Wanderlust (tips): How to get the most out of your trip to China

It’s the last summer for me before I head off for college — the last summer where I’ll know, for sure, that I have time to head out and explore the world before I have to start working. Some things you just can’t see if you stay put. So take yourself, your camera and an open mind, and travel. I’ve been to China every summer for the past six years, but each time, you learn something new! 🙂

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Some things you just don’t know until you’re in China

  • Americans love tattooing Chinese words just as much as the Chinese love wearing English words on their shirts. And in both cases, they probably don’t actually know the word. So then, you get some people wearing cuss words on their shirts and others with the Chinese character for pig tattooed on their arm. Very artistic.
  • When you see the golden arches of McDonald’s or Colonel Sanders from KFC, don’t expect regular fast food. Mostly likely, the restaurant you enter has three floors, couches and a menu that includes French snails.
  • Beijing’s WangFuJing snack street has every sort of snack, ranging from scorpions to starfish. For the less brave, meat kebabs, sweets and coconut drinks are also available.
  • Fortune cookies are not a thing in China. They were invented in California. So was Panda Express.

Some Tips for Those Visiting China (or those who might do so twenty years from now)

  • Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times are blocked by the government.
  • If you happen to hear Frosty the Snowman or Jingle Bells playing loudly in the middle of the streets, MOVE. Do not mistake the sound for an ice cream truck, as there are no ice cream trucks in China. There are, however, an abundance of water trucks that spray water to keep the dust from flying up.
  • Bargain. Seeing that you’re a foreigner, merchants will generally overcharge you, but if you barter or pretend to walk away, you might receive a better offer. Merchants don’t want to keep their own merchandise, after all.
  • If you visit an area that’s not a hot tourist spot, be prepared to be stared at and asked for photographs and autographs. They’re just curious.
  • Crossing the streets requires talent, i.e. running across the street while trying not to get hit even though the walking signal is on. As a general rule, cross with a group of people. Chinese drivers are also very generous with their honking.
  • Think your parents are loud? Wait until you get to China. Never before have you seen so many people at one time, so many LOUD people at one time. Be prepared to shout and still have no one be able to hear you.
  • The communities in China are very close knit, and the friendliness extends far beyond the community. Most people are very hospitable and eager to help.
  • In China, don’t be afraid to try Chinese things. Put yourself out there, eat great food and have fun!
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