Cold and Hot

“I have a cold.” / “I have a stomachache.” / “I’m on my period.” / etc.

— “Drink some hot water!”

Conversations like these are always heard in China, because hot water is so common and it is somehow regarded as a panacea. We are used to bringing a vacuum cup everywhere we go, no matter what the weather or temperature. But here in Switzerland (also in other European countries), it’s as if many people were born not knowing that hot water is drinkable. Swiss people only use hot boiled water as a supplement to make coffee and tea, and if you don’t want tea or coffee at a friend’s house, the friend provides pure water or bubble water. They even let women who have just given birth drink cold water or eat ice cream. If we do so in China, we are definitely admonished by the elders.

It is very likely that Swiss kitchens do not have kettles, and neither do restaurants, so if I really need hot water, the waiter will use the coffee machine to boil hot water for me. I made instant noodles on the Jungfrau with that kind of hot water – interesting experience. 

And yeah, tap water in Switzerland is drinkable. At first, I found this weird at first, because without boiling it I just felt wasn’t clean and I might suffer from a stomachache afterwards. So, during the first week I still used my kettle brought from China to cook water but gradually I found it was too much trouble. You can never carry enough water, it’s too heavy.  Therefore, if I stay in the library or classroom for a long time, I need to get water from the bathroom, how strange!Why do people get their water from the faucets in public bathrooms, don’t they think it’s dirty? But you know, humans are creatures who adapt easily to their environment.  I am in the Bern cardinals softball club and we have weekly training in a gym. During exercise, it was impossible to resist thirst. Thus, I have to drink tap water. And of course, nothing happens. I didn’t have stomach pains and I didn’t end up in hospital (but maybe lose more hair because Swiss water is so hard). So slowly I don’t think toilet tap water disgusting anymore, it comes from the same water plant as kitchen water anyway. Besides, I was quickly spoiled: after I accepted tap water, I found it so convenient. I don’t bother to boil a kettle of water the night before and I don’t have to bring my own water when hanging out. There are so many faucets in parks and streets. Thirst is never a problem.

In addition, the culture of “cold” is also reflected in the food. I haven’t found a kitchen with an open flame in Switzerland. You always use things like induction and vegetables very likely made into salad, not cooked. In China, we always stir-fry them.  Most Chinese people think salad is not tasty, it is considered more or less a fitness meal or diet meal.

 I thought the same thing half a year ago. But when I started to try, I find it not bad. I consumed many icebergs lettuce every week, and avocado is perfect when hungry. I won’t say that salad is more delicious than Chinese dishes, (it isn’t, at least in my mind) but you know, making a Chinese dish may take an hour but a sandwich and a salad only takes 10 minutes. Western dishes are really suitable for school days. Perhaps that’s why Swiss people don’t use canteens as often as we do, of course there are reasons like high price, but Chinese students cannot make their own dishes every day. 

Everyone is a foreigner somewhere, yet unfamiliar things will become familiar over time. The meaning of study abroad, in fact, is to see and experience various things. That isn’t to say I should forget who I am, where I’m from, what culture I’ve known, what habits I have, etc. Everyone comes into the world with a mark, none of those changes just because I’m in a different place. But an open view will allow me to have the ability to think independently, understand how I want to live my life is my own business, and finally naturally have the ability to empathize. 

Shunyu Wu

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