We know there is a North-South divide in China. In Britain where I come from, there may also be such a divide, traditionally phrased by referring to "The Northerners" or "The Southerners."
However, having worked for over two years in south China's Guangdong Province I should refer at least to one practice which differs within Guangdong itself. Whilst the gentle folk of Guangzhou and Shenzhen may be averse to spitting in the street, this is not the case in the smaller cities and the towns and villages which I am familiar with but nor is it unknown in Britain except that some people are less discreet about it. I have spent most of my time living and working in Gaozhou, quite a small and historical city and also in Maoming, slightly bigger but more recent, having grown up from a village to a prefecture level city on account of the Sinopec petrochemical works which arose some 50 years ago. Now Maoming has jurisdiction over Gaozhou, which is a reversal of fortune and symptomatic of modern development generally.
What strikes me in terms of differences between the physiology of the Chinese and the British is the peculiar ability of the Chinese to work or even rest whilst squatting. If a Westerner tried this he would be likely to have serious problems with his knees before too long. The second source of bodily strength noted in the Chinese is their voice. Although I, along with other Western teachers, often have to revert to a microphone aid during class, this is not necessary for the Chinese, who are seemingly born with an additional vocal chord or two.
The psychology of the Chinese in this part of the country is also worth mentioning as a contrast to the British and this also stimulates thoughts of old manners in my own country, long since passed away. I refer to the habit of the Chinese to stand (or sit) on streets and outside shops and just gaze at passers-by or just daydream. One marvelous aspect of the Chinese is the provision for natural behavior. You can walk down a street and stop outside a shop of any kind and find a seat or stool to sit on, provided by the owner and the Chinese will invite you to do this.
People who come to Gaozhou from the outside, even some 25 miles away, are apt to describe it as "poor." I'm not really sure what they mean by this except to say that there aren't so many modern buildings—precisely because it's an old city. And whilst the income on average is probably lower than in other areas, prices for some items of food are cheaper. I haven't been to too many Chinese cities but of course I've been urged to pay a customary visit to the Great Wall in Beijing amongst others. In fact traveling in China to the extent of sightseeing during the standard holiday periods is problematic and well documented. If I were to spend my free time exploring Gaozhou I would still find a rich fare awaiting me since although it's a small city by Chinese standards, it doesn't seem so by mine and there are always new areas I haven't seen before whilst cycling around on my bicycle or riding my motorbike.
A rather peculiar and seemingly marvelous phenomenon of the Chinese cities is the shopping districts. By this I mean certain streets or sections of streets are given over to selling a particular product. For example, if you live in Gaozhou and want to buy bedding or a bed you go down Fuqian Road. If you want to buy doors or windows or the bars which the Chinese fit over their windows, you can go to Gaoliang Road. This is an advantage over the British, who may need years of familiarity with a city before they know where to get a hose pipe fitting, for example. Also, as is customary, for the English at any rate, one goes in to a shop and buys something only to be told by a friend a day or two later that if you had only gone to another shop elsewhere in the city, what you bought would have been better and cheaper.
The author is a Briton living in Guangdong Province