Cultural confusion in China

Nov 17, 2018 ·  China

I love getting massages in Asia where the prices are less expensive than in the West. While I worked in China, I frequented a chain of massage spas which I really liked. One weekend I was in Beijing in an area that I was not familiar with. I decided to get a massage. I remembered seeing what looked like a massage place a few blocks away and headed there. The place didn’t look quite like a typical spa with its flashing neon signs and pictures of smiling women in the window, but I figured that was just their style. Having traveled all my life I have frequently found myself in unfamiliar situations that at first might have felt uncomfortable only to dive in and discover a delightful new food, experience or location. So, in I went.

The inside had low lights, incense and nature sounds, typical of a spa, so I felt reassured. Rather than the smiling, gracious hostess that typically greets one in a spa, the woman that approached me looked worried and asked me something in Chinese. Through hand gestures, I indicated I wanted a massage. She called in another woman and the two engaged in a long and animated conversation behind a beaded curtain. Occasionally the separated the curtain and peeked out at me. Finally, they lead me to a darkened room with what I assumed was a massage table. I disrobed and lay face down on the table. A woman came in and proceeded to give me a pretty good massage. I paid and went home.

Next day was Monday and everyone was discussing their weekend. I mentioned my massage. I explained I went to the spa two blocks away. After pinpointing the exact location, I was told this was a high-end brothel.