Although I wore short sleeves for much of the last week, my students were continually shocked. In fact, most Chinese people are shocked. It isn't May 1 yet (the widely-recognized day for shedding of coats). Even though most students complained of being hot in class, they flatly refused when I suggested they remove their coats. A few did roll up their sleeves, but none removed the outer layer. They also cried out "no, no" when I flipped the switch to the classroom ceiling fans. "Dust," they explained.
But on Friday, I saw something rare: a guy rode his bike wearing a sleeveless shirt (think 1980s). The strange thing was - it was a little bit cool that day (maybe 60s) -- cool enough that I was wearing a sweatshirt. In fact, as far as I can remember, it was the only time I've EVER seen anyone in China wearing short sleeves when I wore long.
Then, today, the temperature was in the 70s. I spotted a young man walking down the street in short sleeves. I've seen rolled up sweatshirts and a few long johns underneath shorts. I'm starting to wonder: what would their mothers think if they knew they were flaunting the rules? It also makes me wonder where these enduring traditions come from. Who decided that you had to wait until a certain date before donning short sleeves?