On a hot day in America there’s nothing like a tall glass of ice water to make you feel better. In China they typically drink warm, and sometimes even hot, water even on hot days. I think there is a common belief that cold drinks will make you sick, especially on a hot day. In fact, most of the drinks I have had in China have been either hot (or at least warm) or at room temperature. In fact, once I was told that if I drink cold milk in the morning it will do a number on my intestines, so they drink it warm. They seem to use ice for more practical purposes, like keeping produce and meat cold at the market.
A young Chinese woman recently came to Bryant University on a four-year research grant. When she found out I had recently returned from China and that I can speek some Chinese, she immediately befriended me. I have been enjoying helping her get oriented to life in the United States. The other day I took her to my favorite hamburger place in Providence (until then she had only had burgers from the university cafeteria); I wanted her to experience a “real” American hamburger, which she loved. The funny thing is I had our server bring us water while my friend was in the restroom, and when she came back to the table she commented on the fact that there was ice in her water. Even though I had just been ultra aware of no ice in China, I didn’t even think to ask for no ice in the water of my Chinese guest. I think she sipped it a few times, but mostly just waited for it to melt.
A couple of days later she sent me this text message: “Why white man like eat ice and working in cold office?” (She’s experiencing the air conditioning that causes some people bring sweaters to work in the middle of the hot summer in the US). It’s fun to hear about the things in my own culture that are a bit shocking to someone from the outside.