Things you should know before going to China.

  • Literally nobody speaks English. Hopefully, your hotel or hostel staff will. But other than that, it will be very difficult to find people who understand what on earth you are talking about. Getting a taxi is hard, and so is ordering a meal. Make sure you grab a business card from your hostel to hand to a taxi driver, and get yourself a basic translator app.
  • They spit. It’s just normal, it’s not rude. Due to the air quality being so poor and smoggy, the people (especially the older generation) make a pretty horrific sound and spit on the floor. It’s not pleasant and you certainly never get used to it. You just learn to live with it.
  • Its bloody massive. Each city is more like its own country. I took an overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an and the difference in infrastructure, people and cuisine was a world apart.
  • Everyone will want to have a photo with you. They don’t see many foreigners. So, they will point, they will stare, and they will inevitably ask for photos with you. They just want to show their friend the tourist they met. There’s no malice in it… I hope.
  • The smog isn’t as bad as the media makes out. Take a face mask with you just in case but over the month I was there I only witnessed two mildly bad days. There was none of this cant-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-nose malarkey.
  • You will struggle to find a ‘western’ toilet. Some hotels and malls have western toilets but 99% of toilets everywhere else are squats. Which is fine, and something you just get used to. But, they don’t use toilet paper. So if that’s something you can’t get used to then pack one in your bag.
  • China blocks a lot of big websites. Facebook, Google, Instagram etc. So, if you’re going to want to access them then get yourself a decent VPN.
  • It’s pretty much impossible to be vegetarian. Unless you want to eat in your hotel for every meal, or live off fruit from the market. In many places in China being a vegetarian is just not something people do. If you don’t eat meat you need to have a long think about what your plan of action is going to be.
  • Sometimes, they just copy other cultures. Christmas trees up in restaurants? Slogan T-shirts that make no sense? ‘Happy New Year’ written in the window? It doesn’t make sense. But it’s funny. Just go with it.
  • It’s fun! Go. Explore. Learn things. Eat new food. Meet new people. Get Lost. It’s not as scary as you think. 99% of people smile. They’re friendly. They want to hang out with you. They want to chat. I can promise, you’ll leave wanting to see more.

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