the local student bathroom to shower, people can see each other’s naked bodies. For my roommates and me, we walk to a different bathroom, which is even farther than the communal bathroom. In this farther bathroom there are doors that can close and lock. In order to use this bathroom, I had to get a special permission card from the Taiwan, HK and Macau office at Beida. The office knows that students from Taiwan, HK and Macau are not used to this style of communal bathing. I felt better after receiving permission. With this card, we are allowed to enter the overseas student building to shower; the safety guard checks our cards to let us in to bathe.
My Mainland friend told me that communal bathing is very common in Northern parts of China. People from the South coming to the North to study often can’t get used to this style of bathing. However, my friend told me that outsiders should get used to this environment, because this custom has been existing for a very long time in the North and reporting to the school’s administrative office won’t work. I didn’t understand what she meant when she said “it won’t work,” so I just nodded my head.
And I thought I had culture shock.. I realize now, that my foreign student housing is definitely a luxury!
Thanks for sharing your cultural exchange, Sally :)