I’ve been in China for about 2.5 months now and I thought I should put together a short list of things I wish I was warned about prior to arriving.
Personal space is meaningless
Get used to not having that. You’re heading to the most populated country in the world. China has
roughly 1.3 billion people. You my friend will stand out like a sore thumb. Once you start talking to one
person, most likely you will then attract more people and soon enough you will have a crowd of people
surrounding you. Going to the supermarket and taking public transit will remind you of that moment I
said “personal space is meaningless”, just take a deep breath and keep it moving.
Learn to say “no”
You’re heading to a country where the majority of people have never seen a foreigner face to face. They
may have seen a few movies and television shows but that’s really it. Many people will approach you
almost everyday for things such as pictures and even autographs. At first it will seem flattering but we all
have days where we do not want to be spoken to at all. Learn to say no. It will help you to preserve your
sanity and you will remain happier in the long run.
Learn the language
There is nothing more unfortunate than having someone talk to you and you have absolutely no idea
what he or she is saying. Do yourself a favor, before you arrive in the country I would highly suggest you
learn some key words such as hello, thank you and how much does this cost? Learning a language is easier
now than ever because we have so many resources out there at our disposal. You will feel less helpless
once you can communicate with a few people to get you where you need to go. I would suggest
downloading an app called ChineseSkill, which I found to be very helpful when it comes to teaching me
basic phrases and keywords in Mandarin, some have mentioned that it is even better than Rosetta Stone.
Avoid eye contact
People will stare at you for a very long time, unfazed by western social etiquette. I’ve had strangers who
were in line with me for the bus and have intentionally come out of the line, stand directly in front of me,
not say a word and stare. I felt like I was an animal at a zoo. It was a bit uncomfortable to say the least but
after awhile I’ve learned that in situations like that or while walking down the street, sometimes avoiding
eye contact is in your best option.
Watch where you’re going
In China cars always have the right of way, not the pedestrians so don’t ever assume that a car will stop
for you when you’re crossing the street. Learn to become a skilled jaywalker because everyone in China
jaywalks. Yes there are a few stoplights but they tend to be very far apart. I’ve had some very close
encounters. There are going to be times where you’ll feel like you’re a pedestrian in a Grand Theft Auto
video game. On a few occasions where I have been casually crossing the street, cars have slowed down to
stare at me while I’m in the middle of an intersection trying to cross, meanwhile I’m standing there trying
not to pee my pants because I’m fearing for my life as I try not to get hit by oncoming traffic. It will
happen to you as well, trust me.
Make a Chinese friend who speaks English
This is very important! Your Chinese friends will become your saviour in many situations. They will help
you when you’re lost, talk to taxi drivers when you have absolutely no idea what they’re saying and they
make shopping and eating out much easier. Another great thing is when they’re with you they can
always answer that question you always tend to have floating around in your head “What did that person
Do you have any tips? Please share them below and remember, stay Restless!