Crazy, weird, and culture | August 3, 2014

Today, I saw a man slapping a tree. He was about fifty or sixty years old, and was standing by the side of the road repeatedly smacking both of his hands against the smooth bark of a sycamore. He is neither crazy, nor weird.

As Chinese people get older, they start hitting things. They slap their arms, slap their legs, slap inanimate objects. They do this to bring circulation to those areas, to relieve joint pain, and, perhaps in some cases, to keep the bones strong. These things all, in fact, make sense. Therefore: not crazy. Although those of us with American inclinations might elect to take a slew of medications, even we, if we really think about it, must admit that (gently) hitting yourself in your old age can be logical.

But this man was not only not crazy, he was also not weird. If what you’re doing makes sense, you’re sane, and if it’s accepted in your culture you are normal. Slapping trees is not weird in China. Most people do go into a park to do it (there they are surrounded by other retired folk doing similar things for similar reasons) rather than standing by the roadside, but no matter where you do it, only a foreigner would do a double-take.

To raise a similar example, when I use my umbrella on sunny days in America, I am not crazy (I have very good reasons, and frankly, I advise others to adopt the practice), but I am certainly weird.


Posted in Uncategorized


  1. We will be sunny-day umbrella buddies. Then we will both be less weird.

    Comment by Vivain — August 4, 2014 @ 12:38 am

  2. Hooray! Looking forward to it.

    Comment by rcintheprc — August 4, 2014 @ 1:56 am

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