- Posted August 23, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Life in China
So you are coming to China right?
I have lived in Guiyang, Guizhou, for 4 years, experienced all sort of CRAZY things, these are a few things you might consider
The “WC”: Chinese restrooms are not to rest, they are only to “get rid of the extra”, you might prepare yourself to enter into a stinky, non-always private WC, toilets as the people who goes to them are changing much slower than everything else in China, in most places in Wc´s are squatters. To be honest if you think about it who wants to put their butts in the same toilet seat that thousands of other people have used, so I rather use one of these, all over china people will know if you ask for a W, but you will rarely find toilet paper and soap at public restrooms, always bring a package of tissue paper and hand sanitizer. Tip: roll up your pants before you walk into them
“Laowai Tax” Laowai is the Chinese colloquial word for “foreigner” beware when you hear this inside a store, often Chinese relate foreigners with money, and their logic in this case –not always- makes sense, if you have enough money to pay for the airfare and a hotel here you must be rich right? , they will try to get as much as they can out of you. I have been in stores where the owner starts talking about charging me extra just for being “me”, since I can understand this, I often confront them and say it is not ok to cheat people just because they believe we don´t understand their language, and leave. If you don´t want to be in this situation if you have the possibility ask one of your Chinese friends, helpers, translators or whoever to come with you, go to stores where prices are set and you can read them, if you don´t have any of these alternatives BARGAIN! Another tip: often Chinese university students will be eager to help you out to practice their English, maybe you can ask the hotel staff to help you out to find someone that would like to help you, there is always a friend of a friend.
Unpredictable weather: not all places in China are the same, since China is quite big, there are cold and hot places, dry and humid, and so. Chinese sizes aren’t always suitable for “big foreigners” if you are a size M or higher you might face some trouble, especially in the south. Toiletries as deodorant, hair products, and if you are picky like me toothbrushes and Q-tips should also be consider depending how long you will stay. Most things are made in China but aren’t always sold in China.
Try some tea! Nowadays there are tea shops everywhere, and I know westerners like a nice cup of coffee at least I do, I do recommend you to try something more “local” but yet not totally traditional Chinese, in this area there is a chain where they have a “peach flavor green tea” to die for, also most of the time these places have free Wifi, you can ask for the “wifi mima” they will understand what you need..
Get ready for some “kuaizi” (Chopsticks) action! Eating with Chinese: I still drop food every once in a while, but give it a try, to be honest Asians have been using these for ages so they are still around for a reason, you will have to use them on most of your meals, avoid soupy noodles. When you eat with Chinese people you might find that someone starts putting food on your bowl, you have to be polite, if you don´t want to make your host “lose face”, before you start your dinner clarify the things you won’t eat, and if someone is about to throw a weird thing on your bowl, you can pick your bowl up and say “ xie xie, wo ziji lai” (thank you I will do it myself), this way you will distract them with your Chinese and you will get off this awkward situation. A tip a lot of girly stores where they sell earrings, nail polish, purses and so, often sell fork- spoon travelling kits.
Language barriers: you will face many problems but one of the worst cases I had was the first time I came, my friend and I were stuck in a Chinese cruise trip, and even known it was beautiful, we had to eat ramen and kungpao chicken for a few days, download a free dictionary, if you don´t like bones or spicy food clarify that, the word to say I don´t want is “bu yao” so you can say buyao and show the picture of what you don't want repeat it a few times, if Chinese people say ok ok, or yes it doesn´t mean they understand, it means they are following.
GanBei! Drinking with the Chinese: Chinese national wine happens to be from the province I live in, not too far from here “Mao-tai”, this wine is clear as water and its called baijiu, but don´t underestimate the Chinese, is well known that Chinese can´t really hold a lot of alcohol, but that doesn´t stop them from drinking. When drinking with the Chinese it isn´t polite to deny a person “the privilege” of drinking with the laowai, If you drink with person A and not with person B you will make person B lose face, if you don´t want to drink just say no from the very beginning once you have drunk the first shot is downhill, if you want to give a very good impression always lower your cup from the person who is drinking with you, this means you are showing respect and that the other person is “bigger” than you.
Do not give money to peddlers. The other day I got of a taxi and random lady stopped me and said in English “give me money my baby is hungry”, her kid was next to her and he was like 10, not even a baby anymore, and a person who is able to speak English can´t be that poor, especially in a province with a lot of people don´t even speak proper mandarin. Teenagers that write some story with chalk on the sidewalk and they beg while wearing their uniforms, seriously? A poor kid wouldn´t be able to go to school. There are also sick people with malformations singing on the streets with a microphone and a speaker, by the time they are able to buy a microphone and a speaker and carry it by themselves to “the working place” they aren’t that disable, or someone is managing them, so do not fall for these tricks.
Tipping is not optional: if you come for a western country you might be used to tip 10 to 15%, in China DON'T! The first time I left a tip on a table the waiter chased me down the street to give me my money back.
Take care of you belongings, you might heard or read that China is very safe and so on, but it is a place like any other there are good and bad people, on my first two years I got two cellphones and a wallet stolen, if someone sees a person stealing from you they aren´t likely to say anything, I have seen and heard many stories, so please be careful.
Well I hope my experiences can help some other, the least I would like to say is if you decide to come, once you land here YOU ARE IN CHINA: I’m tired of all this tourists and students that come every once on a while and complain about everything around here, if you come I invite you to open your eyes for the good things and try to understand this place is changing very fast, but not all the people is able to change at that speed. Open up your mind and always have your camera handy because in the four years I have lived here I just know one thing –China is full of surprises-.