What surprised you most when you first came to China, as a foreigner?
Joseph W. Hatch, My wife and "In-Laws" are from Mainland China. I travel there frequently.
It seems that every single time I get off the plane and pass customs I am in for a brand new adventure.
Noise, enormity, smells, pollution, construction and general chaos are all valid answers.
What surprised me the most was how genuine and hospitable the Chinese people are. The two most asked questions I was asked on my first trip were ”are you lost?’ the second was “are you hungry?” The backstory is that I travel “boots on the ground” without an itinerary and without a tour group. I am not a backpacker nor do I care for that lifestyle. Hotels and freestyle exploration is more my speed.
Now being a foreigner I could feel the eyes on me. What broke the ice around this situation was as follows. I was approached by an older woman that had never seen a white man in person. She asked me if I was lost. She was surprised by the fact that I replied to her in Chinese “no” . She was even more astonished that I explained to her I was visiting her city and was impressed by the offerings of the market. She wanted to take a picture with me and invited me to meet her family and have lunch. I accepted the offer and it turned out to be one of the best experiences I had ever had in China. We walk to her and her husband's house, I was met with Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, and Neighbors. It was literally like I had returned home to a family I had not met. I had found a market along the way and bought baiju and beer to compliment what was offered. Old School= don’t show up empty handed, you will look bad. As we got deeper in the hutong I could feel that eyes are on me once again. Mostly out of curiosity. I did not mind it too much. For me, this was the most delightful afternoon ever! We cooked, we ate, we drank as if I was the missing cousin in the Family reunited after many years of separation. After 4 hours and the most jovial of times, I needed to take my leave. I was offered to stay there as a guest, I politely declined. I explained that I had paid my hotel room already and I needed to return to the hotel. One of the cousins came around with his car and drove me to the hotel. To this day I keep in contact. I feel that on that day we met I was adopted by that Family. I still to this day visit at least 1 time every 18 months.
Angela Nguyen, Business Owner
The thing that surprised me the most was just how massive it is! There are so many cities I’ve never heard of that have a population of over 10 million people!! For example, I was in Suzhou for work - a city I would not have known about if my supplier were not there. It is a well-developed, beautiful city that has recently qualified as a first-tier city.
Here is a view from my hotel:
Bonus: The next thing that surprised me the most was the local people checking PPM levels everyday to see if pollution levels were okay for them to spend time outside. As an Australian, I have always gone outside freely so this was a real eye-opener. I knew China had a pollution problem but had no idea it was that bad - I guess you don’t know until you see it!
Geraldine Lorente, Global Transition Specialist (2017-present)
That Chinese people are actually kind.
I always had this idea that they were very straight, disrespectful, and hard to deal with. When I came to China to work on a project, I was not looking forward to it since I know that this is the toughest country which I will handle in my role. I went to Hong Kong before and I find most people to be rude (compared to where I came from). Vendors would actually get mad if you ask for the price of their products, they would bump into you while walking, stomp on my feet so that they can have a better view of the parade, etc.
But during our meetings, I got to deal with people from Taiwan, HK, and yes even Mainland China and they were lovely! Some of them would even go out of their way just to accompany me for dinner, do a lot of translations (since you need to write everything in chinese characters or else most peope will not understand you, say if you are riding a cab or having some items delivered.) What I admire about them is their passion at work, seems like working long hours and even on weekdays is normal so that they can get the job done!
(Typing this answer as I lay in my bed in Beijing)
Miriam Frank, Chinese Teacher (2019-present)
Hello everyone! This is my first time using Quora and I love it already! I’d first like to let everyone know a little bit about my background. I received my bachelors from Beijing Language and Culture University in Chinese language. I am fluent in Mandarin and have a very good understanding of the culture having lived in Beijing for four years. I am now back in the United States, having graduated with a master’s from Indiana University Bloomington in Chinese pedagogy.
What surprised me most when I first arrived to China was how everyone stared at me. My impression was that they had never seen foreigners before and they had a stern look on their face…as if they hated me! After living in the city sometime I came to know that they did not hate me, but were curious and interested in the way foreigners looked. Now Beijing and Shanghai being more international cities there are less people staring, but something to keep in mind throughout other parts of China.
Chinese people are loud. I found it very obnoxious at first and understood them as mad at each other all the time. I remember once in my dorm I overheard the 阿姨 (cleaning maid) talking with her friend and could hear them from inside my room. I thought they were fighting with each, but really they were excited after having not seen each other for quite a while. You will also notice in restaurants that this is also present. Chinese people are very energetic at the dinner table, ordering lots of dishes and ever maybe hard liquor depending on the occasion. They use their loud voice to indicate here their enjoyment with the guests and friends.
译文来源：三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/48841.html 译者：Joyceliu
Diego Wells, Athletic Director, enjoying the challenges of living overseas
China shocked me for its uniqueness. I came to China 1 year ago, after having lived and worked in 10 different countries over the past 2 decades. This mega country is unlike any other place on Earth in several ways (some subtle, others, not-so subtle).
I will briefly describe its surprises in a way that follows the title of my favourite Clint Eastwood movie.
THE GOOD: Incredible infrastructure with regards to transportation within a city. Subways, buses, taxi, motorcycle taxis, bicycles, are all cheap, efficient and easy to find, use and negotiate your way around the new environment. I continue to be impressed by Guangzhou's bridges, and highways, but its relatively new Metro (Subway) system is incredible. For the equivalent of $1 I can go from the airport to the suburb I live in (Foshan), a journey of 1.5 hours and a distance of over 50kms in a clean, air conditioned, safe subw ay car.
THE BAD: This is the first foreign country I have been to where people initially ignore you. Almost all locals avoid eye contact on the street, in a bus or on a subway. In such a crowded place, often I have felt completely alone, as the people often walk past you without even a glance. Language is definitely a huge barrier, but still, it seems that most locals are indifferent to foreigners living in their town.
THE UGLY: The smog that roles in and hovers over the city I live in (Guangzhou), more days than not is an ugly surprise for sure. It seems that factory smoke and stain filled clouds block sunlight for days on end, and it can get depressing if you let it.
THE BEAUTIFUL: Can't leave on a low-note. Once you meet and be-friend a Chinese person, you realize just how wonderful this country is. A Chinese friend is a friend for life! Honest, caring, compassionate and sincere is how I would describe the locals I have gotten to know. As harsh as living in China can be on the exterior, getting to know a few local people while you are here softens it all and makes this place a truly unique and magical place to live!
Grant Lian, Living and working in China
Ooh ooh, pick me!
I first visited China in summer of 2002. I was born in the U.S. to Chinese parents of native Taiwanese descent (I say it this way to specifically differentiate us from the Pan Green Taiwanese that seem to be everywhere today). Even so, I was brought up to know that mainland China was poor, backwards, and dangerous.
This was literally the first thing I saw after getting off of the first cab from the airport:
Even back then, the Bund was a pretty stunning skyline, and it has since exploded with new and fabulous buildings that completely betrayed the backwards podunk expectations I brought with me from the US.
Shanghai shocked and awed me with its characteristic opulence, and even though I spent the rest of the summer in much poorer Xi’an, it set the tone for how I would continue to monitor China in the decades to come.
Today, looking back, I still think of China circa 2002 as the Golden Age for modern China, even though people were making just a fraction of what typical incomes are today. Back then, it seemed like the country beamed of hope and progressive thinking. Since then, optimism has dropped way down and it seems like nationalism is moving up while national policy is evolving more slowly, and sometimes backwards. Hard to say what the next 15 years will look like!
All I can say is, I’m keeping the tuner on this channel!