China – What we learned!

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Shanghai Nights


After almost three weeks immersing ourselves in ‘the Chinese way’, here’s the first (of my two-part) light-hearted look at our experiences. Part 2 is tomorrow.

The People

  • With a population of around 1.4 billion, in the big cities it certainly felt like it. In the more rural locations, however, you’d never know!
  • Families used to be limited to one child, now it’s two. Heavy (multiple annual salary) fines if you over-do it!
  • A law that stated that stated when you’ve owned your property for 70 years, it had to be returned to the government was recently repealed
  • Many Chinese don’t respect the West’s need for ‘personal space’ – expect close encounters!
  • Queuing is not a concept the Chinese understand nor respect
  • Some Chinese like to touch you when communicating
  • Angry Chinese tend to shout (very loudly) first – and reason with you later!
  • Like the West, the youngsters are glued to their phones
  • Chinese travelling around on push-bike has been mostly replaced by Chinese on electric scooters

The Places

  • Most big cities are dual signed (Chinese/English)
  • Hardly any police were seen on the streets (despite what you might read)
  • Passports are needed when visiting some tourist-type places
  • Plenty of CCTV cameras about!
  • The roads are pretty much pothole-free
  • Many of their road bridges over rough terrain are spectacularly long
  • If you find a hand-towel in a toilet, keep it for next time – they’re a rarity. So is toilet paper in most womens’ WCs
  • Soap in toilets is also a collector’s item (and I think there’s obviously a lot of collectors in China!)

The Customs

  • The currency in mainland China is called ‘RMV’ or ‘Yuan’ (about 8 to the £)
  • Getting a coffee is a challenge when out and about, especially away from big cities
  • On the road, there is no such thing as ‘give way’ (to the right, to the left – or any direction!)
  • Indicator bulbs will last forever out here as signalling is a rarity
  • They love their electric scooters, but they hate putting their lights on
  • Chinese food here is much like Chinese food back home – but it’s mostly warm (rather than hot)
  • Wealth is sometimes spectacularly obvious!
  • The big cities look very capitalist for a communist country
  • No-one jay-walks
  • ‘Hairy Crabs’ is a delicacy not a disease
  • Squirrel Fish has nothing to do with squirrels

The Tech

  • Most modern hotels have English three-pin plugs
  • Free wi-fi is not as abundant as in the UK (only in hotels and SOME shops). Shops that DO have it, don’t always advertise the fact, so you have to ask for the SSID/password (which they happily provide)
  • You cannot access any Google services from anywhere in China. Facebook as well as most other western social media platforms are blocked/banned
  • VPN is a must if you need any of the above
  • VPNs’ efficiency sometimes tails-off in the evening (frequent connects/reconnects)
  • VPN is NOT a perfect solution. It mostly works, but then it doesn’t!
  • If you’re serious about communicating online out here, best to have TWO VPNs
  • …and set them up BEFORE you arrive in China, otherwise it’s almost ‘mission impossible’ once you’re there.
  • No-one from China uses WhatsApp, they use WeChat instead
  • Traffic lights in mainland China have a countdown clock so you can prepare for them changing (they don’t have the ‘orange light’)

Coming tomorrow… “China – By the Numbers” (Our holiday in figures!)

My holiday camera-roll (and less chat!) HERE