Posted in China

What I learned in China

In all honesty, I can’t even begin to write about everything I learned. Every day was such an amazing experience, and I really hope to return some day! Here is a list of SOME of what I learned, and what I feel might benefit you most if you ever visit 🙂 For some of the research I did before my trip, check out my previous post: Chinese Gift Etiquette.
  1. It’s acceptable to burp (but not encouraged) whether it is while eating, walking, or doing anything. Spitting in the streets is also normal.
  2. Making noise when you eat (i.e. slurping) conveys that you find the food delicious. There are no real table manners in China, but just be as polite as you can and you’ll be fine.

    This made me laugh 🙂
  3. Being a Muslim woman who wears a hijab/veil will not stop some men from… propositioning you.
  4. You are a foreigner. Prepare to be stared at. A lot.
  5. The Chinese have a low opinion of American morals, and consider Western women to be ‘loose.’
  6. The Chinese are not very knowledgeable on any religion, but consider themselves to be very spiritual.
  7. There are a LOT of superstitions that must be followed or bad things will happen. For example, if in a fish market buying fish, do not turn any over as it signifies that the boat that brought the fish will flip over. Also, do not give a sick person a potted plant. It will signify that the disease will take root and not go away. But by all means, give flowers (just not white ones!)
  8. Two or more lions are always present outside of banks. They are considered protectors.
  9. Chinese weddings involve a lot of red! Google it if you don’t believe me.
  10. The Chinese generally do not shake hands. If a Chinese person extends their hands to shake, do it! It’s an honor when they wish to respect your traditions (I’m not a big hand shaker anyway, so everyone was happy).
  11. Nearly every Chinese man smokes. If not, he used to smoke.
  12. Everyone takes food from the main dish using his or her chopsticks. You cannot be a germophobe in China or you will starve!
  13. Driving in China is like a real life video game. Miss pedestrian, 10 points! Miss pedestrian and scooter, 20 points! Avoid pedestrian, scooter, taxi, and cars, 100 points! It. Was. Awesome.
  14. They almost always do reverse parking.
  15. Parking is such a problem in China! Whenever we went somewhere, we counted ourselves super lucky if we could find a parking spot within a few blocks. Residents have to pay upwards of 10,000Y for parking spots in their complexes, and as they spots get fewer, the prices get higher. D.C. parking has nothing on China!
  16. Be prepared for a lot of toasting at meals.
  17. If you use even a little bit of Mandarin, you will make people very happy.
  18. They will absolutely watch you eat at first to see how you can handle yourself with chopsticks. They will expect to see you struggle, so practice before and impress them!
  19. Be prepared to do a lot of walking! They are not nearly as dependent on cars as we are.
  20. Most buildings,restaurants, and homes will not be heated during winter in order to save on electricity. Be prepared to keep your coat on, just like everyone else.
  21. Dragons and phoenixes go hand in hand: dragon is male, and a phoenix is female. Both are considered very powerful; just ask Harry Potter.
  22. Christmas is not viewed as a Christian holiday; rather, it is viewed as an American holiday. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I don’t celebrate Christmas when they were so excited for me (and wondering how I was able to be away from my family at such an important time).

    My first 'outside of my family' exposure to foreign languages and cultures 🙂
  23. The Chinese hate being in debt. Very few people have a mortgage, and those that do do not speak of it to anyone.
  24. Weddings and the new apartment are paid for completely by the groom and his family.
  25. Meals will have several dishes, and when at a restaurant, you will most probably enjoy a round table meal with more food than the group can eat. There are always lots of leftover!
  26. They don’t have to-go boxes in China; you bring your own ‘food bags’ to take anything that you wish with you after eating. 
  27. It is not uncommon for married couples to work and live in different cities. Shuyan and Hanshin will be doing this for the next few years at least, with her coming back to her hometown on the weekends.
  28. You will see babies and toddlers wearing pants that expose their butts. Be prepared to see them pee and poop, and even parents encouraging them to do so in the middle of the street or in a grassy area.
  29. The Chinese are super casual, and tend to wear the same outfit for about three days. In addition, most of the wedding guests were wearing jeans; I was probably the most dressed up guest, and I was just wearing black pants.
  30. Meal times and eating are very important. Everything revolves around eating!
  31. If you ask for water at a restaurant, you will get a cup of boiled steaming water. They do not serve cold/ice water.
  32. All of the major roads, particularly those that go between provinces and major cities, have tolls. To get from Shanghai to Huzhou was about 36Y.
  33. When you go to someone’s house, be sure to eat from what they offer you, and take the initiative to help yourself to a few items without prompting. It reflects on your perception of their hospitality and will give them good face (mianzi).
  34. Give gifts, but never give four of anything, as four sounds like the word for death.
  35. Basketball and poker are really popular with the young men, so basketball themed gifts are great.

And last but not least, (some stereotypes have to be true), Chinese of all ages LOVE karaoke. Be prepared to sing!!

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Enjoy my little descriptions of life and experiences, and feel free to leave any comments and or suggestions!

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