I guess many of you might wonder what living in China looks like. Covering all aspects of exciting life in China would take too long, so today I have decided to give you a brief overview of the main six things.
I could write a whole blog post related to Chinese food or devote my whole Instagram account to it and it would still not do it justice. Asking “what is Chinese food like” is sometimes compared to asking “what do they eat in Europe?”. China is a huge country and Chinese food is so diverse that you may end up eating totally different things depending on which part of the country you are visiting. People in Shanghai tend to like food that is sweet, people in Sichuan province like spicy food (which for some is a new definition of spicy!), people from Yunnan have a totally different cuisine and people from Beijing will probably be happy to take you for a delicious Beijing duck. Try as much as you can, and embrace as much as you are brave enough to! I will keep writing posts about food as this topic is too big to cover in a short paragraph. However, what surprised me most is that, contrary to what people say, I would not say Chinese food is particularly healthy – a lot of things are deep fried and quite fatty! But don’t let that discourage you from experiencing Chinese cuisine and trying a lot of different things as this is probably going to be one of the best adventures you will have in China!
When I first arrived in Shanghai, I started wondering if there were any traffic rules or if they just do not exist at all. I was overwhelmed with the number of cars, motorbikes, bikes and other weird forms of transportation moving in four different directions. Also, motorbikes are allowed on pavements so you can imagine that walking can sometimes be hard, trying to squeeze between people and escape motorbikes that are usually driving really fast and super close to you. Crossing the street in Shanghai is hard – you always have to allow cars to go first. Even when pedestrians have a green light, cars still won’t stop and wait for you to cross, which means you have to be quick and really careful while crossing. I cannot say it is the same in all parts of China, but certainly it is the case in big cities. Also, honking for no reason is a thing here. So, definitely apply extra caution on the streets!
- Shopping & bargain hunting
Shanghai is sometimes called a shoppers’ paradise – you can buy everything here and there are loads of Western fashion brands, too. West Nanjing Road is perfect for that. There are also fake markets – you can find literally everything there and copies of anything you can possibly imagine! Chanel perfumes for 40 yuan? No problem! Fake Louis Vuitton bags? They are everywhere! China is probably a master when it comes to fakes – depending how you feel about them, it’s your choice whether to buy them or not. Fake markets are always crowded and you are going to get a lot of attention if you are a foreigner. You can always haggle, so start with a low price and increase it little by little! Haggling is fun but remember to keep it polite and respectful. Do not argue. If you can’t settle a deal, just walk away and you’ll probably find the same thing in 30 different stalls nearby. A good trick is to pretend to be uninterested, because if they see you really like a product, they’ll be less likely to give you a discount. If you cannot agree on the price, pretend to walk away; they will usually run after you and agree to your price . In China, you may not be able to use some of your bank cards from abroad. You can pay by cash but it is very convenient to set up a Chinese bank account – it makes life a whole lot easier and Chinese cards are accepted virtually everywhere (apart from street markets, of course, where you are generally supposed to pay with cash).
Not all the toilets are Western-style toilets. Some are squatty, which is still common in China. Fortunately, Western toilets are more and more prevalent and most toilets in shopping malls, university dorms, airports are Western-style.
Before coming to China, make sure you buy an insurance policy that covers you during your stay. In Shanghai, there are Chinese hospitals and a couple of Western hospitals if you want service in English. However, the latter tend to be ridiculously overpriced and whether you get a refund for your treatment depends on your insurance provider. I had my basic physical examination done in a Chinese hospital; none of the doctors or nurses spoke English but I did not have problems and everything was fine. There were a lot of queues and waiting but these are things you need to get used to in China. Also, make sure you always keep your medical and insurance documents with you as they might be required.
While travelling around China, be careful and always check whether a hotel/hostel accepts foreigners. Once, I was kicked out of a hotel and had nowhere to sleep because the place did not specify that they only accept Chinese citizens. (It has to do with the registration process – every foreigner needs to be registered at the police station in the neighbourhood and, for some hostels, it is just too troublesome to host foreigners.) Websites like ctrip.com are useful but I would suggest calling the individual hostels and asking in advance to avoid having a rough and stressful night, like I had when I had to find somewhere to stay for the night asap in an unknown city.
That’s not the end of ‘living in China facts’ kind of posts, so keep an eye for more in the future!