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10 Basic Things to Know When Visiting China

Updated on September 20, 2012
Chinese Calligraphy
Chinese Calligraphy | Source

No doubt that China, with more than 5000 years history, has a very rich culture, a very distinguish ancient architecture and a beautiful natural landscape. It draws millions visitors each year, especially in its recent economic boom. Although most of Chinese in general are honest and friendly, there are certain habits among Chinese and quite a number of bad people ripping the reputation of Chinese. Therefore, be aware of these 10 basic things when you visit China: cut in line, fake money, ignoring traffic rule, MSG in food, negotiation during purchase, noise level, pickpocketing, public restrooms, smoking, tricking foreigners.

Cut In Line

Lacking the sense of order and respect to others, some Chinese would cut in line for their own benefit. I had dealt with it during the 20 years of living in China before I immigrated to the US. When I went back for a visit last year, the condition of following the rule and staying in line has somewhat improved, but cutting in line still exist, especially in a line for catching a bus or using a public restroom.

Fake Money

Be very careful when it comes to money during your visit in China. The skimmers seem to have endless way to steal your money.

Never do money exchange with people other than banks or money exchange inside the airport.

Always keep an eye on the money when you pay for your purchase, especially when you are buying things from street vendors or paying your meals at small restaurants. If you don't, they might quickly switch your real money with a fake one they have prepared ahead of time and blame you for giving them the fake money.

Ignoring Traffic Rules

People in China is somewhat better in understanding and following the traffic rules in recent years. However, some people, including pedestrians and drivers, would ignore the traffic rules. So be sure you look both sides before you walk across a street even you have the green light to go.

Chinese Food
Chinese Food | Source

MSG In Food

Most of Chinese food contains MSG, if you're allergic to MSG, then you might want to ask the waiter if you can request food without MSG, or eat other countries' food such as Japanese Sushi or Italian food. I am one of those people who are allergic to MSG, I ended up eating steam rice, steam vegetables and hard boiled eggs when we had to eat at a Chinese restaurant during my last year visit in China.

Negotiation During Purchase

There are a lot of beautiful and interesting products that carry the richness of Chinese culture. They are perfect for souvenirs. If you don't want to overpaid for your souvenirs, you need to negotiate when you make purchase at stores other than large supermarkets. It is a good idea to compare the price with few stores before negotiating. Sometime the seller is willing to sell you the product half of the asking price because sellers are always put out a sky high price tag, especially in the attraction places.

Noise Level

Noise level in China has dramatically reduced in the past couple years since the government has banded vehicle honking. But people still talk very loud. In a city with high population, you would expect the high level of noise starting as early as 5 or 6 O'clock in the morning til midnight.

Carrying A Backpack in the Front
Carrying A Backpack in the Front | Source


The pickpockets are mostly very skillful. They also tend to target foreigners more. It would be wise to carry your bag or belongs in front, not on your back. It is also a good idea to bring a thin waist bag so that you can put all of your money in the waist bag under your shirt. Whenever you're walking or standing, be aware of the people behind you. Never leave your belongs unattended.

Cleaning A Toilet
Cleaning A Toilet | Source

Public Restrooms

Although some of the upscale restaurants in tourist spots have seated toilets, most of the public restrooms don't. You have to squad down when you need to do your business and might have to wash down the waste yourself. Always remember to bring your own tissue paper because most restrooms don't provide it.

A Private Room at A Restaurant in China
A Private Room at A Restaurant in China | Source


Smoking in China is still very common. You will see people smoke almost everywhere in public places. Luckily some of the popular tourist spots, such as the Chinese Folk Culture Village in ShenZhen, have started enforcing non-smoking areas. Some restaurants also offer private rooms with a fee if you ask for a non-smoking section. We usually would pay extra more for a private room so that we wouldn't have to deal with the smoke and noise created by other diners.

Tricking Foreigners

If you don't look like an Asian, you need to be extra caution when people in China approach you super friendly and say they want to practice English with you. Do not fall in their trap by following them to places that you have no intention to.


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    • profile image

      missirupp 3 years ago

      I lived in China for four months, and although I'm happy to be home, I still love reading about others who lived there. My only real accomplishment was learning to cross their streets. I try to explain to people it was like that old game Frogger. Good times.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image

      ExpectGreatThings 5 years ago from Illinois

      All of this list makes me smile with memories of China - well, except the smoking. You have done a great job of highlighting the differences in our cultures. I remember on the trains you could see through the squatty potty hole to the tracks beneath. It was such a weird feeling!

    • profile image

      eslinsider 5 years ago

      Good advice. There's a lot of those people who want to "learn English" around Nanjing Rd. in Shanghai. The cutting got pretty annoying. One of the first things that I learned how to say was no MSG, "bu yao weijing." Not sure I spelled that right^^.

    • danielmcbane profile image

      Daniel McBane 5 years ago from Berlin

      I always loved when there's a 'no smoking' sign on a bus and directly beneath it the bus driver is smoking...

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Thank you everyone for your support. :)

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Wonderful hub! My mom and sister went to China in the late 1980's and found it quite interesting.

      I'm sharing this. Great Job, Kitty!

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      Some great advice, especially about the food. I have an allergy to MSG and would need to watch what I was eating. China is a fascinating country and I really enjoyed your hub.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Wow - I am thinking, "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!" Such a different culture. I'd heard about the toilets, but not some of the other things you mentioned. Thanks for the excellent tips on how to prepare for a trip to China! Voted up and up.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      That tip about taking your own toilet paper is especially useful - it would not even have crossed my mind until you mentioned it.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi there, I really enjoyed your hub. It's funny how many of the things would apply to big Italian cities too, like Rome or Naples.

      Great information, voted up and useful. :)

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Great hub! Don't know if I'll ever go to China, but these basic tips would be really useful! Good job.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Kittyjj, when I read the title I thought to myself; I need to know some things since I'll be visiting my daughter in China in December.

      But as I read further down I saw that these are the very things that are rampant in my country as well.

      You did a great job of writing this hub for the benefit of the westerners who may not be aware of these things when they visit certain countries in Asia.

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Also shared.