I wrote in a recent family letter about potty training here in China, and thought I'd also do a post about it. Basically, the Chinese use open bottom pants for their children instead of diapers. Actually, in recent years they have begun to use disposable diapers some of the time, but most still use open bottom pants. And the diapers are only used by the wealthy.
When Chinese babies are still very small, their caretaker will take them outside and hold them in a sitting position to encourage them to urinate/deficate. The caretaker (usually the grandmother) will whistle to encourage them to pee, and eventually it creates a sort of "Pavlov's dogs" reaction, and the child will be more likely to pee on command. There are many jokes in the Chinese culture about how someone walks down the street whistling a happy tune, and everyone runs to find a bathroom. I might just be tempted enough to try it out. ;)
I understand the reasons behind the potty training here, but I wish they would make some adjustments. In this culture, it is acceptable to allow a child to pee anywhere on the ground. I often pass women squatting on the sidewalk holding a child they are trying to get to pee. I really don't like the thought of walking through some child's pee. I still am not sure why they never search for a grassy spot instead of the pavement. Children are also allowed to deficate in public. Of course you can imagine how much this disturbs me. I've walked past excrement on the sidewalk, and could tell it was not made by a dog. This is totally unacceptable. I think most Chinese do not allow this, but there are those who do. The Chinese culture looks at the ground as dirty, and just accept it that way. I really miss the clean sidewalks of America.
I don't think that millions of Chinese will very soon change the practice of allowing their children to urinate in public. It is an ingrained habit, and has been culturally passed down for ages. But I really wish they would change.
I have also seen parents allow their children to urinate on the floor inside of stores. More polite parents will hold their child over the nearest trash can instead. More than once I've seen pee on the floor in the store, and have seen the store employee have to come clean it up. This practice really isn't hygienic, and I wish there could be some governmental training campaign to discourage it. In the past, the public bathrooms were so disgusting, that it really was a health danger to even use them. In preparation for the Olympics, the government did a public bathroom clean up, and things did improve. They do have people to mop the floors regularly, and to throw out the trash. Things have improved, but the public bathrooms certainly aren't sterile. I think the trend is moving towards more cleanliness. I can only hope. But I do think that a huge step is to encourage parents to take their little children to the bathroom instead of to the sidewalk. I hope the government will consider doing a campaign to encourage children's caretakers to help keep China clean.