East vs West
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Cultural Differences: Eastern And Western Attitudes To Health Care

Being Sick With Influenza In China

In China, Guangzhou, I became ill for five weeks with influenza. The cold Guangzhou winter, combined with pollution, and inescapable metros crammed with sick people going to and from work, all contributed to my relentless strain of influenza.

A stressful work schedule privately tutoring students forbade me to see a doctor.  I was ready to collapse.

In Australia doctors would prescribe Penicillin, but doctors in China only prescribed herbal medication. I was desperate for Western medication.



Today, I came to Pacific Coffee in Ximenkou (西门口) to meet a student.  I did not order a coffee or a tea.  Instead I brought juice and a half-dozen buns (菜包).

I walked towards the back of the coffee shop, becoming seated at a long table for 6 people on each side.  There, looking sickly, I waited for my student to arrive.

Within a few minutes my student arrived from his nearby home, and sat across from me.  My voice was soft, and weak-sounding as I welcomed him.

As soon as he saw the buns, he scowled his face, “Don’t eat that.  It is not good for your throat.”

From his bag he proceeded to unpack medications.  One was Western medication, Panadol.

As soon as I saw Panadol I thought, “Yeah!  That is what I need!”

He also brought some vitamin C.

I was touched.

None of these gifts are the Amoxicillin, Penicillin or other hardcore Western medicine prescribed in Australia that kill all the bacteria in your body, but it was effective.

Western And Eastern Attitudes To Health Care

In China, the other day, I posed the question to somebody, “What do you think is good about China?”

The friend said, “I can’t think of anything.”

One good experience about China which Western society does not have, is that when someone is sick, people in Western society tend not to take care of each other unless they are family.

However, in China, friends, colleagues, people that you live with, your girlfriend, your family, and even strangers go out of their way to help you.

Chinese people generally are friendly, and take care of each other when they are sick.

My girlfriend took care of me, this student took care of me, and the people at Dengba hostel (登巴客栈) took care of me.

One girl who worked in Dengba hostel (登巴客栈) especially took care of me.  In a considerate way, when she heard me coughing for an hour, she brought me a cup of tea.

I just felt flattered that I have a person in my hostel to take care of me, a person when I am studying to take care of me, and my girlfriend who also takes care of me.

The Importance Of Health In China

Health in China is important.

Everyone in China gives me all kinds of herbal medications, whereas Australian people place the onus on the sick person, and give recommendations, saying, “You are sick?  Rest in bed.”  Or, “Are you sick?  Go take a Panadol.  That will be better for you.”

But Chinese people go the extra mile, to say, “Hey I brought you some Panadol.”  Or, “I brought you some vitamin C.”

My girlfriend said, “Hey.  I have bought 60 RMB worth of medication for you.”

The sentiments are really nice, and it makes you feel better.

The Stash Of Donated Medication

Once the two-hour private English class concluded, I thanked my student for giving me the medication.

I had two bottles of medication and four cold and flu capsules my girlfriend gave me, vitamin C tablets, and the Panadol that my student gave me.  I was drugged up.



None of it was medication that I had purchased.  It was all purchased for me or donated to me.

It was a really cold day today.  Despite my voice, thanks to the warmth of everyone in China, I feel much better.

Author: 钨宝

The author of Diary Of A Mad Chaos from 1996 to 2018, The Lost Years book, Wubao In China (猎艳奇缘) book series, and Foreigner (华人) an exploration of race relations in Australia. Fluent in Chinese Mandarin, Macedonian, and English, the author currently resides in China, Guangzhou where he continues to make comparative analysis of the cultural differences between Eastern and Western societies.

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