When you travel to another culture as a tourist there are some little things you notice that are different in your hotel room. Its a little different when you stay long enough to move in. The little differences soon become normal. At first some of them may have been irritating, but over time you might even begin to see advantages to the different way of doing things.
Every light switch in the places where we are staying looks like the pictures above. Can you tell which switches are on? When the top is pushed in the light is off, so the lights connected to the switches on the right are all on. There is an advantage to this approach when the goal is to touch as few shared surfaces as little as possible. The switches can be turned on and off with a pen, a credit card, or a knuckle. The security releases for the exterior doors to the apartment have the same configuration.
We’ve seen several different styles of ceiling light fixture since we’ve been here. The strange thing is that many of them include an array of flashing LEDs. Ours goes from red to blue in sequence and the lights change color more than once a second. When we first moved into the apartment I was frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how to get the regular light to come on so that I could read. There are at least four different states for the light to be in and each one is accessed by a different number of on/off cycles of the main switch. I found my reading light when I figured out that two on/off cycles got the fixture to the right states. One of the other families in the complex has an even more elaborate fixture. They requested that the maintenance person in the apartment come and disconnect the disco lights.
Air purifiers are becoming more common in the U.S., but here in Beijing they are a necessity. When we first arrived it ran constantly. Several windy days have kept the air cleaner and keeping the windows in the apartment closed has also helped. However, Grandma has to clean the filter in her cleaning machine very frequently. This is objective proof that the air quality is not nearly as good as back home. Our daughter-in-law has asthma and they have a unit this size in their master bedroom with a much larger unit in the main living area. Don’t ever take clean air for granted. There have been just a few days while we’ve been here where the advice was to not go outside as the air quality was unhealthy for everyone.
There are a variety of door stops in the U.S. and they are all designed to gently stop the door without allowing the door handle to punch a hole in the wall. The walls in the apartments here are almost all solid concrete, so a hard slam might damage the paint, but won’t put a hole in the wall. These stops are designed to capture the door and hold it open. I’d love to have one of these in our main bath at home. The door stop is magnetic and there is a definite click when door approaches the stop. It requires a little more effort to open the door, but these stops work well to prevent damage to the wall and to keep the door open.
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed, especially when it was colder, is the heat lamps in the bathroom. You can control the amount of heat by the number of lamps you turn on. I’ve seen these units in every bathroom I’ve been in here in the apartment complex. I’m guessing the consistency comes from the fact that even though each unit is individually owned and decorated there are things that are the same just because they are apartments. The electrical socket is typical of the sockets found everywhere in the house. The top socket can accept either round posts or rectangular blades. These outlets are not grounded and support most of the electronic devices in the house. The bottom configuration is grounded and used for appliances that require more current. In the U.S. houses are wired for both 110 volt and 220 volt service. All the outlets in China are 220 volt. Plugging a 110 volt device into a 220 volt outlet can be disastrous and will generally destroy the 110 volt device. Transformers help with this, but don’t always work. My electric toothbrush charger is the only thing we brought with us that works only on 110 volts. Fortunately, our kids had plenty of toothbrush chargers and I was able to borrow one of theirs.
When we first arrived we thought there was no way we were going to need to use this while we were here. Once we figured out how to turn off the central heat we both assumed that the weather would stay cool enough that this wouldn’t be needed. With daytime temperatures in the 70s we’ve had this on most of this past week. The unit works very well and keeps us from having to try to cool the whole apartment. The central heat is radiant heat, so there is no ducting in the apartment.
If you came to visit us and didn’t have a key card to get into our building you would find a keypad next to the main door downstairs. Assuming you got the correct entry for the elevator shaft supporting our apartment, you would enter our apartment number and we would hear a beeping sound. The devices are supposed to be capable of providing a video image of the person requesting entry, but we’ve never seen this work and no one seems the least concerned about that. The normal response to the beeping is to get to the device and press the round button on the bottom right as quickly as possible.
We’ve been here long enough that we’ll miss all these things when we get home. So far our plans are to return in a little less that a week. Three months has gone by very quickly. Traveling home will be an adventure, but we trust that next week we’ll be safely at home.