China is a big and beautiful country with its own culture and traditions. For western people, those can sometimes appear unusual and weird. But this is only at first glance. These tips may help you to prepare for the trip and avoid culture shock that can happen during your stay in China.
As everybody knows, the population of China is nearly 1.4 billion people. The first thing you will realize is that there are plenty of people! Everywhere! As in: there are really big crowds literally everywhere you go. So, before planning your trip to the most famous attractions (e.g. The Great Wall, Oriental Pearl Tower, etc.) make sure that there is no Chinese public holiday on the date you plan on going, otherwise, you will spend the whole time standing in line.
For some Chinese people (especially outside of the main cities like Beijing or Shanghai), meeting a foreigner is a very unusual situation. So, they will stare at you, try to take photos of you and the bravest will ask you to take a picture together. Be patient and polite, please. Do not take it personally, because they are just very curious. Do not forget to smile!
Be prepared for everything and don’t forget to take medicines that you may need. Unfortunately, air pollution is a big problem in China and locals usually use special masks to protect their lungs. Do not neglect such kinds of protection if you are sensitive. Take care of your health.
Drink only bottled water and boiled tea. Also, it is better to brush your teeth or wash up using bottled water as well.
Chinese cuisine is very different from Western foods. My advice to you: do not miss the opportunity to try new things, try as many dishes as you can because they will most likely be delicious! Traditional food is different in each region and also it varies from mild to extremely spicy. Always remember that in China, one course is not for one person! If you have dinner with a group of people, order some dishes and then share them with everyone.
Also, remark that in Chinese restaurants you shouldn’t leave any tips to servers – this is actually considered very rude as it might be perceived as a bribe. More about tipping in China you can read in one of our earlier posts.
The next tip is about shopping in China. When you want to buy something on the streets, or local markets (like Exhibition Hall) do not forget: you should negotiate prices. I would even say that this is what you have to do! You can easily cut 2/3 of the first price in some places. But if you’re not going to buy something, don’t even ask the vendor about the price. Otherwise, there is a big chance that he will follow you around trying to convince you to buy his goods.
The most important tip is about language. Most people (especially outside the big tourist destinations) do not speak English or any other languages, so they won’t be able to help you even if they want to. Before your trip, you should try to learn some Chinese phrases and prepare cards with the names of the places that you will need in Chinese characters. For example, print out the address of your hotel or names (in characters) of attractions that you are planning on visiting. Then you can show your paper to taxi drivers, for example, and they will take you to the right place.
Now you know how to get ready for your very first visit to China. Enjoy your stay in this amazing country!
If there is anyone from your friends or relatives who is currently planning the first trip to China, feel free to share these tips with them! And of course, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WeChat for more interesting posts!
Written by Inna Mironova