Beware of floor 1

January snowfall

The view outside my window. Just a little snow — no big deal!

JISHOU, HUNAN — Last night’s snowfall jogged my memory to blog about one of the most treacherous aspects of living in China — the floors and sidewalks.

What jogged my memory was slipping on the way to class. Boom! Down on one knee and one hand. (I’m OK, nothing injured but my pride.)

For purely aesthetic reasons, I suppose, in many places around Hunan — and probably elsewhere in China — the preferred flooring material is mirror-glazed ceramic tiles. Most of the buildings, including my flat, are floored with 2-foot-square tan tiles. The plaza around the main classroom building (where I wiped out this morning) is paved with hexagonal pavers bracketed by what appears to be marble rectangles. These are also as smooth as glass.

Now, tile floors are eminently practical, being durable and easy to clean. And shiny ceramic pavers surrounding impressive buildings are also pleasing to the eye. But, they are not the safest choice for wet or icy days.

I learned this early on during my first year, after I skated part way to class several times inside our building on the wet floor tiles. (Corridors in many classroom buildings here are open to the outside.) I had to switch to a different kind of shoe out of self-protection. Once prepared, I put the slippery floors out of mind.

Today’s tumble, however, reminded me that I had intended, once long ago, to blog about Chinese floors. (Such a mundane topic, I know.)

We had about 1 cm of snow overnight. Looking out my window (the view above left) I could tell it was slushy on the drive, so I put on my new hiking boots. As long as I stayed on rough concrete, I was A-OK. As I neared my classroom building, I watched as a woman was gingerly walking across the glazed pavers toward her tai chi class. Nothing registered in my still sleepy brain. I chose a path that as yet had no footprints toward my destination. The lack of footprints should have been yet another clue. But no. My left foot mounted the curb, came down on the hexagonal tiles, my right foot followed, and … down I went.

Duh. The floor is slippery, fool! Waffle stompers are not helpful on hard, icy surfaces.

Incidentally, for you travelers, most hotels in China are floored with mirror-glazed ceramic tile, especially in the bathrooms. The slippers they provide are NOT slip-proof. Take my word on this, as I have skated across bathroom floors, too. When the signage warns of slippery floors, believe it!

Sidewalks here are often covered with square tiles, usually white, with a row of textured yellow tiles to help the blind navigate. While not mirror glazed, these can also be slippery when wet.

So, welcome to China, but please watch your step!

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One comment on “Beware of floor

  1. Reply Billie Weaver Jan 7,2013 6:17 am

    Glad you’re okay. I stand warned on your slippery surfaces.

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