I am visiting China next month and have never been out of the U.S.A, what do I need to know and what will I be most unprepared for?



Mas Miwa, Have lived throughout Asia for 50 years,

Some culture shock. All of a sudden all the people are Chinese and it is really crowded in public places. Not much English, the mainstream language is Mandarin. It helps to know a few phrases before you go because most Chinese don’t know English, a translator like Google Translate helps.

The difference between the city and rural areas is like night and day. In the city, like any big city in the world, you can acclimatize quickly. Rural areas are very very basic.

Food in the city is diverse so you can easily survive, there are western restaurants like McDonalds, KFC, and Pizza Hut aplenty, in rural areas, plan going native. Chinese food runs a whole gamut from easy going Cantonese to hot and spicy Sichuan foods. There is exotic to mundane. When in doubt, order noodles or a rice/beef or rice/pork dish. If the restaurant is crowded, that’s a sign the food is good and priced reasonably. Try the dumplings, baos, Chinese pizzas, rice porridge (called Joe) you will find everywhere. Many menus have pictures so you can always point at what you want, or watch other diners and point at their dish if it looks enticing to you.

Always bring some toilet paper, it is common for public restrooms not to have toilet paper or towels to dry your hand. Practice squatting because excepting 5-star hotels and McDonalds, the Chinese use squat toilets. Bring some anti-diarrhea pills.





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And, if you have a language problem, ask some of the young people, many have learned rudimentary English in school. The people are friendly and most will go out of their way to help a lost soul, especially if you are older. Be respectful, try not to get angry or upset. If you do have a problem, call for the police to keep the argument from getting worse. They are unarmed and pretty helpful. Enjoy your trip, you will find it a world apart, with warm and friendly people around you.

BTW, your chances of being mugged are near zero, but like any big city, keep your money and passport in a safe place, that means not in your back pants pocket if you’re a male, in a zippered compartment of your purse, if you are female. Early in your trip get the local currency, the Yuan or RMB as it is called. The biggest denomination is 100 RMB or about $15 at roughly 7 to 1. Carry a lots of 1 RMB coins for using buses and metros and have the exact change for taxis. Try getting foreign exchange in a big bank like the Bank of China or ICBC. Except for tourist spots and 5-star hotels, the Chinese don’t tip, even in restaurants. Large stores won’t bargain, but if you are in a boutique or street vendor, try your hand at bargaining.




Darryl Rubiolo, former Corporate Training Facilitator at Many Different Companies (1969-2014)

If you haven’t been out of the country before you might get a culture shock with the language barrier and traditions.

Do read up about Chinese culture and what’s polite and what’s not polite there.

Download a translation AP so that you don’t get into trouble trying to communicate.

When travelling where you don’t know the currency, take a card with basic foreign exchange conversions on it. For example US$1 equals about 6.75 yuan at the moment. I’ve heard of people making mistakes in a Chinese taxi and instead of paying 67.5 yuan (US$10) for a trip, they paid 675.00 yuan which is US$100 … because they miscalculated.

Don’t eat salads or seafood …they have probably been washed in tap water which is not as clean as US water. Stick to cooked food.

Take some small gifts to give to people who are kind to you. As Australians we take toy koalas or kangaroos … animals always break the ice with the Chinese.








Derek Harkness, Living and working in China since 2006.

Just because it’s different doesn’t mean its bad.

Keep that in your mind as you travel the world and you will have a much easier time. I’ve seen so many new travellers or new expats getting tied in knots mentally because they can’t get past the idea that, “The way I learned to do it must be the right way. Any other way must be wrong.” Accept that some things are just done differently even if you can’t understand why.




Can you use chopsticks? You need to learn. You don’t get a knife and fork in China. It’s either chopsticks or eating with a little spoon like a baby.

Food will be weird. You have to have an open mind about food. Chinese food looks, smells and tastes different from your homeland’s food. It isn’t bad. In fact, about 1.4 billion people think it tastes really good. Can that many people all be wrong? Give the local food a try. Not just a nibble. Give it a proper try. If you finish the dish, then you can say whether you like or don’t like it. If you just nibble one crumb, you don’t know anything.




Frans Vandenbosch, lives in China (2002-present)

It all depends from where’s your starting point, from your expectations, your preparation for the trip.

China is a huge country, very crowded. China has the oldest continuously culture of this planet, incomparable to anything else. 

