Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.

Psychological Observations of Life in China

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Aug 2, 2014 5:18 PM

I'm just back from a week in Shanghai, China, visiting my son and his fiancee, talking with producers of commercials and films, checking out the arts scene and observing life from a psychological angle. I don't have a lot of sweeping generalizations to make about what we can learn from the Chinese or how they are different from us, though I do have a few personal observations to share.

1. I didn't see any truly obese people like I do all the time in Central PA and a lot in FL, the two places where I live. In fact, about 10% of the women on the street and in the malls were so thin that we'd think they were anorexic here. Chinese women watch their weight. It's not genetic in the sense that, although bone structure may be small,  they put on weight, too, when they eat like average Americans. Another 30% were thin but not emaciated. Then, I would say more of the rest were "normal" build and 5% were a little chubby or overweight. Obesity was negligible.  They don't eat that much junk food, mostly vegetables and meat. They don't overeat. They walk a lot. 

2. People don't have lots of tatoos and piercings. They don't all wear jeans, though some do. Women wear skirts, dresses, slacks, shorts (even very short ones in the city) and often with high heels. There's a sense of style. Of course, Shanghai is a mega-big city and more comparable to NYC than rural PA, but still....

3. Families have one child in the city, so those children are pampered and spoiled by their two parents and four grandparents. I saw children whose parents frequently patted and petted their heads and backs behaving well. I saw other children who acted out, ran around and yelled when they didn't get attention....clearly spoiled. However, children grow up knowing that they are responsible for taking care of their parents eventually. And they usually do.

4. Pollution is terrible and people adjust to it. Hardly anyone was wearing a surgical mask. No one complained who wasn't foreign. I found it appalling and worry about my family's heath over there.

5. The Great Firewall of China blocks many websites and avenues of knowledge. TV and radio are government-controlled, though there are mock-ups of foreign TV, like "The Voice of China," a version of our "The Voice" singing reality show. (There's a way of getting around the wall at one's own risk.) Intellectual people are hungry for uncensored news of the world.

6. Most of all, people anywhere are alike. They're just people with the same emotions, family dynamics, marital issues, and curiosities. There are disabilities and physical and mental illnesses. There's heroic psychological adjustment and intellectual brilliance. In China, there is therapy and medical care of Western and Eastern varieties, from medications to acupuncture to herbs. Like here, many people go untreated, living with their neuroses or conditions with only the support or acceptance of family. They remain incapacitated in some ways always. There are drugs, too, but not as rampant as here, and that's a blessing there. There are street beggars but they're kind of unionized. There's alcoholism. And there's help for it, too.

A caveat--Life in the country is different, more primitive, isolated and innocent, difficult in the lack of modern conveniences sometimes but easier in terms of larger multi-generational families working together to help each other .

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