Plymouth professor studies Asian spitting behaviour


A professor from Plymouth is to travel round Asia studying differing cultural attitudes towards spitting in public.

Ross Coomber, who is a professor of sociology at Plymouth University, will spend about a month visiting six Asian countries.

He said people should take historical and cultural influences into account before forming opinions about those who spit.

He added, in many nations it was an accepted part of their lifestyle.

Prof Coomber said: “In India and Indonesia, for example, spitting involving different forms of chewing juices is common.

‘Truly disgusting’

“While in China, many people view spitting as a cleansing action for the body.

“It should also be acknowledged that many Asian cultures see the Western act of blowing or sneezing in public into a handkerchief and then putting that into a pocket as truly disgusting and much worse than spitting.

“It may be that Western eyes would view spitting within those cultures with less disgust if they understood it better.”

A Plymouth University spokesman said Prof Coomber would also look at whether anti-spitting campaigns – such as those introduced in China prior to the Beijing Olympics – were a result of changing manners among policymakers or adopting Western manners in preference to traditional practices.

Prof Coomber, who is self-funding the trip to Asia, added: “The often assumed links between spitting and the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis and viruses is in fact weakly evidenced.

“This means that concerns over spitting are really often about preferences around manners rather than health.”

Be Devon


Hangzhou officially bans spitting in public

In move to protect its reputation as the “most splendid and luxurious city in the world,” Hangzhou will be outlawing public spitting and littering, which have been deemed “uncivilized behavior.”

Offenders will face a fine of 200 yuan ($30) and have their unseemly behavior recorded on file. The rule goes into effect from May 1. So spit while you can.

It apparently comes in response to public demand, a recent survey found that over 90% of respondents disapproved of such activities — but only 10% were inclined to stir trouble by intervening.

Now, with this regulation, “people have the right to stop uncivilized behavior and are protected from being retaliated against.” Which is nice.

But one fears that this law may just come too late, with the Spring Festival pretty much already upon us and Chinese tourists carrying around a bad reputation for “uncivilized behavior” during festive periods.


Not one of the most beautiful elements of Chinese culture but definitely a predominant one. Many Westerners are put off by the “horking” and violent phlegm raising efforts of Chinese people. They do this big horklike sound – imagine this, say hawk but now pretend you are gurgling while you say it and clear your throat at the same time, that’s what is meant by “hork”. Men especially, but also 80-year old grannies, beautiful young women, that is everyone – wow. Spitting and littering is normal yet frowned upon. Even in a restaurant spitting and littering occurs. It is important to always consider where you sit or put your bag down and you are highly advised not to walk around barefoot. Refer to the extensive post following this for the complete discussion of spitting and what it is all about.


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