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10 Basic Things to Know When Visiting China
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.