Wherever you go in the world you’re likely to have a cultural shock to some
extent, no matter where you come from. However, if you venture to the other
side of our planet, the differences become even more prominent. We have left
Europe to explore China, where we have lived now for 2 years now. After getting to know and used to China things became kind of normal to us, but that
wasn’t the case when we started. Let us introduce you to a few things that
shocked us in this culture.
1. English is rarely spoken.
Once you come to China, you will quickly notice that this is a place where
you have to go with a translator. You will rarely find anyone who can speak
even basic English, but this is the best way to learn the Chinese language.
After being stranded for few months in rural China, where we were the only
foreigners, we can tell you that within 2 weeks you can learn to do
shopping in a foreign language.
Another issue could be body language. As far as most of your movements
will be understood properly by other foreigners, it doesn’t mean they will
make any sense to Chinese people. They have other mimics for various things
than what we get used in Western countries.
2. Bad manners.
China is a country where people do not pay much attention to their manners.
Some Chinese might really disgust you when picking their noses,
spitting, letting their kids poo and pee in the middle of the street and
smacking while eating really loudly (that can be really annoying so get
your mp3 player ready). This may be less common in big cities, but even
there you find enough examples.
Moreover, Chinese are likely to push each other when queuing and might
sometimes be aggressive when trying to get somewhere first. We don’t think
they understand the concept of a queue really, at least in some places.
3. You are the top attraction.
If you have ever dreamed of becoming a celebrity, the good news is China
will make you feel like one. Be prepared to pose for photos with strangers
when you visit the Great Wall of China. Even better if you go to places
less travelled, like Zhangjiajie or Fenghuang you can simply visit on a small budget, where locals invite you for dinner at their home so they can take a photo with you (happened to me twice there).
Chinese will stop you in the middle of the street or in the supermarket and ask you to pose for the photos with them.
You will be given free gifts from girls if you are a male and free drinks
and perfume if you are a female. You will soon get used to hearing
giggles, wherever you go.
4. You seldom meet other travellers.
If you are an adventurous traveller and you mostly seek places off the
beaten path, you might find meeting other foreigners on the road nearly
impossible. The huge population and massive territory of China reduces the
chances of bumping into other travellers. Especially when you travel by
local means of transport and to less-known places. That’s where the real
adventure starts. The thing is, once you meet another foreign traveller,
it’s much easier to strike up a conversation and possibly continue
together. Nevertheless, although you’re surrounded by plenty of Chinese
people who want to talk with you, you will feel lonely at times and crave
company of another foreigner.
5. Food and money goes first.
Chinese population is obsessed with two things: food (especially Chinese breakfast) and getting rich. While you may not notice that at first, once you get to know people, you’ll see that they talk a lot about these two things. You are told stories of things that can be done with money, and that’s pretty much anything. It’s hard for foreigner to grasp the idea that a person’s worth is easy to calculate – it’s their wallet depth.
6. It’s way dirtier than you think.
Big cities could serve as exceptions, but most of China consists of smaller
towns, where there’s no need for rubbish bins, use the street for it.
Rubbish doesn’t normally bother anyone, even when sometimes it’s
obstructing a road!
7. Lack of rules on the roads.
Chinese, when it comes to driving, go from one extreme to another. They
either drive a car freakishly fast and dangerous or way too slow. The bus
drivers are the worst though. Every time I get onto the bus I pray to get
off it in one piece. It’s madness. You can get sick because of unexpected
turbulences. Although in big cities some rules are enforced by police,
you’d find that going in the wrong direction is not even considered a
danger (because you see it every few minutes). Red light? No problem as
long as you can squeeze between the traffic.
In China, if a certain case was not foreseen to ever happen, then it’s
impossible to do. So imagine you are foreigner and want to send mooncakes
to your home country. Since the workers can’t find a written permission to
send mooncakes abroad, they decline it – just to be on the
safe side with regulations. This happened to us. Of course there were few
other ridiculous instances of bureaucracy, but the rule is simple – if it’s
not written somewhere that you can, then you can’t. Also, in some case only
because it’s written that you can, doesn’t mean it will happen – it all
depends if the official you’re dealing with has done it before. If not,
they are not keen to go through the process of learning it for just one case
- it’s better to refuse to do it.
We’re sure you heard about the concept of squatting toilets. Not quite sure
why would you have used it instead of a normal one, but if you go to rural
China, you will know where it came from. You may find yourself in a loo
which is basically a hole in the floor. Worst still, you may find that the
hole is long, meant for few people at the same time, and there is no
partitions between the squatting spots. Some Chinese people have no problem
with squatting next to another person.
10. Overcrowded public transport.
Maybe it’s not as bad as for example India, but still it’s shocking how
many people a bus can contain and still drive. Same goes for motorbikes
(the maximum we saw was 6 people on one). Trains, especially around
national holidays, can fill up to a point where you can fall asleep
standing and the crowd will keep you vertical.
Have you ever been to China? What shocked
you the most?
BIO: Agness and Cez are best friends who originally come from Poland. They decided to leave their comfort zones and travel the world in 2011 and they have been on the road ever since. They call themselves tramps, because they live without a permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day. While travelling the world, they keep sharing the tricks to do it cheaply and even help other people do the same.
Come along with them at eTramping!
A very special thanks to my friends at E-Tramping for a great guest post. Please take time to visit their fantastic travel blog.