What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

Honor Amongst Thieves February 1, 2016

On our way to Thailand, our plane stopped in Beijing, China. Apart from Beijing eating my husband’s checked bag so he had to spend the rest of our time out of the country wearing hilariously small underpants, being stuck in a Chinese airport for five hours was a rather interesting experience.

I would never say, Oh, yes. I’ve been to China. I saw the inside of an airport. But there is a decent amount you can learn about a culture by observing how they treat travelers.

First of all, Jack Daniels is apparently the international sign for I give up. Please give me a drink. Every bar and restaurant shelf had a big bottle of Jack Daniels sitting front and center.

Apparently no smoking in the bathroom means no smoking unless the restroom attendant offers to slip you a lighter for a tip. Good thing neither my husband nor I smoke, or we might be in Chinese jail right now.

Massages are not some exclusive rich people benefit to flying. There are pretty little kiosks you can just slip into for a real quick foot rub without having to choose between foot comfort and eating a real meal in the airport.

But the most fascinating thing to me was the level or trust they had for the flyers. And not just the bathroom attendant assuming my husband wouldn’t turn him in for encouraging illegal smoking in the bathroom.

In wandering through the airport shops, I noticed a startling difference. Jewelry, even jewelry that was priced well over a hundred dollars, was just left out of the shelves – in easy range to touch, admire, or steal. And there was no one monitoring the jewelry. Not a single employee seemed to be worried that someone might pocket it.

And it made me wonder. Are Americans the only ones who are super paranoid about shoplifters? Is that an American theme? Did Disney lie to me though Aladdin by telling me that shoplifting was an international problem?

But then in them same airport there were signs warning about pickpockets and watching your belongings. Is there a code amongst thieves: Steal the tourists’ passports, but leave the unguarded jewelry alone?

It’s those sorts of things that I never really considered to have a cultural uniqueness to them, but according to the Beijing airport, I was very wrong.


4 Responses to “Honor Amongst Thieves”

  1. avwalters Says:

    Perhaps there are cameras.

  2. Sadly America is one of the few places where we assume you will steal and do stupid things; that is not the assumption in most cultures. When you walk through the museums in Paris or Belin the assumption is no one would actually reach up and touch the paintings because, well that would ruin the paintings. It stands to reason then in other countries you would need a sign telling-explaining that. In America we not only put up a sign asking you not to reach up and touch the paintings, we move visitors back far enough so it is not possible for this to still happen. We have a lot of wonderful characteristics, sadly being thoughtful is not one of them…I missed the transition, why again did your husband choose to wear ridiculously small underwear.

  3. […] Last post was about the strangeness of being in a store in the Beijing Airport where they didn’t seem to be afraid of people stealing things. […]

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