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I don’t know about you, but there are just so many different aspects of China that draw me in, it is hard to pick a favorite…
From the delicious food to the culturally diverse atmosphere to the career opportunities that await.
Travelers to China can see everything from the Forbidden City to the Great Wall. And, this populous nation in East Asia encompasses a vast landscape full of desert, grassland, mountains, rivers, lakes, and a massive coastline.
There are several reasons why traveling to China is a great idea, but, of course, there are also several things about the area that might not be so great as a newcomer…
But, when coming to a new area or country, it can be quite difficult to actually know what you can and cannot do. For example, something as simple as a traditional greeting in your area might be offensive to someone else in another part of the world.
One of the most important things before traveling to China — or any new place — is to understand what you should engage in and what you should avoid.
So, whether you are traveling to China for an opportunity with teaching abroad or if it is just the destination for your dream vacation, be aware of what you should avoid:
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Avoid over-indulging in the cuisine
Of course, as soon as you arrive – especially if you are a foodie like myself – you will be tempted to indulge in just about everything the local cuisine has to offer…
Traditional Chinese food might differ slightly from what you are used to, but there is no doubt that it is still just as rich and filling.
The traditional Chinese diet consists of a lot of carbs, however – such as noodles and rice. So, over-indulging in the cuisine can leave you feeling bloated and cause you to gain some weight.
Of course, you have to try some of the delicious food that can be found all around the area, but be cautious of how much you are eating. Try to eat less of the rice and noodles to ensure you are not taking in far too many carbs.
And, don’t forget to eat your fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure you still get proper nutrients. But, you do have to try some Peking duck while you’re there! Just trust me.
Avoid drinking the tap water
It is likely that you come from an area with potable water – meaning you can just drink it right out of the tap…
Potable just means drinkable.
But, China does not have this same setup, so you might find that the tap water makes you sick. Unlike most Western countries, China’s tap water is undrinkable. The tap water in this country is required to be boiled before drinking, despite the fact that it looks clear leaving the faucet.
In some areas, the water is not well filtered and might contain hazardous contaminants and some heavy metals. The water might contain things such as bacteria, viruses, sediments, and rust. As a result, you might experience diarrhea and feel extremely sick to your stomach.
Don’t let the bad water spoil your trip!
It is okay to take a shower in it or brush your teeth – just don’t drink it.
Avoid touching people
Most people don’t think twice about shaking someone’s hand or patting them on the back…
But China has a very different culture and they do not openly touch strangers. As a whole, they are much less affectionate and don’t just touch, hug, or kiss freely. In fact, touching a stranger at all feels unnatural to most Chinese people.
Instead, just do a verbal greeting and a slight nod is fine, too. But, do not bow, kiss, or hug goodbye or hello as that is not common.
You should also be aware that they value the head as sacred, so touching it could be considered very disrespectful.
The best practice is just to respect the personal space of those around you and avoid touching anyone you are not close with.
However, you will find personal space in public – such as in transit – is much more uncommon. They might be pushy and cram up against each other, but they still would not dare to show any type of affection such as a hug or handshake.
During your time in China, it is likely that you will be asked about your family and probably even your marital status…
Many people consider this to be a personal matter and might even be offended by such a question…
However, don’t overreact if you are asked personal questions such as this during your time in China. These questions are often asked just as a means of finding common ground. As people from different cultures, there is likely not much to talk about as you do not fully understand what their culture is like…
Therefore, Chinese people often ask questions such as these to try to meet in the middle. Rather than being offended and overreacting, simply answer the question and respond with something of similar nature as a means of creating conversation.
Entering a new country or just a new area can be both exciting and scary as you are often unsure of what to expect.
In addition, you often fear that you might upset or offend someone simply because you are unsure of what is normal and what is not.
Sure, China has a few different customs, but you don’t have to fear messing up as long as you familiarize yourself with things you should not do as a newcomer to China.
Ultimately, be respectful of those around you and recognize that China is their home and just because you consider your actions normal does not mean they do. If you are ever in doubt, ask or do your research first.
They will appreciate your respect for their culture.
Can you think of anything else you should avoid as a newcomer to China? If you have been to China before and think of something we left off the list, let us know in the comments.
Words by David Smith.