Cultural Learnings of China for Make Benefit Glorious People Everywhere

Excuse the title 😛 I just wanted to share a few things that might be helpful to know if you are visiting China for the first time.

  1. Food! – Food in China is definitely not the ‘Chinese’ you eat in your country. I found real Chinese food much more tastier (and healthier, coz they eat it every day). Also the variety in food is overwhelming. Do try everything you can get your hands on.
  2. No tipping in restaurants.
  3. China is not cheap. I, like many others, assumed that since most of the goods we use are made in China, I could get stuff for cheap from there. But this proved a myth. My Nike shoes (made in China) costs the same, if not more, in China, as it is at home. This is especially true if you are visiting only the big cities. The places that manufacture these goods are in the more remote places.
  4. Haggle – don’t be ashamed to haggle when you go around buying from local vendors. You can often negotiate and bring the price down much lower than what was offered first.
  5. Get a guide who speaks Chinese. Unless you or someone traveling with you know Chinese, make sure you get a guide who can speak Chinese. English is of no help in China, especially if you are traveling outside of big cities like Beijing. But even in Beijing, the vast majority (save for kids) don’t speak English. Anyway, it wouldn’t hurt learning a few useful Chinese words and sentences before your trip.
  6. Be wary of counterfeit currency when you spend money and get change from someone. I don’t know how to detect counterfeit Chinese currency, so better check about it somewhere before you go.
  7. Chopsticks – People eat with chopsticks, not spoon or fork and knife. You could find it a little difficult to eat with a chopstick at first, but stick with it (pun intended) and you will get considerably better in a couple of days. And using chopsticks, instead of spoons like some lame foreigners, will earn you respect from the Chinese. (Now don’t go embarrassing yourself trying to drink soup with chopsticks; that’s what they give you the spoons for).
  8. Don’t stick chopsticks up in your food. It is considered very rude (it refers to death/funeral etc, IIRC).
  9. All food items are insanely hot. Seriously.
  10. The name China was given for the country by westerners because the country was famous for its china (as in chinaware). The name the Chinese call China is ****** (forgot what it was). For the sake of your sanity, I’ll continue to refer the country as China for the rest of this post too.
  11. Not really your problem, but there is this thing called ‘apartment problem’ in China. They built too many apartments but most people are unable to afford them, so you will see a lot of tall, unoccupied apartment buildings.
  12. The Chinese script is really beautiful and expressive. For example, the Chinese character for bird is bird-chinese, which totally looks like a bird if you ask me. And the character for chicken is chicken-chinese. And duck is duck-chinese. See? The character for fire is fire-chinese. It goes like that and is fucking amazing. The character for ‘man’ is literally a stick figure with a dick: man-chinese, see? No? Now I thought jing-chinese meant an elephant wearing a hat, but it actually means Jing as in Beijing (beijing-chinese). So don’t go assuming a lot yourself either.
  13. Carry toilet paper with you always. The Chinese invented the toilet paper and there are indeed public toilets everywhere, but it is expected that those who need to use them carry the paper with them. You will sometimes find toilets with paper dispensers too, but these are rare. So, to be on the safe side, carry a few with yourself always.
  14. Toilets are squat toilets.
  15. Carry power adapter compatible with Chinese power sockets.
  16. Majority of the Chinese have no religion. A few are Buddhists, but Buddhism in China is more of a tourism thing than a serious religion for most people.
  17. Don’t go accusing the Chinese of piracy or making counterfeit products. “It is not piracy, it’s reverse engineering”, as I was told.
  18. People talk loudly. You might think they are having a heated argument, but it’s probably just friendly conversation.
  19. Mahjong is a real thing, not a Windows game. People play Mahjong into the night in coffee shops and such.
  20. Kung fu is real and amazing like how you see in the movies.
  21. Don’t talk politics; you are likely to offend someone. You might think China is ruled by ruthless communists who ban internet and stuff, but the Chinese are quite happy with their system (as people in any country can be). So don’t go offending your hosts with what you learned from western media. (This came as a shocker to me, but the lovely Dalai Lama is not considered a good guy in China).
  22. Internet is heavily firewalled, so get a proxy subscription before you enter China if you plan on using Gmail or any other Google services or chat apps such as Telegram etc. Baidu is like the Chinese Google and has their own search, maps and all. But Baidu is available in Chinese only, so probably it will be as useful to you as a coconut to a dog. If you are using Android phone, keep in mind that Google Play store is also blocked, so if you want to install a proxy app or something, you should do it before entering China. (PS: There is this app called Baidu Translate, into which you can enter English text and it will translate it to Chinese + lets you listen to the pronunciation. Could be handy.)
  23. Countries have local names in Chinese. For example, India is called “Indu”.
  24. If your name is not Chinese, it probably can’t be written using Chinese scripts. So when writing foreign/English names, the Chinese just write them in English.
  25. Traffic is crazy. Seriously, be very careful. Drivers don’t give much consideration to traffic signals, pedestrian crossing areas and such. Once when I was in a taxi, I saw a guy playing video game in his phone while driving. Literally, while driving (the traffic was heavy and vehicles were moving slow).
  26. And last but not the least, the Chinese are nice people (as people are anywhere else).

A traditioal market in the valley of Mount Emei, Sichuan