Long before I came to China, I saw pictures of the old-fashioned Chinese homes. I loved the semi-enclosed porches, roofed patios, open-air stairs… like the kind you kind in Beihai Park. I loved that the distinction between inside and outside was so fluid.
The beautiful fluidity is less attractive when it’s December and no one shuts the door. The main doors to our school are kept (or left?) open, and so are the doors to the playground. This means that the hallways are a constant wind tunnel of freezing cold, and the leaves blow in with the cold air.
I always shut my classroom door, but anyone else who comes in after me, whether it’s a student, teacher or board-of-Ed VIP observing the American teacher, leaves it open. They will close it if I ask, open doors are not mandatory, but it’s not an automatic part of coming in from the cold.
A Chinese childhood is different from an American one in so many ways. I can imagine life wwithout cheese. I can imagine politely spitting bones on the tablecloth, I can even imagine making the Mandarin tones properly, but I can’t imagine growing up without hearing “You think we should pay to heat all of New Jersey?”, “You want to let all the heat out?” or the summertime equivalent, “You think we’re air-conditioning the whole town?” or the all-season, all-purpose “Shut the door!”
And without slamming doors, how does a Chinese teenager express annoyance?