I have now been in China for about a month. Before coming I did the basic research. “Where will you go? How will you travel? What will you see?” But there are certain things I was not expecting on my trip here. I adapt to situations quickly. However, if you are not one of these people…..you may want to read the list below.
If you are not going to a larger, main city in the country, THERE WILL BE STARES. It can be flattering, uncomfortable, weird, obnoxious, and kinda fun. Some people might invade your personal space. It is not done out of rudeness. It’s simply curiosity. People in smaller cities and rural areas are not accustomed to foreigners. Take it with lightness and have fun with the photos YOU WILL BE asked to take.
Don’t expect to see many people eating out alone for dinner. Unless you plan to eat some street food or cook a meal, most restaurants are set up in their traditional family style. Portions will be served in abundance, so make sure you have 1 or 2 other friends with you before heading out to eat.
If you are the type of person who loves baguettes and whole wheat bread, you are in the wrong country. There is no unsweet bread sold in bakeries and supermarkets. The bread that you might buy thinking is sandwich bread, is not sandwich bread. Instead it is a thicker, sweeter version of it. It is great in the mornings with a warm drink. However, keep in mind you will not find your average Western bread, unless you are heading to a large main city such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin, Chengdu, etc.
Depending where you are, there is a very high chance you will have difficulty finding cheese. A higher percentage of of Asians are lactose-intolerant/lactase-deficient. If you are a turophile or simply phrased, a cheese lover, I suggest bringing a wheel until you find a place which sells it.
TOILET PAPER DOES NOT GO IN THE TOILET!
Using a squatter is quite difficult. Remembering to not throw your paper in the toilet can be even more difficult! Chinese pipes are quite small and quite old. They are not able to handle more than tiny bits of toilet paper. I saw too many toilets clogged on my first week here by us Westerners. Trust me, it was not a pretty sight!
Back home, the sounds of spitting made me cringe. The gargling in the throat, and that loud sound effect. I could not stand it the sight of phlegm flying out of a person’s mouth.
Now, I have become used to. Here and there someone does it right over my shoulder and I can’t help but to awkwardly turn around. It is something I hear and see everyday. At night, when I am in my room, I hear it from the outside. It is done indoors and outdoors. Like smoking everywhere, it is acceptable and part of a social norm. Let it be!
- There is a concept in China called “saving face.” It is quite difficult to explain. Chinese people may not be direct, but will save the most important information for the end. You’ll think “okay, get to the point already!” Their indirectness is one form of saving face.
- Another example may be when you are being offered something at the dinner table. Likely, if you say no, the offerer will be persistent for you take it. If you get your way, you will see a look of embarrassment on the other persons face.