Five China Travel Tips
Photo by @ alex on Flickr
China travel tip #1: Redefine your sense of personal body space. There are a lot of people in China, and not exactly a lot of space. What is an appropriate "personal bubble" back home is generally a lot smaller in China. Don't get offended if someone seems to be "in your face," or, more likely, in your seat. People are much more used to sharing public spaces than Americans are, which is why you'll find people spilling into your space.
China travel tip #2: Redefine your sense of rude and polite. Some things we consider rude back home are simply normal in China (and the reverse is true, of course). Be prepared to see people spitting phlegm onto the sidewalk, blowing their noses onto the street, and smoking on public buses. Beijing and Shanghai in particular have employed campaigns to encourage citizens to "clean up," but you should prepare yourself nevertheless for different behavior. Remember that it's not wrong, it's just different.
China travel tip #3: Carry a digital translator or dictionary. In major cities you'll find that plenty of English is spoken, but outside of those you can't rely entirely on English. Not only that, Chinese characters are not phonetic, so sounding out words is not an option. Digital translators, or even apps for your iPhone, can save the day. Certain apps even let you draw a character, and will define it for you.
China travel tip #4: Bring ear plugs. China is noisy; sometimes it can feel as if the entire population is completely desensitized. Car horns and motorbike alarms make up a bulk of the noise, but there's also ongoing construction (and destruction) in seemingly every building in the country. Help yourself get a decent night's rest by plugging your ears while you sleep.
China travel tip #5: Research regional cuisine. It's not all General Tso's chicken! Every region in China has its own culinary specialties, and preparing yourself beforehand will greatly improve your enjoyment of them – not the least because you'll know what's in the dishes (as well as how to pronounce names and ingredients...).
Most of all, enjoy your trip to China; immersing yourself in such a rich and varied culture is sure to be an amazing traveling experience.