Agness from eTramping
Although I travelled solo for over 6 months in China, I never felt lonely. The reason being, Chinese are known for being friendly and hospitable to foreigners, especially those who travel on their own. What is more, they always make you feel home, show you around the places, ask you out and dine out with you recommending various delicious Chinese meals on the cheap I bet you have never tried before.
Apart from being hospitable, there are few more things you should know about Chinese locals before coming to the Land of Dragons:
FOOD IS PRIORITY
Believe me or not, but food plays a major role in Chinese culture and history. Therefore, the majority of locals seem to be obsessed with dining out and cooking. Some families treat every single meal like a ritual spending hours at the table eating, chatting and drinking. For us, Westerners, that must be odd, yet frustrating, but for Chinese is an everyday routine.
Most of important decisions and business transactions are made during the dinner in posh restaurants. The more you drink and eat, the more successful the meeting is – that’s how it works in China.
There is no joke when it comes to eating. A hungry worker will refuse to work and a hungry kids will never stop crying, so when in China, make sure you don’t come across locals who have not had their meal yet.
This can be either a blessing or a curse. On one hand, people will treat you with some nice local dishes making sure you try a great variety of Chinese food, but on the other hand, the pressure locals put on food makes you feel really uncomfortable and solo female travellers tend to gain a lot of weight (I’m a good example).
NO PAIN, NO GAIN.
Chinese are extremely hard-working people who live by the simple rule “No job in beneath you.” An average local works daily between 10 and 14 hours, 7 days a week. The reason being, there is a huge job competition on the market and if someone does not do his/ her best, this person can be easily replaced by at least 100 other Chinese who will do this job better and faster. Most of locals are scared to death of being replaced with someone much younger and more efficient.
Based on my teaching experience in China, Chinese students are the most hard-working students in the world. They are literally forced to learn different subjects from early morning (6am) till late night (10pm). They are allowed short breaks between their classes (5 minute long) and two breaks for lunch and dinner (1h each). A typical Chinese teacher in a public school works roughly 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, teaching 20 classes and spending hours and hours in an office. In comparison to foreigners, who spend 3 hours in the school a day for 5 days a week, it is a huge difference (in payment as well).
FAMILY GOES FIRST
The family has a real value to Chinese and it always goes first (right after the food). Despite the one-child policy restrictions, family bonds are extremely strong. What I have found very unusually is the fact that most of single mature Chinese female and male live with their parents instead of getting more independent. Chinese find it so difficult to move out from their family home and often they won’t even move to another province, even for university and work. They suffer from homesickness, always stick together and any bank holiday is a good excuse to gather all family members for a dinner.
Once you come to China, you will see that every Chinese has at least 10 brothers and 20 sisters and people who have seen each other once in their life call themselves “cousins”. It might be a bit odd, but you can quickly get used to that.
WHERE ARE THEIR MANNERS?
Please excuse me for saying that, but most of Chinese locals behave and act in a very disgusting way, especially in public places. They have very bad habits of spitting on the floor, picking their noses, smacking, belching, peeing and pooing on the street. It is no wonder that SARS was a big problem in China a few years ago!
Chinese bad manners can be very irritating when using local transportation. People will keep pushing you when trying to get in a train or on the bus and they will never stop smacking when eating their meals. Therefore, make sure you keep an MP3 player with you so you can listen to some music in lunch and dinner breaks. Trust me, that helps a lot.