In this post, I want to share with you some things to know when visiting China as well as things I noticed while I was there. Differences between the two places I stayed, the weather, the food and the people. Let’s explore China!
It has been a whole year since my last visit to China! I arrived last October 27th with my brother. We spent a few weeks there while he was teaching. It was an amazing experience that changed my life. I am so grateful I was able to visit China and discover the many interesting things and ways of life there.
Also keep in mind these are just my experiences and everyone’s will be different. China is a huge country and I only visited a few provinces.
In order to visit China, you will need to apply for a Chinese Visa, get Chinese yuan or RMB and plan out your trip (dates and places of stay).
If you want to read about my adventures, check out my many blog posts. I have a daily record of our trip! Read about the Food in Zhengzhou!
My brother and I spent two weeks in Zhengzhou in the province of Henan and then two weeks in Nanchang in the province of Jiangxi. We also spent a few days in Beijing and a few days in Xi’an.
Comparing the two cities we spent the most time in, the Nanchang area was a little more run down than Zhengzhou. There was a lot more families living there as well.
Things to Know When Visiting China: Jetlag and Culture Shock are Real
Something you should know when visiting China, is that jetlag and culture shock are real. 110 percent real! Both of them took me about a week to adjust to. The first week I was all messed up for sleeping. Tired in the early afternoon and wide awake in the early morning. But once the jetlag wore off and I was used to being surrounded by people who considered me foreign I began to enjoy exploring a new culture.
Things to Know When Visiting China: What to Bring
Some things you should pack when planning a trip to China are the following:
- Lotion – I found it very hard to find normal lotion while I was there. I found whitening face lotion but no body lotions and some of it was very expensive when I did find it.
- Headphones – It was nice to be able to listen to music or podcasts or watch movies while taking the subway or high speed train.
- Kleenex or tissues – This is good for when you have to use the toilets and most of them don’t have toilet paper as everyone just knows to bring Kleenex or tissues. It’s also good if your nose tends to run when eating spicy food, which you’ll do a lot!
- Hand sanitizer or wipes – This is especially good as you’ll be in contact with lots of people and some of the public toilets don’t have soap.
- Charging box and cord
- Backpack or purse – This makes is easier to carry around all the little things that you’ll need.
- Canadian souvenirs – This is something fun to bring with you. Just little things like Canadian candies, small change or pendants with the Canadian flag on it. When I was there I gave some of these things to the students and it made them so happy to have something from my country.
Also some good apps to download and make sure are functional before you go are:
- Spotify or other podcast/music app
- a VPN app
- Google translate and google maps
Usually, when I travel my hair gets dry and frizzy. But in China, I noticed it was very soft and not frizzy at all. The air was very dry and my nose bled a little bit which it rarely does. My hands were cracked like they get in winter in Canada. So maybe since there was little moisture in the air, my hair wasn’t frizzy. Regardless I liked it!
The weather was really nice in November. It was a little cool in the evenings and mornings but during the day the sun was very warm. Somedays it was cloudy and hazy but the air was still warm. The air quality was pretty bad on some of the days we were there.
Even though the weather was warm, all the Chinese wore pants and long sleeved shirts and even sometimes heavy coats. Meanwhile it was warm enough to wear shorts most days.
At the first hotel in Zhengzhou the water smelled like sulfur. The second hotel we stayed at was near Longzi Lake and the water didn’t smell there.
Things to Know When Visiting China: Food
There were lots of vendors on the streets selling food out of carts. Sweet potatoes were a common item to see as well as candied fruit sticks. There were even tomatoes on these fruit sticks, covered in the sugar coating.
We noticed the food was more spicy in Nanchang, but almost all the food in China is very spicy so be prepared for this. We carried around little Kleenex packs because the heat made our noses run haha!
The students my brother taught all had big dreams. Most of them said they wanted to change the world, own businesses and make lots of money. A few mentioned getting married and having kids. I don’t think any of them mentioned wanting to be happy. So that was an interesting thing. Either they are already happy or have just given up the idea that they can be. And they just go about their lives.
The Chinese people are very affectionate and display it publicly. I saw couples making out as well as other couples on benches with their heads in each others laps. Usually, couples always hold hands while they walk. The Chinese men are very protective of their girlfriends and I even saw one tying his girlfriends shoe!
I generally found the Chinese people very friendly. Some of them smile and say hello as if happy to show you they know a word in your language. I suppose blond haired me just stands out in the masses of black hair. I have had someone compliment me on my hair and a few people called me beautiful. One lady asked to take her picture with me!
One thing I had to get used to was the staring! The quick stare and then the smile to themselves as they walked on. Or the stare and then the nudging to their friend and they both laugh quietly. Or the long full on stare even as they are walking away. And even the double stare, once they have passed you they turn around to get another look. I am not used to be stated at nor do I like it so it made going to the mall or simply walking down the street a feat out of my comfort zone!
Things to Know When Visiting China: Hotels
I found all the hotel rooms to be very warm. The AC didn’t seem to work. The only thing we could figure is that it was their cold season so they didn’t have the ac on. Or else maybe they never do? I enjoy the warm weather but for sleeping, I prefer it to be cool. The hotel staff was extremely helpful and even brought me a fan which helped quite a bit.
