Moving to China? Cool, let me share a couple things with you.

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August 16th 2012
Published: August 16th 2012
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The city of Shangrao The city of Shangrao The city of Shangrao

China loves there lights. Chinese cities are arguably more beautiful at night.
I look back at the past year and a half and I'm overwhelmed with all my challenges, feats, and unforgettable moments I've faced here in China. I feel blessed. And I'll tell anyone that moving abroad was the BEST DECISION I've ever made. And now it's time for me to leave this country I've developed such a love-hate relationship with, but not without first offering a tidbit of advice...

For those considering coming to China for travel, work, or whatever, I've responded below to some common questions that may arise for those thinking of venturing to the Far East for an extended period of time.

What should I bring to China?

Before coming to China, I thought it was all about what can't I buy there? Do I have enough clothes? Do I have those candies I love that I know I can't buy there. However, it's not about those things. Let me tell you what you REALLY need to bring:

• Your patience
• A sense of humor
• An open mind

These three things are what you'll need most (especially at first). If you bring them I guarantee you'll have a much better experience.
Peace and friendsPeace and friendsPeace and friends

Me and a rice farmers wife in Yangshuo. She was very good at charades.

Also, this may be a good time to mention Whatever you're missing so dearly from your home country, you can buy it here. It's what I like to call the of China. Not to mention, shipping is fast and free! (The site is primarily in Chinese so use Google Translate or get someone fluent to help you when you're ready to purchase).

Do many people speak English?

In major cities like Shanghai and Beijing it's common to run into fluent English speakers. In other cities it's not impossible but one should be prepared to encounter frequent occurrences where people don't speak any English past a simple “hello.” Luckily there is a universal language most of us know in the form of a game called charades. I cannot tell you how many times simply acting out what I need to someone has worked so brilliantly. And most people I've encountered here are happy and willing to help. Also, I don't embarrass easily so I'm not afraid to look a bit silly in these instances. I remember my friend and I were trying to ask a random woman for directions to a theme park in the city
Li RiverLi RiverLi River

Me and some friends cruising down the Li River.
of Suzhou. Well, we both just put our hands up in the air, exclaimed, and moved up and down like we were riding a roller coaster. The woman's face lit up when she understood what we meant, and needless to say, we were given directions to the theme park and were soon doing the same actions but on an actual ride this time.

Is learning Chinese hard?

Learning another language isn't easy. No matter which language it is. Learning requires a desire to learn. Dedication and self-discipline is also necessary. If you want to learn Chinese, do it! A few things to keep in mind when beginning your studies:

1. Chinese is a tonal language with 4 different ways to vocalize words. Example: The word “ti” in Chinese can mean four different things depending on which tone you use when saying the word.

2. Chinese is written in Chinese characters and there are thousands of them.

3. Pinyin, which is the writing of Chinese words phonetically with the English alphabet. It can also be tricky because the spelling of words have different phonic sounds than they do in English. Example: “gou” is a Chinese word
Sound good???Sound good???Sound good???

Trust me, I didn't order any though I highly doubt there's any urine in it.
that is pronounced like, “go,” and means “dog.”

What about the weird food?

Every country has its “weird” foods. And each person has their own idea about which kinds they identify as weird. The common agreement on “weird food” usually consists of bugs, uncommonly eaten animal parts, and fermented foods. I'm not going to get too in-depth with this so here's the crash course on Chinese “weird” foods...

Chicken: You will see chicken feet often. I don't personally like them, but they're not terrible either. Chicken hearts (especially barbequed) are surprisingly delicious. You may find a chicken head in your soup, don't worry, you're not meant to eat it, it's for the broth.

Bugs: Any fried bugs you find on a stick (scorpions, etc.) are almost always made for tourists only. It's not something Chinese people eat regularly.

Fermented tofu (stinky tofu): The smell is bad, I won't lie. Smells like moldy cheese and gym socks to me. However, it tastes quite a bit differently than it smells, and the sauce that often accompanies it neutralizes the potency and odor. Give it a shot!

Two more things on food

1. Poor translation to English on menus can be hilarious. (see photo 'urinate beef'😉.

2.The Chinese can do wonders with vegetables, try them all!

Will I have to use a squat toilet?

Yes, there are squat toilets in China. But far less than you'd think. China has stamped it's way to the top of the list of countries embracing the modern era. With a booming economy, and skyscrapers shooting out of the ground like geysers, you're more likely to find a nice place to plant your derriere while doing your “business.” Smaller towns and rural areas are the more likely locations requiring you to try your squatting skills. Just be careful not to dirty your trousers. You'll know what I mean when you try it.

Doctors, hospitals, medicine, oh my!?

