I have been struggling to write a post like since I have some ideas nested in my head, but, admittedly, people love these kinds of lists where information is discernible and quickly absorbed. Not only that, but they can immediately provoke readers’ comments. And after I have compiled this list, I must say it is quite fun to write! Therefore, enjoy these 10 tips for happy travelling in China!
1. The Chinese food in China is different from that in the Western world
This may be obvious, but it really is different. Yes, there are certain similarities – for instance, it is still stir-fried and prepared in a wok, but the special Chinese love also adds up to the distinctive flavour of the dishes. While specific Asian herbs and condiments like star anise, banana leaves, galangal, coriander (cilantro), daikon, dashi, miso, lemongrass and many more are found in the West, they are much different when fresh. And there is a host of other fruit (such as the infamous durian) and vegetables that are only found there. Be prepared to excite your taste buds!
2. Be ready to get pushed (hard) in the public transport (and probably elsewhere)
You are certainly aware of the fact that Chinese metropolises are teeming with people. Thus, getting inside the metro, the tram or the bus could be quite challenging. Not only that, but you will definitely notice how pushy and “rude” the people are. I put rude in quotation marks because this is not considered rude at all, it is just part of their culture. Suck it up and move on.
3. Learn some Mandarin
This may seem like a piece of cheap advice, but, believe me, muttering a couple of words in Chinese (and this goes for other countries in Asia and their corresponding languages) can help you open many doors. You can get a huge discount when bargaining about anything you can think of (or can’t think of – everything is possible in China). Alright, if you are for the first time in China and you have no idea about how to pronounce the tones (it takes a lot of practice), I strongly suggest you bring a pocket dictionary or have some useful mobile app like Pleco.
4. Get over the fact that you will be cheated
I am not saying this in the bad sense, of course. I am talking about bargaining. Chinese are adept at it. Reducing the price tenfold is only doable when you know them quite well. And after all, they also need to eat, so don’t be so greedy. How to minimise the losses? Don’t go to touristic places – things there are well overpriced and you are likely to spend much more than expected. The hindrance when visiting less touristic places is that they won’t speak English. See point 3. Good luck and let me know how well you bargained.
5. Zebra crossing in China is dangerous
This is serious. Zebra crossing in China is really dangerous. One should be very aware when doing it. Even if the light is green for pedestrians, Chinese drivers will (almost) never stop to wait for you (even if you are white). I have had some luck stopping cars with the risk of my life, but it was not really worth it because all the other pedestrians (all Chinese) waiting with me did not cross. This is one of the things, together with pushing in public transportation (point 2), that you will also have to accept.
6. Chinese people constantly spit on the streets
Another interestingly disgusting thing is the constant spitting. Mostly men do it, but I have seen elderly women generating enormous amounts of saliva and courageously letting it out in a noisy manner. Quite annoying.
7. Street food can be quite good
Well, don’t take my word for every piece of food you may find on the streets, but, generally, on lively corners or busy boulevards, the food is quite tasty for several yuans. I did not have the guts to try the smelly tofu. How can you recognise it? Believe me, you will. The odour can be felt from miles!
8. Make sure you bring a transformer for your electronic devices
In general, electricity in the Middle Kingdom is 220V, 50 HZ, AC. The majority of hotels have both 110V and 220V sockets, but there are exceptions. I am sure you can buy transformers there (probably the ones you will bring with you have been manufactured in China), but better be prepared and avoid wasting time for that.
9. Brace yourself for a lot of Chinglish!
Hehe, this is quite funny. I have been astonished by how weird some translations are. The term Chinglish is mainly used for the English influenced by Cantonese (spoken in Guangdong province, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau).
10. Be prepared for a lot of skyscrapers
Okay, this is not really a tip, but 🙂
I have been to New York City and Miami, but China really flabbergasts with its throngs and swarms of high-rise business and residential buildings.
Here’s a more detailed guide with 151 China travel tips.