How To Survive in China as a Foreigner
Bring your own deodorant. Bring your own coffee. Get used to the smell of urine. Smile, a lot. Learn how to say where your from. Understand that it’s not rude if someone asks how much money you make. Listen to music. Read. Be patient. Don’t drink tap water. Try everything at least once, especially the stuff that grosses you out, it will make for a better story. Get out there and do stuff, try not to use the train of thought “Well, I deserve this,” too often. If you’re a man, carry a pack of cigarettes with you and offer them to any man you meet. They will most likely not take one, even if they do smoke, but they will appreciate the sentiment.
Try not to think in terms of right or wrong, rude or polite, dirty or clean. Ask as many questions as you can. Don’t talk about politics. Eat lots of noodles. Eat lots of fruit, but always clean them before hand. Don’t be shy. Go to karaoke. Don’t talk about Japan. If you like basketball play a pick up game with some strangers. Despite the fact that they don’t, look both ways before crossing the street. Bring your own ear plugs. Bring your own dental floss. Never pay full price. Don’t expect to get laid. Don’t do anything that could land you in jail. Find out what can and can’t land you in jail, you’ll be surprised.
Don’t freak out when someone invades your personal space. Try not to eat Western food, it’s expensive and often times unsatisfying. Visit the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Summer Palace, but don’t linger. Get off the beaten path. Get lost. Take your time. Man zou. Walk slowly. Learn how to use chopsticks. Buy or rent a bike. Weaving in and out of traffic, dodging taxis and donkey pulled carts, and ringing your bell at pedestrians in your way will make you feel like you’re one of them. Don’t go in the water. Get used to sleeping on a rock hard bed.
Try not to reserve “thank you” for times when people really do help you, and try to reserve “I’m sorry,” for times when you’ve truly inconvenienced someone. It will only make them laugh if you over use it. If you learn to read any characters, learn foods first. Don’t worry about table manors. Talk with your mouth full of food. Burp. Slurp your tea as loud as you can. Go to a teahouse and try as many different kinds as you want.
You’ll want to buy a lot of crap, but by the end of your journey you’ll realize that most of it just that, crap. Reserve days for doing nothing. Make lots of jokes. Don’t sleep in too often, Chinese people are early risers and you might miss a lot of the action. Don’t go to many temples. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Keep your eyes open. Don’t get discouraged. It will be hard, but try not to think about home. Remind yourself that every day you’ve somehow ended up on the other side of the world, in the oldest civilization in the world. Ask yourself unanswerable questions and find satisfaction in this. Go fly a kite. It’s not just for kids.
I can’t say I agree with all of these but the vast majority of them hit the mark pretty accurately, at least in my experience. Would anyone who’s been an expat in China like to comment or add your own to the list?
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