Life in China
In recent years, China has transformed into an interesting oasis of traditional Chinese culture co-existing with modernity. It has become a vibrant country, especially the big cities, which are alive with both Chinese and foreigners working and living side by side. For any foreigner coming to China, a little culture shock can be expected – the culture, food, way of life, transportation, climate, entertainment, habits etc can all be contributors to the surprise that our international friends will experience. But rest assured, part of the thrill about traveling is to experience all this.
China’s major cities in terms of high standard of living, economic prosperity, freedom, and comfort include Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Qingdao, Tianjin, Dalian, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Kunming, Jinan etc. All in all, the north, east and southern areas in China are well off. Cities such as these ones are home to both Chinese and foreign professionals as well as reputable companies alike.
Chinese food has an unbelievably broad variety. To put this in perspective, there are 22 provinces in China and an additional 4 special cities completely independent; all of these sub-divisions have their own cuisine! And of course, in major cities there are plenty of other foods from different regions in the world. In terms of food and drink, certainly there is something to suit every taste.
China has one of the world’s most sophisticated, longest (in terms of kilometer tracks), interconnected railway systems in the world, and still continues to expand! Every province operates an airport; some with international flight connections, others only national, there are usually several railway major stations in each province. When you get to the city level, there are plenty of metro/subway lines, taxis, buses, and bicycle and motorcycle lanes. Getting around in China is convenient, fast and easy; foreigners and Chinese people depend on these transportation methods to get form one place to another.
The Chinese People
Generally speaking, Chinese people are friendly but very curious about foreigners! It is not surprising to have a Chinese person walk up to you and ask to take a picture with you, or speak to you in the hope of practicing his/her English. English although is understood by professional Chinese people and many university students, however it is still quite uncommon to hear being spoken in the streets. Due to their deep-rooted culture, Chinese people will usually keep to themselves; they may seem shy and would not just directly approach you in the street unless there is a really pressing need.
Health + Safety
It is common for foreigners to have allergies or an aversion to certain food products, smell or taste. In China, the people use an abundance of oil, nuts and other ingredients. If you are eating out, please make sure you choose the right food for you to avoid illness, avoid eating street food if you know that you may have a sensitive stomach and taste buds. If you usually take special medication in your daily life, then it is best to bring it with you to China in case you cannot find your specific brand in the Chinese pharmacy. However, medication for common illnesses or bodily discomforts you might experience is widely available in pharmacies here.
Nightlife is exciting and cheap in the country. Please be careful of what you drink especially in nightclubs and discos as the laws here are rather relaxed when it comes to restricting minors from having access to alcohol or smoking.
China is a relatively safe country, crime rates are low and most residences usually have some type of security provided. However, in the big cities, just like any where else in the world, it is advisable to not walk alone at night especially in poor lit or inhabited areas. Make sure your wallet/purse is secure when using public transportation during peak hours, which are mornings and evenings when the work crowd is returning home.
Other elements to look out for:
- Avoid saying or engaging in controversial behavior; China is conservative and has strong censorship.
- Be careful of pickpockets on the street, and be vigilant against scams or people trying to sell you fake goods right on the street.
- Do not drink water directly from the tap/faucet under any conditions; only bottled water is clean and safe to drink in China.
- When you go shopping in China, do not be afraid to haggle and bargain for a fair price anywhere; actually, you are expected to haggle when you buy stuff.
- Make sure to always ride in registered taxis and make sure they charge the price according to the charging meter installed in every taxi.