2) Living environment of the urban poor in China
Another key contributing factor of uncivilized behavior would be the living conditions of many of the poor people in China which results in them having almost no concept of personal space, modesty and privacy.
This point was raised by Miss Chen who is from Tianjin. Chen explained that not too long ago in China, there was a Hukou system which inhibited migration from villages to cities.
Since the 1990s, this system has been abolished and people were free to move around. As such, several young people travelled from the rural areas to cities like Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Many of them end up working in factories and live in terrible conditions such as crammed dormitories. As such, there is little concept of personal space and privacy.
Family members share toilets, bedrooms… everything. They get used to the noise, the total lack of privacy, even seeing each other naked, in the toilet, in a way that would just go against all manners of social norms in the West.
She goes on to give this example:
What stops people from just pissing or shitting in the public in the West and other countries is modesty – they don’t want complete strangers to get to see them in the act of pissing or shitting. Modesty simply isn’t there, people just don’t care who gets to see them naked as they are so used to it growing up in such cramped and crowded conditions.
Thus, when Chinese people travel out of China. They fail to realize that other people value things like privacy and modesty which they did not have the luxury of having all their life. They don’t know that acts like speaking loudly causes disturbances to others because they have been just so used in living in environments where speaking loudly is a norm.
I do agree with this very much. When I go to places like Sentosa, the female Chinese tourists would often take a bath or change outside the cubicles. The nudity was very uncomfortable for me. It also annoys me when Chinese nationals in Singapore speak loudly on the phone in the MRT.
However, now that I understand why, I try to put myself in their shoes and be more tolerant. Why so? Because it could have been me who was born in such conditions instead of being born into a family in Singapore where I have things like my own room, the opportunity to pursue a good education and don’t have to work in some sweatshop.