I’ve been asked a few times to compile to all of my China posts, so here they are! Looking back, I’m really amazed at how much time I spent writing. I’ve separated the posts into three categories: before the trip, of the trip, and after the trip. I wish you good reading 🙂
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.
It’s acceptable to burp (but not encouraged) whether it is while eating, walking, or doing anything. Spitting in the streets is also normal.
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.
Being a Muslim woman who wears a hijab/veil will not stop some men from… propositioning you.
You are a foreigner. Prepare to be stared at. A lot.
The Chinese have a low opinion of American morals, and consider Western women to be ‘loose.’
The Chinese are not very knowledgeable on any religion, but consider themselves to be very spiritual.
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!)
Two or more lions are always present outside of banks. They are considered protectors.
Chinese weddings involve a lot of red! Google it if you don’t believe me.
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).
Nearly every Chinese man smokes. If not, he used to smoke.
Everyone takes food from the main dish using his or her chopsticks. You cannot be a germophobe in China or you will starve!
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.
They almost always do reverse parking.
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!
Be prepared for a lot of toasting at meals.
If you use even a little bit of Mandarin, you will make people very happy.
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!
Be prepared to do a lot of walking! They are not nearly as dependent on cars as we are.
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.
Dragons and phoenixes go hand in hand: dragon is male, and a phoenix is female. Both are considered very powerful; just ask Harry Potter.
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).
The Chinese hate being in debt. Very few people have a mortgage, and those that do do not speak of it to anyone.
Weddings and the new apartment are paid for completely by the groom and his family.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meal times and eating are very important. Everything revolves around eating!
If you ask for water at a restaurant, you will get a cup of boiled steaming water. They do not serve cold/ice water.
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.
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).
Give gifts, but never give four of anything, as four sounds like the word for death.
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!!
Today (12-29-11) I woke up the latest I’ve ever woken up in China: 9:45. We got ready quickly and ate our breakfast quietly. We checked out of the hotel and put all of the luggage in the car before taking a bus to the beautiful temple we’d planned to visit yesterday. Before entering, there were lots of homeless/beggars in front of the temple and we quickly went and I bought the tickets so we could enter. We walked around for an hour or so before leaving and seeing the most depressed-looking man with blackened feet, long hair, and unkempt and dirty clothing. I would have liked to give him something but then the others would follow me. As it was, a fortune teller followed Shuyan telling her of how her future would be full of money because it showed in her face. Apparently there’s no money in mine as the fortune teller steadily ignored me, haha.
We took a taxi from the bus stop back to the university and made him wait while we put in my luggage. I had planned to take a taxi straight to the airport , but Shuyan said it would be too expensive. In hindsight, the cost wasn’t really too bad, but we thought we’d have plenty of time (we were leaving around 12:30 and my flight was at 5). We quickly got on the subway and spent forever changing trains and going up and down stairs and escalators. I didn’t feel too pressured to make the flight. If I missed it, I’d miss it and reschedule, and if not, then that was good too. Shuyan was more worried that I was; I was super calm because I knew there wasn’t really anything we could do to get there any faster. We arrived at the airport right before 4 and got to the counter at 4:07, and they wouldn’t let me check in as they said check in closes one hour before departure. Shuyan felt terrible; according to her, we’d spent a lot of time running and rushing for nothing. I told her not to feel bad at all as we couldn’t fight destiny, haha. I re-booked my flight for the next day, and we went and checked into one of the airport hotels for the night. I called my family at an appropriate time and let them know that my return would be delayed by a day. We ate at KFC and just talked and talked. I’m really going to miss this girl!
I’m going home (12-30-2011)! Shuyan left the hotel around 10 so she could get back to work at Shanghai University. We had a nice goodbye and I promised to let her know as soon as I landed in Chicago. I took my time as check-out wasn’t until 1, but I made it out of the hotel by 12:30. I went and had lunch in the airport and bought a few small souvenirs before getting checked in at 2. I went and sat in the airport gate and sent a few emails informing Shuyan and family that I was waiting for my flight at the gate.
As usual, I had interesting seat partners. One lady had been visiting her son and his family in Shanghai, and the other was an Indian med student who was going back to Chicago after visiting his family in Shanghai. It’s really such a small world. I just wish traveling around it wasn’t so expensive! The flight home was longer than my flight coming to Shanghai (no stopover in Japan) but felt like it was much shorter (I had my own tv screen and could control what I watched, as opposed to watching whatever was shown on the going flight). I caught up on a couple of movies and watched some tv shows before sleeping the last 6 hours or so of the flight.