The Chinese language and writing is unintelligible for Westerners, unless you take a basic course Chinese language.

Right away after the exit of the airport, you will be bombarded with new impressions. Standing at the sidewalk in a busy shopping street, you will see remarkable things every 5 or 10 minutes.

For me, talking face to face with Chinese people (in Chinese) is the most exciting experience of being in China.







Frost Archer

you should always keep enough cash. Don’t rely on local businesses to accept your credit cards. In a country where mobile payment is extremely popular, the cards have long fallen out of favor.

You may want to try Alipay or Wechat. They are convenient, but only when you have a Chinese bank account do the work.

Finally, In China there are plenty of well-maintained public restrooms, but they are not always stocked with toilet paper. You would be wise to carry a small pile with you. This applies to napkins in restaurants as well - at smaller, more casual places, diners are expected to have their own supply on hand.





Ethan Cherng, Engineer at BYD Auto Headquarter (2018-present)

Some useful tips for you:

1.Don't drink tap water,drink boiled water or bottle water instead.

2.Take toilet paper with you when you are out the hotel and get used to squatting toilet.

3.It's OK for you to speak English all day long(especially in tier-1 cities), most Chinese are helpful and friendly. Try to speak some basic Chinese if you can, it will earn you much respect.

  1. Apply a bank account and download Alipay or Wechat on you phone,then bind the bank account to your Alipay account or Wechat account. As you may konw, it's so prevalent to pay every deal with phone that many vendors are no longer accepting cash nowadays.

In general, China would be a great destination for you. brand new infrastructure, delicious and various cuisines, wonderful landscape and cultural heritages. Have a good time here!








Eduardo Torres

These suggestions are for your health and ability to communicate:

1) Buy a box or two of Travelan tablets from Amazon. This is an Australian pharma pill not yet available everywhere. Basically it kills bacteria that causes diarrhea no matter what you may eat or drink. The U.S. military uses this stuff to protect its military when they serve in foreign countries that have questionable water or food preparation practices. I know I ate some questionable stuff - but never got sick. This stuff is great!

2) Purchase a temporary international health insurance policy

5) The Converse app is the most accurate I could find for instant translation, but unfortunately if you don’t have Internet access, then it’s useless. Translation no matter what you use is hard.

6) Definitely do not talk about politics or President Trump. I had people walk up to me and boldly ask if I voted for Trump. Just avoid trouble and say either “No” or “We Americans know he is an unusual President.” But I was amazed - even in China - everyone was talking about Trump. I think the regular people actually admire him. That was my feeling.

Have a nice trip. The regular folks are wonderful and curious about Americans, Canadians, British, Australian, and European people. The young people love to showoff their English skills. Some are actually very good!




5) Converse app是我能找到的最准确的即时翻译,但不幸的是,如果你不能连网,那么就没法用。不管你用什么翻译,都很难。




Martin Jakobsson, Lives with a Chinese SO and reads books about the country

Okay, I guess you already know what to expect in some sense; an entirely different world. The cultural, buildings, size…everything will be vastly different.

But those things won´t help you actually navigate in China on a daily basis. Here´s some good to know when you land.

1.Anyone in a uniform can and will help you if you ask.

2.The best food is often served on the street.






3.The sign in restaurants wall that has how clean the place is, is all a facade, don´t follow them.

4.If you want coffee that tastes like the one you´re used too. Either try to find the following places Starbucks(I´m Swedish, so I refuse to go here), Rich(Don´t buy anything but the coffee here.) and Mojo(Their carrot cake is to die for).

5.If you going to take the subway, which you will, you can pay to go to a specific place rather than like a day card, so check these mostly yellow or white machines and ask for help from someone around.

6.Their uber is really cheap, so use it if needed (I mostly walked everything since I wanted to see everything.).

7.Buy water, a lot of water.

8.Their fruits are extremely cheap so buy a lot and bring to the hotel for evening munchies.








9.Never eat hotel breakfast or dinner. Always take the opportunity to eat with the Chinese rather than tourists.

10.Watch out for pickpockets at the tourist attraction, never happened to me, but watch out.

11.If you hear a Chinese start calling you sir, and walking with you…speed up; nothing good can come from it (Scams, want to take a photo with you, questions…etc).

12.Don´t trust the Chinese when they tell you to take their Chinese medicine…nope nope nope; never again.

13.Get used to being one with the crowds and ques…they never end.






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