Disclaimer: None of these things listed here are written to present China in a bad light. I left my heart in China and it is an utterly beautiful country that I can’t wait to explore further in the future. To be honest, I didn’t have that much of a culture shock when I arrived in Mainland China. Still, there were some things I had to get used to, and some of these things were a little bit strange, up to disturbing :’D
And they are:
1. All these shiny, new cars:
Yes, you heard right. The first culture shock for me were all these cars I haven’t even seen in Germany before. And I live in Stuttgart, the birthplace of Mercedes. I guess I was just so shocked because I didn’t expect such modern cars from a rather small town (1 Mio. citizens, still a small town in China). It was the first time I saw Lexus cars, Buicks, Maseratis and Jaguars. I even saw some Bentleys cruising through the bustling, small streets of Yuyao :’D
Well, not exactly like this, but almost :’D
2. The Spitting:
Oh my, this one is serious. I have read something about that before I arrived in China. My friend gave me a China book as a goodbye present and it was really interesting. They also explained the spitting and why it is so important for many people in China to do that. It is a way to clean your throat and your lungs from all the phlegm inside your body that can cause you to have a sickness later. I can understand that, but I don’t understand why they do it in public :’D It was the only thing I couldn’t get used to when in China.
3. The smells:
Be it from incense smells to the pungent smell of stinky tofu: You can detect fragrances you have never smelled before.
On my first day, the first thing I noticed were the different smells I wasn’t used to, mainly from restaurants. Of course, chinese cuisine is so different from german or turkish one. The way food is sometimes cooked in chinese restaurants can be healthy, but also very oily. The first restaurant I went to with two friends was a fish restaurant. They had a lot of seafood. I love seafood, but that day, I lost my appetite because of the strange oily and fishy smell. On my first day in China I didn’t eat much. I still had to get used to the different smells and tastes. But I quickly got used to it and soon devoured everything on the table :’D
4. The cockroaches:
Well, I guess this is something you have to expect when travelling to East Asian, South Asian or South-east Asian countries. What I didn’t expect, though was to find them almost anywhere: They sneek in into your stairwell, on the streets in front of shops, sometimes they will be in juice shops or restaurants and we even had one sneak into the office :'( It was huge and I was alone in the office. I screamed and ran out and all my students looked at me amusedly :’D Someone came and killed it with a broom (number 1 tool to kill a cockroach in China :’D)
[I didn’t want to put a picture of a cockroach in here, so you have something fun to laugh about, and maybe some inspiration for funny christmas presents]
5. Kids and men peeing in public:
Well, obviously, the kids don’t only pee but also poo in public :’D Many laowais (foreigners) seem to be disturbed by this, but I actually found it very funny, especially the kids with the slit in their pants :’D That was so hilarious! Maybe that’s because I love kids, especially the ones in China since they are so chubby <3
The reason for this, I think is to prevent the kids getting rashes from cheap diapers, since I don’t think that everyone in China can afford expensive brand diapers. And I think this makes totally sense.
Still, I have this one experience I will never forget. I was on the plane in Hong Kong, when we got news that 2 passangers wanted to leave the plane. Because of that, we were standing still in a plane, trapped there for 2 hours. Sitting next to me were a mother with her child and he was crying all the time. He obviously had to poo but the toilets were always filled. So she just grapped her kid by his legs, spread them and made him poo into his pants/diapers or whatever he was wearing underneath. I was happy he wasn’t wearing one of these slit in the pant ones :’D Anyway, the plane stank like sh*t the whole time and it was probably my worst flight ever, later trying to land inside of a Taifun. I seemed like the only one freaking out since everyone around me in the plane looked so freaking chill.
Other than this incident, I really don’t care where kids are peeing or pooing. What bothers me more is when I walk past a grown man in a parc or by the river, obviously peeing into the bushes. Sometimes they aren’t even trying to hide it.
I kind of feel like chinese people like to show themselves naked.
If you wanna go to China (or probbly most of other asian countries), prepare yourself to get touched by strangers. Usually, it is the elder people who are not as educated as the younger ones and have no problems with physical contact. To be honest, I don’t really mind it as long as it is not violent, and most of the time it is not. But I just feel weird when they touch you (let’s say your arm or your hair) and then look at you like you came from a different planet and then they (if it is a group) start grinning and laughing and say something in chinese :’D
Another thing that foreigners are annoyed by is the photographing experience. Expect to suddenly become very famous in China (or any other asian country), since most of the people have never seen a white person in real life. Therefore, a bunch of people will ask you if they can take pictures with you. It can be really funny, but especially when you are a traveller as well, it will take up some of your precious sight-seeing time. Still, it can be a whole different experience and I can only advise you to try it out if the possibility is offered to you :)
What you have to be more careful of are crowds and being pushed and dragged. This can actually be very dangerous and people in China do not shy away from pushing strangers. With this, you also have to be careful of bacteria. It makes a lot of sense wearing a face masks when going into crowds, because there will definitely be some sneezing on you without covering their mouth :/
7. The pollution:
Well, it wasn’t really as bad as I had expected it, especially not where I was living which is the east of China, close to Shanghai. Still, I got really bad skin when living in China and we had some serious smog days in December, after Christmas from the 25th – 27th. I woke up in the morning and started crying. It was horrible. I couldn’t see the apartment building in front of me.
Still, if you tavel to China don’t stress about the pollution that much. It is not as serious as shown on tv. I went to Beijing in March and I had the most perfect blue sky on the Great Wall.
Still, I would maybe not try to go to China in Winter, especially in December it is pretty bad.
Fortunately, I have never seen Shanghai THAT smoggy. We had some smoggy days when we went there at the beginning of February, but it wasn’t that bad actually. It rather looked like a low cloud or fog.
8. The streets:
Actually, I imagined the streets to be worse. In main streets, especially shopping streets and tourist areas, the streets are even cleaner and more modern than in Germany. But I was living in a rather small town for chinese standards, and most of the time you really have to take care where you are stepping on. Especially in summer, it gets really disgusting, with all the rain. I once walked into a loose pavement stone and found myself ankle deep in black, dirty rain water. At least I thought it was rain water. I was just hoping it was not water from the drain.
So, with this said, be careful where you step on!
This post won’t prevent you from having a culture shock, neither of the things I listed here, nor of some other things I haven’t regarded as shocking as other people have (e.g. the traffic, the loud speaking, or the squat toilets which I was used to from Turkey). Still, I think culture shocks belong to a full experience of a new country. Without them, something is missing and it will broaden your mind for sure.
I love remembering my reactions to all the different culture shocks listed here. And how is that saying:
“If you don’t love me with all my flaws, you don’t deserve me with all my perfections.”
I guess this fits perfectly into China or any other country you are travelling to, and experiencing some majoy culture shock.