In the Chicago airport, I had to get my bags from baggage claim and then re-check them. It was a hassle, but I was glad to know that my bags would actually be on the plane with me. One thing I found funny: I got off my plane with 95% Asian people and our flight mixed with people coming from a predominantly Muslim country. Every airport attendant assumed I was with the other flight and kept trying to direct me with them instead of the others. I found it a funny welcome back to America 🙂 I called my brother’s cell when I had the chance and had the pleasure of hearing him shout with happiness and laugh with pure joy at hearing my voice.
I slept through the entire flight back to Atlanta, completely dwarfed by the 6 feet+ men who were my seatmates. I luckily had the window seat so was able to rest somewhat comfortably. I called my family when I landed and heard my brother laugh again, as well as the excitement of my parents. They made perfect time; they arrived at the airport right when I got my bags, and my sister launched herself onto me (loaded with luggage as I was) and tried to give me a huge bouquet of flowers (my hands were fully occupied by said luggage) before strangling me with another hug 🙂 When we got home, my brother jumped and hugged me for 2 seconds, satisfying himself that I was home, before running to bed and slamming his door. It’s good to be home 🙂
When I woke up (12-28-2011), I was a little tense because I still had packing to do as I had not finished the night before. It took me a bit of time, but I managed getting everything I needed into their respective bags. We got my stuff together and went down to the car, dropped of Hanshin at work, and said goodbye. He had to come quickly back out to get the parking pass from the car, as he would be taking his car that he’d parked at work the day we went to the temple.
With Shuyan’s encouragement, I slept a bit during the drive. I woke up when we were in Shanghai, and then the difficulty became finding parking! Sheesh, if you think parking in New York is bad…. We parked in a business center with several parking attendants before hailing a taxi to the restaurant. En route, the taxi driver asked where we’d parked, and once he found out he urged us to go back as they charge 20Y+ an hour! We walked quickly back to the area and got out as quickly as possibly, only having to pay 15Y. We drove to the restaurant, finding a lucky parking spot right in front of the restaurant, and ate lunch. Everything was good except for the fish, which was the worst fish I’d had in China (the area was not particularly well known for seafood, so we should have known better). Still, the rest of the lunch was delicious 🙂
After the restaurant, we drove the 45 min+ to the university and checked into the hotel on campus. It was a really ‘cozy’ hotel, really small and old fashioned, but at least they had a modern toilet. We took only my carry on and laptop upstairs and left my suitcase in the car as there was no real need to bring it in. We walked almost all the way to the bus stop before Shuyan panicked about whether or not she’d locked the car door, so we walked back, double checked, and moved her laptop and wedding ring into the hotel. We walked again to the bus stop and took the bus to ‘downtown’ Shanghai. It was gorgeous; the different areas looked like different parts of the world. I could see it looked most like NYC, but parts also looked like Atlanta and England. The British area was built by colonials for business and such, as a way to avoid actually living in China. There was even a semi replica of Big Ben. Imperialists!
After seeing one side of the river, we took the ferry and crossed to the other side to look at the lights on the first side. As dusk settled, we could see all of the building lights go on and it looked amazing. We walked around, giggling and being silly, laughing hysterically when we found a Hooters right next to a huge mall. There were at least 7 floors and there were lots of restaurants inside. We went back outside as we were not yet hungry and did some more walking before finally returning to the mall for dinner at a fancy restaurant. We had to wait a bit for a table, and while waiting I saw a woman wearing a Malaysian/Indonesian hijab style that I didn’t really like, but was the first hijabi I’d seen since coming to China. Since arriving in Shanghai, I saw tons of foreigners but still got stared at by nearly everyone. I felt bad during this dinner because I asked my server for a little salt, and the chef instead wanted to remake the entire meal! I hope I didn’t get anyone in trouble, yikes!
After dinner, we went out and walked some more, stopping so I could pray, before taking the bus back to the university area and walking back to the hotel. We got ready for bed and slept early. We’d planned to visit a temple, but we’ll go tomorrow before heading to the airport. Shanghai is wonderful, but I’m already missing Huzhou.