China; the grandeur imagery of red and gold silky decoration lining the cobbled streets, and the traditional Chinese dizi flute music following you as a soundtrack to exploring the epic, never-ending Great Wall. Sounds wonderful, right? Well, after spending a year in China, reality becomes very different, in a way which makes you want to pack your things and go there, right now!
Here are 6 things that guidebooks may forget to mention in their description of the oldest civilisation on Earth.
1- You may have to run alongside a bus, just to get on it.
Sometimes you could be stood, waiting for a bus, and be the only person there. Suddenly, a couple of seconds before the bus arrives, hundreds of people start running for the same bus, alongside it before it stops, just so they can get on. Once on the bus, however, it may be necessary to stand on a few people or with your face squashed up against the front window.
2- Don’t pretend you’re an expert in Mandarin if you really have no clue
When living or visiting a small village or town in China, sometimes there may be no English version of the menu in a particular cafe or restaurant. The key to a successful life is to learn the essentials; Chicken, Beef and Pork, so as not to get caught out with goose or tongue or even cat! I once had a friend who said she recognised the symbols, and ordered what she thought was a chicken soup. Out it came, and it turned out to be a sheep brain soup- ew!
3- Be prepared for photos, followers and people staring at your shopping trolley
If you ever want to live a celebrity lifestyle, live in China. As I lived in a very small village, I was the first foreigner to ever step foot there and I was therefore the literal talk of the town. People would find out where I lived and come and bring me cakes in the morning, and people would hand me their babies as if I were some goddess with magic powers. I once went to work and was asked if I enjoyed my food shop, my response was a puzzled face, as photos had been plastered over their social media of a westerner with chocolate in her basket- ha, ha. Not only this, but many people would just follow me around shops or the street, just to get a picture with me; annoying after the first 50!
4- Life is beyond what you can ever imagine
Life in China is different. Different in every aspect, and different in mentality. It is impossible to prepare yourself for living in China, even if you have lived in South East Asia before, as it is completely different to any way of life I have ever witnessed. It is wonderful and innocent, naive yet peaceful. Working in a school showed me the innocence of the almost-adults, how they wanted to meet the man of their dreams and be swept off their feet, like a fairytale; how the girls are so insecure about how their height will affect the rest of their lives, and how competitive it is because there are so many people aiming for the same thing. I loved my year there, but it made me appreciate the freedom we have, so much more; China is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world and it is sometimes difficult for its people to keep up.
5- Buy a VPN
In order to access pages such as Facebook, Twitter, or real-life google, you will need to buy something called a VPN, which tunnels your internet so it believes you are accessing the internet from another country. Sometimes they are free, but these ones obviously are not so good, or you can buy them for 6 months to a year for a small price. If you search for a term such as ‘Tiananmen Square’ with your VPN on, so it looks as though you are in the US, the images that come up are completely different to the picture if you turn off your VPN, and use a Chinese network; crazy!
6- Enjoy it, because it’s probably not forever
Life in China has its ups and downs; being the only foreigner, being completely lost in translation, and sometimes being lonely. The most important thing to do when staying for a long period of time in one place, is to enjoy it, because it is probably not forever. If it is, then obviously the choice has been made because you love it. China is an accumulation of everything you have learnt in life, but backwards, but as long as you are respectful of their attitudes and culture, and appreciate just how its rich history has shaped the world, then you are sure to have an unforgettable time. Make as many friends as possible; they are sure to invite you to make handmade noodles, and see as much of the most fascinating landscapes and cities that China has to offer. It is a great place to earn and save money, and so close to so many other beautiful countries that it’s not hard to see why more and more westerners and flocking to China, year upon year.
For more information regarding life in China, visit the Travel China GuideTweet