5 things that will surprise you on your first trip to China

Aug 27, 2015


Travelling to a new country is always full of surprises but for many foreigners travelling to China for the first time, the initial culture shock can be quite severe. Surprises are at almost every turn. So if you are planning to go to China and learn Mandarin Chinese, we thought we’d forewarn you with 5 surprising things you may well encounter:

1. Chinese food

To say Chinese people eat everything, anywhere, any time is not an exaggeration. You’ll see people forever eating snacks, day or night. Or, more than likely, enjoying midnight [or later] feasts on the streets. The most surprising thing, though, is that they’ll eat parts of an animal you’d never think possible. Plus all sorts of exotic creatures… including, in some parts of the country, dogs—which are considered to be a delicacy by those who partake!

2. Language diversity

You’ll already know it’s a big country with a large population. But just how big? Well, it has 1.3 billion people and counting. There’s a huge diversity in culture and customs. In fact, you’ll even find that some people in the south don’t understand the language of people in the north or east.

3. Toilets

In many places they are nothing more than holes in the floor—and are one of the biggest surprises foreigners will encounter on their journey. You’ll need quite some practice—and strong knees—to get used to squatting over the concerned hole. After all, you don’t want to exit the cubicle [if there is a door] looking worse than when you went in, right?

Valencia Spain Benny Lewis Jan van der Aa Conor Clyne

Conor Clyne (left), Creator of Language Tsar, with Benny Lewis and Jan van der Aa

4. Expect to gain extra attention from Chinese people

Maybe not as common as, say, 10-15 years ago, but many Chinese people, especially in the more rural areas, find foreigners objects of fascination. Curiosity is expressed openly and the more different you are the more you’ll be looked at. Not to mind though it’s all in good humour and nothing a friendly wave or smile can’t dissipate.

5. The weather and the pollution

The weather varies greatly as one would expect in a very big country. Beijing and some northern cities are “famous” for their pollution and, unfortunately, matters are getting worse. If you want to travel to Beijing to visit places of interest, it’s best to wear a face mask. In the southern areas, the air is relatively clearer but temperatures can vary widely and, for example, the lack of heating in many apartments can be an issue. No doubt you might be able to add another dozen or so “surprises” you might encounter when travelling in China but we hope these 5 will help get you thinking. If you are keen to learn how to speak Chinese then travelling to China is going to be the best way. Don’t worry, though, you’ll soon get over any real surprises and will surely enjoy your stay!

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