November 12, 2009

You don't want that toilet paper!

The Chinese ladies in the on-campus store near our apartments sure do know what the foreigner wants. And when it comes to paper goods, they really know which ones are the best.

It’s normal in China to not leave home without some tissue paper, both for your nose and for use in the restroom. It’s not likely you’ll find any sort of toilet paper in restrooms in China, so you better bring your own. And bring the soap or hand sanitizer while you’re at it. All of these are not common in typical Chinese restrooms.

Last week, I went into the store to buy some Kleenex. (Note: I’m using Kleenex to refer to tissue. While Kleenex brand is in China, our student store doesn’t carry them, but there are plenty of other alternatives.) I was looking at the selection trying to decipher the Chinese to get the best tissue available, preferably something with 3 piles instead of the extra thin 1-2 pile version that I can blow right through. I finally decided which one I would purchase when the lady came up to me and took me around the corner to look at the selection again. She picked up a better package of Kleenex and handed it to me. I thanked her and walked off to buy her suggestion.

Now, today I walk back into the student store looking for some toilet paper. Again confused trying to guess the Chinese on the packaging I select the brand we always buy and began to walk away. Once again the Chinese lady in charge of watching the tissues came to me, took me back to the selection, and handed me the best available toilet paper. I thanked her and walked away to purchase the paper not knowing what made her paper better than the one I chose. I will probably never know. Maybe my selection was not perforated, had only 2 piles, or was extremely rough.

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