Baby shit adorned the stairs in the teachers’ apartment building within the university where I worked in Shaanxi, China, for more than 2 days before someone finally cleaned it up. Yeah, I took a picture for posterity, but I didn’t clean it up. Not my kid. That is my foot, though.

Outside of China, that is.

Culture shock is going to happen between Chinese tourists and local Thais. At first I thought nothing of it. I’ve seen it thousands of times before. But then I realized I’d only seen it in China. There was a family across the street from me and the little boy (around 5 or 6) was wearing split pants. They must have brought them on the plane. Children in China often go out with no underwear and split pants. Yes, everything is exposed. Even in the winter when it’s freezing. Nobody knows how the little kiddies’ privates survive exposure to the elements that their hands and heads must be shielded from. Anyway, the pants allow them to freely pee and poop wherever the need occurs. I gather the family hasn’t noticed that Thais don’t dress like this. The Thai kids, I think, just do like we do in the West, and hold it in until we can get to a toilet. No pissing on the steps of KFC or whizzing in a corner of the restaurant (yes, this really happens). No dropping a log on the roots of a tree like our canine best friends.

Typical split pants. I didn’t’ take this photo. Not my style. It’s from someone else’s blog. Click on to follow link if interested.

But the family appears to be oblivious to this minuscule cultural difference, and so their son is free-balling it on the public street. It may never have occurred to the family that outside of China baby piss and shit isn’t considered exempt from the disgust customarily attached to the adult variety.

I imagine, when the time is ripe, and the boy squats to do his business (possibly on his way to doing the same as a businessman in the future), people are going to be taken aback. It might be a rude awakening for the Chinese tourists that plopping out logs in the street is a no-no in other Asian countries.

I don’t really know why the kiddies go around in split pants in China. It’s probably more common in the sticks (or “backwater” if you prefer), like where I lived. And it’s probably attached to an old belief, like that the body has four fluids, and the one known as phlegm must be expelled with gusto first thing in the morning.

Well, I always ad this codicil when being a little hard on the Chinese. When I taught there my students were mostly wonderful, and the people were mostly friendly. No different from you or me. But there are cultural differences, some a bit odd, and they live under a different kind of governmental rule (one which, in its more sinister elements, our American government seems to be getting tips-and-tricks from).

I’m not sitting in judgement. The Chinese have a very different attitude to children, and their place in the family, which is often to place them front and center and adore the living crap out of them, figuratively, and perhaps from an outsider’s perspective, literally.

And you know, it never really occurred to me that, from the Chinese perspective, kids without split pants might be seen as terribly unsanitary because they might soil themselves. Better to not only air the dirty laundry, but go a step further and air the most volatile sources of filth themselves! At real issue here is the idea of “private” and “public” property. In Western eyes the babies are shitting in everyone’s space, but in Chinese eyes they are shitting in nobody’s’ space. And this is why baby stools can rest on the staircase in a university apartment building, like trophies on shelves, for days.


3 replies on “Nope, your child really can’t just crap wherever it pleases.

  1. I have never seen or heard of “split pants”. Glad I am aware now, I’ll be very weary of children if I ever visit China haha! 😛


    1. The parents heap so much adoration on their children that they are thrilled to death if a foreigner pay attention to them or thinks they’re cute. The kids often were adorable, in fact, when they weren’t taking care of their early business meetings.


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