In all the hotels we stayed in, there were no pools which was interesting. Most hotels I’ve stayed at in North America have complimentary lotion as well as shampoo and conditioner. But the ones in China, had hair products but no lotion. The hotels were very generous with giving us bottled water which was super nice as that is what we drank.
In order to use your phone in China you will have to get a SIM card. Here is a link all about using a Sim Card in China.
To communicate, we often used translating apps. These were quite funny! You could talk into the phone and it would translate for you or you could hold your phone over something written and it would give you the English translation. We have been “told” that dumpling were bags of water, a drink was Grandmas sweetness and don’t even get me started on the instructions for a face mask!
Something I found hard in China was not being able to understand what people were saying. Someone would try to ask us something or tell us something and we just couldn’t understand them. And for those of you who know me I always try to be a good listener and am always asking “what do you mean” and “why this or that “. I always want to make sure I know exactly what you mean and understand what you are telling me. In China, there was really no doing this. And it was always hard for me to have to walk away from someone without understanding them.
Its also funny because I have never thought of myself as someone who needs to be around people and engage in conversation. But being in China made me realize it gets very lonely without someone to talk to. We all need people. Some of us, like me do need to recharge after being around people for a long time but I do need to have conversation once in awhile.
Things to Know When Visiting China: Getting Around
Something cool I noticed is people mostly drive white or black cars in China. There are lots of electric taxis as well as taxis. Lots of people also ride scooters or bikes. It seems people in China hate walking and avoid it if possible!
Once we were out with some students and they paid for a car to ride two minutes down the street instead of walking. However, walking in China is pretty crazy. The sidewalks are big but they always full of people and sometimes bikes and scooters ride on the sidewalks too. The best idea is to keep walking straight and don’t veer left or right and you most likely wont get hit!
Honking is a very common normal thing. It is not unusual to walk down the street and hear horns honking all the way. Electric scooters honk, car honks, electric carts honks, and I’m pretty sure people would even honk if they could! A lot of times it sounds like they are making music because when one car honks, a few others feel the need to honk as well. It is really quite amusing. If you aren’t already moving by the time the street light turns green you will get several honks and then it’s a chain reaction. People also honk to let you know they are changing lanes, turning and basically every move they make it seems!
The subway system is probably the most popular way of getting around in China. It is super cheap and a very fast way to travel. Be prepared! The Chinese have no concept of personal space especially on the subways. It makes for a very close and squished ride! Get to know the subway near you and become familiar with the stops.
Things to Know When Visiting China: The Toilets
One thing I definitely didn’t like in China and I would love to see you persuade me other wise, was the use of squat toilets. I was completely grossed out and unimpressed with it. I suppose if you spent your whole life with it, it becomes the norm for you. But ironically towards the end of my visit, I became used to it.
Other Interesting Things to Know When Visiting China
Smoking is allowed in public places like some restaurants. Its a weird feeling to be eating and all of a sudden your nostrils be flooded with cigarette smoke!
Men spit everywhere, walking down the street, in restaurants (into the trash cans by the tables) and usually very very loudly!
Walking through the streets where there were many apartment buildings, it was a normal but funny sight to see clothes hanging on the balconies to try. There aren’t many dryers in China so people hang their clothes out to dry.
The bottom of the tree trunks are painted white which I did some googling on. Some sources say it is to keep the sunlight off the bark as well as bugs. Do you know why?
I hope you enjoyed this long post! If you have any questions let me know, would love to hear from you.
Carmen Castricum says
This must have been such an incredible experience! Loved all the tips you shared, those really come in handy when going there! 🙂
It was such an incredible trip!! And thank you for reading 🙂
This is all so interesting! I’m from the US and have only ever been to Europe. I can only imagine the culture shock!
Before China, I’d only been to US and Canada!! There was definitely culture shock haha but so worth it!!!
Very interesting post. I have not yet been to China, but it is certainly on my bucket list. Your descriptions were very helpful and detailed. I am most concerned about the food, not only what I would be eating but also the cleanliness and preparation of it.
I think like anywhere it is hard to know exactly what goes on in the kitchen haha! But we had no problems and actually found most places to be very clean!
Wahhh haha I don’t know if I could get used to that toilet. I’ve avoided using it everywhere we’ve been that’s had them, but I know it’s actually one of the best positions you can use to go to the bathroom! I think if this year has taught us anything, it’s to bring a boatload of sanitizer and kleenex wherever we go haha. Insightful read 🙂
Thank you for reading Sarah! Yes, I’ve heard that too, about it being the best position haha! Still, doesn’t mean it’s not awkward 😀
There’s some great tips here! For me, when travelling China my must carry essentials are tissues and hand sanitizer too! Such a fabulously interesting place!
Thank you Michelle! And isn’t it tho?! So much culture and history!!
I wish I had this when I went to China. Super helpful.
Oh thank you so much!!!
Oh thank you so much!!
Love the Kleenex trick LOL!
Lol thanks, it comes in handy 😉
Thank you for these tips! I wonder why I have never thought of traveling to China when it’s so close to India.
You should go someday!! It’s such an amazing experience!