After a few weeks in China, we’ve learned a great deal about this amazing country. Here are a few tips for navigating this behemoth of a nation with so much to see and do.
- Get a Hosteling International membership If you’re on a budget and staying at cheap hotels or hostels, China is one country in particular where it pays to have an HI membership. Most of the popular hostels all across the country are HI affiliates and give discounts up to ten or twenty percent for members. If you plan to stay at hostels, it’s almost difficult to NOT find an HI affiliate.
- Point and Eat If you don’t speak the language but want to try local restaurants, reading the Chinese-only menu can be a real challenge. One action in particular has helped us, and that is to point at what the other restaurant patrons are eating to let the waiter know that’s what you want. Not only is it faster and easier than trying to read or translate the menu, but you get a first-hand report of what you’re about to be served.
- Gesticulate Often Many Chinese people are not used to foreigners, especially those that don’t speak any Chinese. Often, if you attempt to ask a simple question (such as pointing at a bus and saying the name of your destination) you will usually receive a complicated answer. Attempting to repeat your simple question sometimes only results in yet even more lengthy and complex Chinese coming back at you. This is because the Chinese people are used to being surrounded by billions of people that all speak the same language, and your inability is an oddity to them. The way around this is to use hand gestures as mush as possible. By doing this, you let them know that you do not understand what they are saying and are attempting to communicate with some sort of sign language. It might feel awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it.
- Hold Your Ground Queuing is becoming more popular in this once chaotic society, and polite orderliness can generally be expected. However, this is not always the case. Additionally, in crowded areas, the people often bump each other out of the way without so much as an acknowledgement, let alone an “excuse me” or an apology. Unfortunately, you’ll need to do the same if you want to make progress in crowded streets or shopping areas. Try not to be offended when something like this happens to you, it’s just a different culture.