Travelling to China is one of the ultimate ways to get a cultural education. With over 400 million people, the Chinese are not only one of the largest and most popular tourism destinations in the world, but they also had an impressive performance in the Beijing Olympics this summer. With more than 700 million people going to the shops and restaurants everyday, the locals are so knowledgeable that you will leave feeling part of their family and culture. Having grown up in a Western culture, I think the first time traveling to China is always the most challenging. Here are a few tips on how to have a smooth trip.
Eat Together In A Restaurant
In the Western world, the dining experience is set up in a way to start with a special vegetarian dish and end with more decadent options. In China, the dinner table is set up in a different way. Any special dishes are your one time special, and then it’s up to you to decide how you can save for the appetizers, soups and entrées. If you can afford to, try to eat out in a restaurant with a couple of your compatriots and see what kind of meal you can make from the dinner menu. Don’t be afraid to ask around about the prices for quality options. A few dollars extra is almost a small price to pay for the most authentic eating experience. If you can’t make it out for dinner, then either you can always grab some rice with your dinner and enjoy a bowl of tea at the local restaurant or enjoy some dim sum. The best part is they don’t even try to charge you any extra for eating rice with your dinner.
Cantonese is such a fascinating language that you can really feel the culture with each word you hear. You can do so by learning the basics like saying 薄葜村均 and 票被司我参说 before you speak it. You can also learn of the songs, dances and Chinese poetry. Know that this language is seen as a little bit difficult and that’s why it has forayed into having academies to help people. People want to hear just how to say “Welcome”, “Ta La La”, “Wang Fu”, “Ji La La” and even “Ai Ning Ju”. Don’t try to speak the entire language while you are walking around, however, it helps to get a sense of the culture while in Beijing and Shanghai.
Shop In China
I have always wanted to be a shopaholic. However, the process of buying things has been both terrifying and exciting in China. When purchasing something, you have to navigate your way through Hong Kong stores, shops and malls that provide antiques and local curios. I find myself always asking when the next supplies are in the door because not everything has a clearance sale. The goods in China are truly incredible, so if you can then go home and begin shopping for your family you will be ahead of the game.
Make Sure You Know When To Go To Church
Unlike most parts of the world, the service in Beijing is a week long and lasts longer because of the large crowds. The number of worshippers within a single service can be over 2,000 and most people feel they are surrounded by family when they are in Beijing. Going to the church is not about the preaching or telling people about Jesus, but about simply being able to unite with family and companions who all wanted to be there as well. The thing I always knew to watch for were crowds in the entrance and out the back door. This is where people are hustling and fighting to get inside the church in order to say a prayer. It’s important to find out the time of services to avoid the hustle and bustle. Also, since the people work all day for prices that are impossible to obtain in the West, you can’t just expect the church to remain free all day. Prepare to pick up a bit of currency to start your experience. The churches are accessible to most people because they are everywhere, but making sure you bring something inside and have something to put on top of your head is the best way to start with. There are no expensive souvenirs from China, so save that for after you have departed.