Posts Tagged ‘phlegm’

imagesDear Readers,

As you know, I enjoy traveling. One of the reasons that I do enjoy traveling is to experience the many different cultures around the world. As of yet, I have not been to the Far East. I have a good friend in Singapore that has invited us to visit his country, so perhaps some day…

He sent me the following article which I found very interesting and knew nothing about. So like me, if you ever do plan to travel to China and surrounding region, this is one cultural trait that you should at least be aware of.

So I hope you have a strong stomach and read on.



Taken from:


The Voice of Singaporeans for Singapore

I am a Singaporean, I swallow

March 14th, 2013 | Author: Contributions


If you’ve never step foot into China, one of the most important things you need to possess is a strong stomach – for random spitting that comes your way.

Spitting to Chinese is like queuing to Singaporeans, a bizarre national habit. I use the Chinese and Singaporeans loosely because not everyone here spits and neither do all Singaporeans enjoy getting in line.

Based on my years of observation, the “spitters” are usually the older set, say 50 years old and above, or are hoodlums, also known as 小痞子 here. Singaporeans would call them ah lians or ah bengs. I’ve also seen white-collar workers and seemingly “cultured” types in the act but those are quite rare.

I’ve always wondered. Why must people spit? What’s wrong with swallowing back?

First, the Chinese have low tolerance for phlegm or saliva build-up. That’s because according to Chinese medicine, spitting out your phlegm is the best way to get rid of “heatiness” especially when nursing a cough. In fact, when you visit a Chinese doctor, their default question is always “What colour is your phlegm?” since that is supposedly an indication of your health.

But not all “spitters” spit for health reasons. 小痞子 sometimes do it to show power. They spit to express disgust or to despise someone. One wonders how they get the backlog of saliva that’s ever ready for spitting on cue?

The most ludicrous I’ve heard is that spitting shows off their macho-ism to the opposite sex. Every feminine bone in me can’t fathom how a man who spits can turn me on.

Here’s the thing. You know what never ceases to amaze me? The Chinese and their Perfect Spit.

If you’ve ever tried spitting, you will know that it is actually an art to gather your saliva loudly in your mouth, roll your tongue so that when you spit them, it aerodynamically lands on the ground in a neat roundish glob. The result is a clean dry mouth. No embarrassing leftovers from your lips or saliva dripping from your chin such that you need to wipe them.

Next time when you are here, observe. In China, the Perfect Spit commands three precision steps: Stop. Spit. Strut.

This fortnight, I’ve been nursing an awful cough that generously filled my throat with phlegm. Anyone nearby can hear the thick mucus I cough out each time. My driver who had the ill fortune to share my recycled air in the car advised me to spit out my phlegm. When I told him I had no idea how, he looked at me in shock.

I was sent home with an information-loaded brain about the healing effects of spitting out the phlegm when nursing a heaty cough like mine. I was desperate to get rid of my cough. So I stood before my bathroom sink and tried to…spit.

Everything came out wrong. Instead of the straight arrow-shooting perfection I was hoping to achieve, it splattered into fireworks of mess. Droplets of germs flew to my sweater and trickled down my lips. Undigested food came up along with yellow yucky gooey stuff. I was left with an acidic bitter aftertaste in my mouth that overstayed their welcome.

I felt worse than before.

When I told my husband that I can’t spit to save myself, I realised I wasn’t alone. In his teens, he once coughed out a huge lump of green phlegm by accident. It landed on the table. Stupefied, he thought he’d just coughed out an organ. When he was sure no one was watching, he nervously picked up his “organ” and swallowed it back.

So if ever a well-meaning Chinese ask me to spit out my phlegm, I will politely reply:

“I am Singaporean. I swallow.”

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