For foreign tourists visiting China for the very first time, the country can seem like an amazing yet alien place. Whether you know a lot about Chinese culture or haven’t the foggiest, research still doesn’t prepare you for the culture shocks you’ll encounter on your travels.
As a leading provider of the best Trans-Siberian experiences, we take travellers to and through China’s most mesmerising and beautiful destinations.
Our journeys help you discover the very best cities, towns, and villages, as well as explore the rugged rural side of this remarkable country.
Wherever it is your journey takes you, Chinese culture shocks can be difficult to handle. Here we take you through five culture shocks to expect and, more importantly, how to deal with them.
1. The crowds
At last count, China’s population was over 1.4 billion, so it’s safe to say you’ll expect crowds when visiting the country’s congested cities and towns. Nothing quite prepares you for the reality of facing that many people in person, however.
Personal space is indeed a luxury in China, especially when travelling by subway. Unlike in the majority of big cities, locals aren’t shy about encroaching on that buffer space that’s usually reserved by Westerners in public spaces. In most circumstances, you won’t receive an “excuse me” or “sorry” if someone bumps into you, which can be hard to handle for tourists.
The solution? Unfortunately, the only solution here is to accept that the crowds are something you have to face during your time in China. Instead, fight for your position, particularly if you find yourself in a queue.
2. The food
Authentic Chinese food isn’t the cuisine you enjoy at your local Chinese restaurant or takeaway. Most of the Chinese food you eat back home actually originates from the west coast of the United States, which may leave you shocked by traditional Chinese menus.
The solution? Embrace the weird and wonderful when sampling Chinese food. You may recognise a few familiar dishes but be prepared to expect the unexpected.
3. The bathrooms
The toilets may not be up to the standard you have at home, but that’s not the biggest issue for foreign tourists using Chinese bathrooms. Whilst you may find Western toilets in shopping malls and selected restaurants, the squat design is widely used throughout China. Toilet paper and hand-washing facilities may also be unavailable.
The solution? Take your own tissue and hand sanitiser everywhere you go. How you dress can also make a huge difference when using Chinese bathrooms as Dig Mandarin explains:
“If you haven’t heard about it, one of the first things that foreigners notice as they come to China are the toilets, where you squat instead of sitting on the seat. It is a strange concept for most westerners to see a hole in the floor and do their business squatting since western toilets have seats. It is an adjustment for people visiting since they are not used to squatting but is quick to become used to given the amount of practice you will have while visiting China.”
4. The etiquette
Getting to grips with the local customs of any new country is tricky. In China, there are a number of dos and don’ts, particularly when dining out. Pointing with one finger is also frowned upon. The solution? Brush up on your Chinese etiquette before you go. Get started with our handy guide.
5. The status
As a foreign tourist, you may get more attention than you might think when travelling in China, especially if you are blonde or fair-skinned. The locals may even stare or point at you, but don’t be offended.
The solution? Embrace your local celebrity status throughout your trip, you may even be asked to pose for a few photographs!