Public hospitals: They are (you guessed it) crowded! And don't be surprised when there's a bunch of other people in the examination room with you while the doctor is checking you out. It's a bit chaotic, but it's very cheap to see a general doctor and receive basic medicines (for cold, flu, pain, etc.)

Traditional Chinese medicine hospitals: I have
pier in Qingdaopier in Qingdaopier in Qingdao

Crowded Olympic pier in Qingdao.
my own opinions on how effective their treatments for ailments are. Many people swear by them, though. They also offer interesting remedies for relieving stress and for just feeling overall healthier. My advice? Go for vitamins, or a cupping session. Don't go if you are actually ill or have a serious medical condition.

Foreign Hospitals: Most cities in China have foreign hospitals where the doctors are either from English-speaking countries or have studied/worked for years in an English-speaking country. These often have very comfortable and private facilities and are significantly less busy, but significantly more extensive.

Also, keep in mind that antibiotics and other medicines that are only obtainable by prescription in countries like the US, are available over the counter in China and for very reasonable prices. Example: Amoxicillin (a common antibiotic) is about 5 USD in a Chinese pharmacy with no prescription or medical insurance needed.

What's rude in one country can be normal behavior in another?

There are a lot of people in China. A TON! Don't be surprised if someone bumps into you and doesn't apologize. Bumping and making your way through crowds might leave you a little too close than you'd
Street foodStreet foodStreet food

:-) :-) :-)
like to be to the five people surrounding you. That being said, I've never encountered violent pushing or the like. People just aren't afraid to be close to other people. Even when there is plenty of room you'll notice this. While standing in line at any store I often notice the person behind me is basically breathing down my neck. And also, I find if I don't basically breathe down the neck of whoever is in front of me I often get cut in line by someone else. It seems like a claustrophobic annoyance, but I assure you it's just routine for them. And there is no rude or disrespectful intention toward you. It's simply their norm.

Does a lot of people mean there will be a lot of traffic?

I think the right response to this question is, DUH! However, despite the absurd amount of vehicles on the streets in Chinese cities, drivers seem to stay pretty chill about the chaotic conditions. Road rage seems to be nonexistent. Drivers almost seem to expect to get cut-off and they cut-off plenty of other drivers in return. It's an aggressive “every man for himself” kind of outlook that drivers have here. But it kind of works. The amount of people on E-bikes without a helmet concerns me though. I've unfortunately witnessed a couple horrific accidents involving these people.

Our mothers told us to, “look both ways before crossing the street.” And I'm telling you to, “look in every direction, twice, before crossing.” And wear your seatbelt for God's sake! Most people in China do not wear them, but do not make this a habit you develop. It's absurd, and I shouldn't have to say this, but a lot of foreigners come here and develop this terrible habit.

** If you have any further questions pertaining to living/traveling in China than please comment or send me a message! I'm happy to respond with honest answers. It's a place I've come to love. China is full of wonderful things, but it's also a place I'm not afraid to be harshly honest about the not-so-wonderful things too. **


17th August 2012

the next adventure begins?
Hey Matthew Interesting post - and I love your description of 'weird' food. Incidentally, I came across more squat toilets in rural Italy than in China. Looking forward to following your travels! :) Cheers Ren
17th August 2012

Thanks, yeah... After your comment I got to thinking even more about "weird food" and started a forum post on it. :-) [url=] WeirdFood [/url]
17th August 2012

nice blog man! my first trip ever was to China with a friend in 2010 and I loved it! All these comments brought back so many memories
18th August 2012

Thanks, man! Glad to hear from another China fan. What a great first trip to take! China is a unique one for sure, and there are still many things about this place that remain a mystery to me.... I'm looking through some of your pictures and am reminded of my dear friend who literally just left Jordan. She served in the Peace Corps there. Such an intriguing place. The Dead Sea and Wadi Rum look rad!
17th August 2012

Very Imformative
This blog is outstanding. It really helps paint a vivid picture of many of the issues that are swimming in the back of peoples minds. Way to go Matt! Keep blogging, and help the world to come out of it's shell and experience all the wonders that it has to offer.
18th August 2012

Thanks Jon!
Thanks for the kind words. It really means a lot to me. Plenty more blog entries to come soon. =)
4th April 2015

Perspective and Observations
Great stuff here. Being a nurse I loved hearing the comments on Chinese Medicine and hospitals. Living in another country makes you look at things differently. I lived in Antarctica for 5 months. The isolation was interesting. Being a foodie I love hearing about the weird food.
6th April 2015

Wow! 5 months!?
Five months in Antarctica! I can't imagine! Were you doing research there or….?

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