The conduct of Chinese tourists traveling abroad has been under scrutiny quite a bit recently. Yet don’t the citizens of every country have their own quirks? There are oddities that Westerners see in China, but there are also peculiar habits that Chinese people see while traveling abroad as well. The Chinese government has noted several strange American habits.
Not only is China is an exotic travel destination for people from around the world, but more and more young expats are finding jobs in China. Currently, the easiest job for young native English speakers to find in China is teaching English. However, no matter why you are going to China, no one wants to stick out in a new environment. Here is a review of some behaviors you will want to change before arriving:
- Being polite to strangers
Forget saying “Thank you”, “You’re welcome”, and “How are you doing?” in China. Chinese people are friendly and extremely polite to people they are introduced to by other acquaintances. However, if you are just some random person on the street, you may be ogled, bumped into, and yelled at during some point of any venture outside. You can view this as rude, but a better way to look at it is to ask yourself why it’s like this in China.
China is still a developing country in some aspects and the locals have a billion other people who are competing against them just to survive. Life is not as easy as it may be elsewhere. Laughing off minor rude behaviors by strangers is a good way to not let these actions bother you. You’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long run by learning from the locals in this aspect and just ignore these minor annoyances.
- Being helpful to strangers and being too trusting
It is quite common in the West to help people who are in need. However, doing that in China can get you in financial trouble or worse yet, wind up with a lawsuit. Pretending to be hurt in an “accident” is just one of many scams in China. Another common scam that tourists are easily influenced by is when a nice, young English-speaking Chinese person comes up to them (usually a pretty female), befriends them, and asks to take them out to dinner or tea. By the time the meal is finished, the foreign tourist might be out hundreds of dollars.
There is also the counterfeit money scam. Chinese people know to inspect their money upon receipt, which makes an unsuspecting foreigner an easy target. Even the transportation industry in China has its own scam. “Black” taxis are not always black in color; however, these taxis are illegal. They usually do not have a taximeter and will charge you as much as they want to. To avoid China scams, keep your wits about you and be aware of how the locals are responding to any sudden incidents.
- Drinking coffee
For all of you coffee addicts out there don’t worry too much about having to give up your daily cup of joe. There are plenty of Starbucks in China and they are currently opening new stores every 15 hours here. However, you’ll almost never find coffee in any Chinese person’s home or at the workplace which means that within a few months you’ll get used to drinking tea (usually green tea or pu’er) and before long, you will be making it yourself and forgetting all about your Gold Starbucks status. Tea in China is of the best quality and a huge part of the culture. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is for one hot drink to replace another.
- Wearing shoes in the house and putting your feet up
Wearing shoes or going barefoot inside the house in many cultures is quite common. In most Asian cultures, however, you must wear slippers indoors. Outside shoes are only for outside and if you ever take the time to watch what happens outside, you’ll be more than happy to take off your urine-spattered, phlegm-covered, dusty Converse. Another taboo is putting your feet up on a coffee table, or on the seat in front of you. It is extremely rude in China probably because feet just aren’t considered clean enough. Sit up straight, young man, while you sip your green tea.
- Expecting your day or week to go as planned
China is like a circus. Every day brings a new, loud, fascinating attraction for your viewing pleasure. You’ll try new experiences you never knew existed and you’ll be shocked at how hard it is to get a 100% guarantee on anything. Here are a few examples:
“Did you call ahead of time and ask if the store had the product? Someone said yes? Well, they were wrong.”
“Did you expect to go home right after work today? You didn’t know we had a teambuilding KTV night scheduled tonight? It’s going to be a long night!”
“Do you expect all of the items in your apartment (i.e. lights, toilet, water, bed, et al) to work correctly? Highly unlikely.”
“Didn’t you know there was a foreign CEO visiting your company today and you are expected to translate? Good luck.”
- Paying what’s on the price tag
Ah, bargaining. A few people love it, but most love to hate it. However, unless you want to be taken advantage of, you are expected to bargain in most lower-priced stores or places like the Pearl Market in Beijing. In the past few years, many of the stores you used to be able to bargain at have been closed down or moved far out of town. However, if you’re lucky enough to still find a place with cheap deals, be aware that asking for a refund in China on items that you have bought for a steal is uncommon. Make sure you love it before bargaining.
- Wearing heels and driving to work
Gone are the days where you walk less than 5 minutes during your trip to work. In China, your commute may take over an hour and since traffic is so bad, you will most likely be on the subway most of that time. You will need to walk miles underground and up and down stairs. Forget the heels because once you are above ground, even if your feet aren’t exhausted yet, the uneven sidewalks may be the death of you.
- Stocking up on groceries to last you a week or two
Chinese people are not a fan of leftovers or buying in bulk. It’s quite normal for them to buy groceries every day. This way the food is fresh and there will be no leftovers. However, to most foreigners, this can be a hassle. Who wants to grocery shop everyday after a long day at work? Luckily, Chinese restaurants are numerous and delicious in China, which makes eating out fast, affordable, and desirable. To truly look like a local, don’t be caught juggling multiple, overflowing large Carrefour grocery bags.
- Using a clothes dryer and oven
In most developed countries, putting your clothes into a drying machine after washing them is quite normal. There are no dryers in homes in China. There are also rarely ovens. But guess what? You are saving the earth! You may be able to buy them in China, but give up that urge and just think of how green you are being by letting your clothes air dry in the sun.
- Grinning from ear to ear when taking photos
Chinese people are rather serious when taking photos. The younger generation is moving away from this, but you’ll still likely be the odd one out if you are smiling ecstatically next to your Chinese co-workers. Most young Chinese people like to look cute or tilt their head down so their chin and mouth look small when taking selfies. A big grin on your face ruins both those objectives. By all means take whatever kind of photo you want to, however, if you want to look like a local, you’ll want more of a Victoria Beckham look than a Goofy smile plastered on your face.