i never leave home without a pack of tissues, because i have unpredictable allergies. i also tend to spill things a lot and get weird stuff on my face. so one of the first things i did after arriving in china was purchase what i thought were Kleenex pocket packs – and i noticed that they’re very different from the tissues in the US.
boxed tissues in china are similar to those in the US — same thickness, texture, etc. — but the pocket packs are called “paper handkerchiefs” here, and they’re more like paper napkins than tissues. they’re thicker and slightly stiffer, and i think they’re made this way because they serve a wider purpose in this country. for example:
they’re often used as toilet paper. unscientific fact number 1: 99.999% of public bathrooms in china do not have toilet paper. same goes for paper towels. ALSO, the walls between stalls go all the way down to the floor (because most toilets are the squatting kind), which means you can’t ask anyone to slip you some paper under the stall). so… yeah. unless you want to be caught in a very awkward/uncomfortable situation, you may want to have these with you at all times.
they’re also used as napkins. unscientific fact number 2: 99.999% of restaurants/cafeterias do not give you napkins. if they do, they may charge you for them. or they’ll give you one teeny tiny sheet. or they will have one large roll of toilet paper in front of the restaurant, and you’ll have to remember to get some before you sit down to eat. it’s very annoying.
they’re used as sweat rags. at least, that’s what i’ve been doing. unscientific fact number 3: the humidity in this part of china is, like, 99.999%, and during the summer months, your face will be so incredibly, intolerably… dewy. you will need to wipe your face constantly, and you’ll be grateful for something that doesn’t break apart and leave little tissue lints all over your face.
granted, the thicker, stiffer paper handkerchiefs are not as ideal for blowing your nose, but luckily, my sis-in-law has been slipping in regular pocket packs from the US into her care packages (hi K! thanks K!). since coming to china, i’ve actually gotten in the habit of carrying 2 packs of paper handkerchiefs in addition to 1 pack of regular tissues. yes, this is why i carry such big bags.
anyway, now i’m pretty curious about the sales of these pocket packs in china compared to those tissue packs in the US. given their wide, frequent use, they must be a significant source of revenue here, no? i have noticed that in many grocery stores here, about half (sometimes more) of the tissue aisles are dedicated to various sorts and brands of paper handkerchiefs, while in the US, they’re usually hidden next to the travel size items or tucked away somewhere deep in the paper goods aisle.