One aspect of living abroad is that some very basic activities and routines are conducted differently, including housecleaning.
Take the simple act of sweeping the floor, for example. In the west, we use a long-handled broom and hold it with both hands. The disadvantage is that you need someone to hold the dustpan for you, or you awkwardly try to handle both broom and dustpan.
But sweeping evolved differently in China. Here, the brooms are shorter and are used with one hand and the motion feels different...
I wonder if Chinese brooms are shorter because traditionally the handles were made of straw bound together, and a long handle made of straw wouldn't work. It wouldn't be as rigid as a broom handle made of wood.
You can see lots of people still using traditional brooms in China, made of straw or sticks or whatever, especially when they are sweeping off the sidewalks in the morning.
Here are some for sale, along with some simple tin dustpans. The brooms are about 80 centimeters, or two-and-a-half-feet long.
It's so short that a tall person has to bend over a bit when using it. Yes, you can use the long-handled dustpan very easily, one hand on the broom and the other on the dustpan, without calling someone over to help you, but it's still wrong.
I know a foreigner couple who made a long bus trip to a store that sold imported goods just so they could get a "proper" broom, and I know how they feel.
When you go to carry out a familiar household chore, and you have to use a different motion than the one you have been doing all your life, it's like a right-handed person trying to brush their teeth with their left hand.
The Chinese rely heavily on rag or string mops. The kind of mop that deposits the water on the floor, but there is no way to pick the water back up again, or to wring out the mop, unless you tried to do it with your hands, and yuch, you wouldn't.
These mops just slop water around on the floor and they are smelly and gross. They at least have long wooden handles and you use both hands to mop.
They come with a two-chambered bucket, and you can place the mop on a spindle inside the bucket and spin the mop head dry. No more leaving dirty water all over the floor.
I've written a lot about the rapidly expanding, upwardly mobile, aspirational middle class in China. For me, nothing symbolizes the new middle class more than this very simple household device: the mop.