Even if you have been to China and you love the local cuisine and you’re learning the language, chances are, you still don’t quite understand what this country really is. Why do the Chinese need a long nail on their pinky? Why shouldn’t you stick chopsticks in rice? Do Chinese people think that they are polite? China is one of those countries that raises more questions the more you try to find out about it.
The Bright Side team decided to share some facts that you absolutely must know before you travel to China. We learned them from writer and traveler Aleksey Vinokurov, as well as from our own experience living abroad.
1. We’ve all heard that in China, people believe that a boy is a gift from heaven and a girl is a humiliation. Maybe this attitude still exists in some villages but in large cities, a child’s gender doesn’t matter that much. But China is still very patriarchal: the older generation still sees women as housewives and wives, and many fathers have a prejudice about their daughters getting degrees (the worst case scenario is going abroad) and building their careers.
2. Chinese men love taking care of themselves and they don’t hide it. Again, this is true mostly for the young generation. Men eagerly use all kinds of perfumes, they get super-trendy hairstyles, they dye their hair, and put a lot of time and money into their wardrobe. Some people believe that the Chinese adopted this from South Korea which is known to be very fixated on beauty and fashion. The difference between 2 Chinese men of different generations is amazing: adult men barely care about their clothes, let alone hairstyles and facial creams.
3. What’s the reason why the Chinese are changing their appearance so much? It’s simple: appearance is the first thing that shows how wealthy you are and a high income is the dream of any Chinese person. In fact, this is what unites the Chinese fathers and sons. The only difference is that young people want to be in shape, following the European standards, and an adult Chinese man is completely fine with showing his belly and letting everyone know that he eats well and can afford to have a few extra pounds.
4. A long nail on the little finger often confuses Europeans, but it’s really clear for the Chinese. This is another way of showing everyone that this person doesn’t do any physical work for a living. No, their days are comfortable and their intelligence is their main working tool.
5. It doesn’t matter if the Western people are polite or not — they are definitely very attractive. It’s because they have big eyes and pale skin. The nationality doesn’t matter, what matters is that you look “European” so you can be on the cover of a fashion magazine.
6. People here are okay with foreigners doing something unusual: they are “Western,” after all. By the way, showing off cleavage is considered to be much more inappropriate than a short skirt. The same goes for excessive makeup. Chinese women either don’t wear any makeup or have very little of it.
7. You’ve probably heard about all kinds of crazy things in China, so here is one more: they boil eggs in urine. This recipe is called Virgin boy eggs and it’s very simple: a bucket of urine is collected from boys under the age of 10. The eggs cooked this way are approximately 4 times more expensive than regular eggs, so they are considered to be a delicacy.
8. It’s very hard for a Western person in China not to overestimate themselves and the reason isn’t just that they are considered to be very attractive. People in China give compliments very often, so even if you know only one Chinese word, they will tell you that your Chinese is perfect. And your clothes are great. And your new haircut looks fantastic.
9. The Chinese have their own terms for people with dark skin. If you speak the local language, don’t be surprised if you hear an expression “coffee person.” Most likely, they are talking about a black person they know.
10. The Chinese love to drink and they can do it well. Mostly, they prefer beer that they buy in boxes for parties. By the way, alcohol and cigarettes are sold even to teenagers. However, it’s almost impossible to see a drinking or a smoking child here: local children just don’t do that.
11. In addition to the previous point, be ready to see a child of any age at a bar. No, of course, kids don’t go to bars to relax after a failed math test. It’s just that their parents are probably meeting their friends or relatives. And again, Chinese children show no interest in alcohol.
12. Another example of an Eastern miracle is the roads: rules are constantly broken and pedestrians are not treated as part of the road, but the number of car crashes is somehow ridiculously small. Chinese drivers manage to avoid crashes and brake on time when they need to.
13. Ordinary Chinese people rarely speak English or any other foreign language. The exception can be students, the staff at expensive hotels, and people in really progressive cities, such as Hong Kong. Be ready to use your body language.
14. You can smoke anywhere. Even in a supermarket while picking out groceries.
15. It’s better not to touch anyone — the Chinese don’t like that. Handshakes are common only among the people who are used to working with foreign people and are familiar with their culture. If someone gives you a business card, try to take it and put it in your wallet as carefully as you can since business cards symbolize people, so you should respect them to show your respect toward the person.
16. If you accept an invitation from a Chinese person, for example, for lunch or even to visit their town, you should know that they are going to pay for you. If you argue with them, you will insult them. It’s better to be grateful for their hospitality and generosity.
17. Today, women make up about 5% of the total military staff. The army provides a great education, training, and career opportunities, so it’s very popular among young Chinese women. Almost all female soldiers serve in traditional roles as nurses and military support personnel. Just look at these charming soldiers!
18. This is a delicate issue, but a really important one: in public toilets, toilet paper (if there is any) is near the sinks. So, you should take some before you go into the toilet stall.
19. Many people think that the Chinese are impolite, and we can see why people think so: they constantly push each other, don’t wait in lines and act as if nobody else exists. Forget about apologies and accept that the people standing behind you can just lean on you. They say that they know it looks strange to a foreign person, but foreigners haven’t lived in such a densely populated country. There are too many people in China. You will never take a seat on a bus if you keep thinking about being polite. It’s hard not to believe them when you see such a photo from an entry exam to an art school.
20. When you go to a typical Chinese cafe, remember: there are no forks. Even if a meal with chopsticks is a challenge for you, never do the following:
- Don’t stick the chopsticks in rice (unless you’re at a funeral);
- Don’t put chopsticks on the table;
- Don’t point at people with chopsticks — it’s an insult;
- Don’t beat chopsticks on your teeth or bowl — this action is an indication of bad manners;
- Don’t take food with the wrong end of chopsticks (it’s hard to confuse, but still);
- It’s relatively fine if you stick a piece of food and try to get it to your mouth.
No matter how hard it is for you, remember that your effort will impress your Chinese friends.
21. In China, pajamas are not just for bedtime. More and more people wear pajamas to business meetings, dinners, and walks. It’s great that they can wear the clothes they feel comfortable in and not be ashamed.
We are sure that those who love China and often travel there have their own list of things everyone should know before visiting. Some rules might be true for the northern part of China and big cities and not true for the southern part and small towns. We tried to find the most universal information and we are looking forward to reading your stories in the comment section below!