How many pants are you wearing?

Sometimes when students ask me how my life in China is different from my life in America, I don’t know where to start.  In many ways I’ve adjusted to the “new normal here”, but some days, I think, “Hmm, I don’t think that would happen in the US…or I definitely wouldn’t do that at home.” For example, last night I stood up and sang a solo in a room with 50 students, but that’s a story for another day.

In class, I have students ask attendance questions at the beginning of class. It’s supposed to be a short question that gets them speaking English (ie. What do you miss about your hometown?) A few weeks ago the attendance question: “How many pants are you wearing?”

After the October holiday, long underwear season begins. I’ve heard China called the “long underwear capital of the world.” (In China people largely dress based on the calendar, not on the temperature.) It seems to ring true. Sometimes people (mainly older women or maybe occasionally my students) might even feel your legs to see if you are wearing an appropriate number of layers.  And my students love to tell me to wear more clothes.

While it can seem a bit odd at times, it’s a way of them expressing their concern for my welfare.

There were a few times last winter when I did have on 3-4 layers of pants (and felt so Chinese), when my students told me I needed to wear more clothes and I’d say, “I have 3 pairs of pants on!” One time my student responded, “wow, I’m not even wearing that many.” (It gets pretty cold when you’re walking and riding your bike everywhere.)  Outside of skiing and football games, I’m not sure I’ve ever worn long underwear in the US.

Today I bought some nice fluffy slippers with lambs on toes to wear around my apartment. Once again, pretty sure I’d never own a pair of slippers like these in America, but I have to say the crazy slippers are one of the many things I’m thankful for in my new normal.

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