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The “Survival Handbook for Expats in China” [Copy link] 中文

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As everyone knows, foreigners gain many advantages by living in China. However, from the moment they first step onto Chinese soil, foreigners will experience a great deal of culture shock from a lifestyle that they are used to. Eating habits, lining up, the bathroom… everything about their new life in China will have a “shock factor”. Even people like Julien who have acclimatized to China will be at a loss towards what they should do.
Therefore, this led to the emergence of an English book entitled “Survival Handbook for Expats in China”. Written by an American to help foreigners find their way in China, it received its first printing in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics and a subsequent second printing in 2011. This book is what saved foreigners by “pulling them out of the fire” with the following advice…

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1) In China, toilet paper must be provided by yourself

From the moment you leave the plane, you will be dazzled by the newly constructed, spacious Chinese airport. A blink of the eye will have you believing you are still in San Francisco or Denver; however, please take five minutes of your time to visit the washroom and you will return back to reality.

Reality in China means a bathroom with no toilet paper. Even though there is a receptacle that resembles a toilet paper dispenser, it is always empty. This is because the moment that free toilet paper is provided to the public, it will be completely pilfered by the same people who use the washroom.

As the survival handbook states, the fact remains that washrooms do in fact have toilet paper, but it is often located at the entrance to the washroom. That’s why you must remember to take a piece of toilet paper before entering the washroom.

What do you do if you forget? Here’s an example of someone who encountered this problem before: a foreign woman in a washroom cried out pitifully, “There doesn’t seem to be any toilet paper in here; can someone go get me some?” Outside the stall stood at least 15 women waiting in line to use the toilet, but no one paid any attention to her.

The washroom at the airport is considered to be high end. Aside from this situation at the airport, you will encounter an endless slew of difficulties regarding washrooms. The vast majority of washrooms do not provide any toilet paper, hand dryers or soap; some provide hand dryers, but on the other hand do not have any toilet paper nor soap. Additionally, squat toilets are very common in China whereas Americans are more accustomed to “sitting-style” toilets.

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2) Don’t speak with drivers of “black cabs”

After going to the washroom and carrying out your luggage, you can go out and call for a ride.

The explanation in the survival handbook is very simple: in China, the majority of cities have still not yet constructed a subway system. This makes the experience of using buses to be one that is so crowded, you’re not even able to find your own foot. As well, the cost of using taxis in China is much less expensive than using cabs in China.

There is a long line of people waiting for a taxi at the airport. It is at this time that some friendly people may come up and ask you, “Hey brother, which way are you going?” You may want to accept these offers and save some time from standing in line, but that will be the end of you.

These are the legendary “black cabs” that operate illegally in China. They will ask for fares that are sky-high. These drivers will brazenly ask for several hundred Yuan for a trip that would normally cost around 100 Yuan.

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3) Please stick close to the person ahead of you

“There are too many people in China.” Throughout your entire trip you will always hear these same words from everyone; from taxi drivers to university professors, all Chinese people will incessantly repeat these same words.

That’s why it’s so common to see long queues in China.

Remember that in any given situation, you can’t keep holding onto the hope that the person standing in front of you will always be the person in front of you. Very quickly you will learn that although you have been arduously maintaining a distance of one inch from the person ahead of you, countless people will appear from out of nowhere to try to cram into this one inch of space you have provided. No kidding; this is called “cutting the queue”.

So, please stick close to the person in front of you. You should be so close that you can tell if the person ahead of you has washed or not that morning.

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4) Many Chinese hotels have the same English name

At present, China has a great deal of four- and five-star rated hotels. To find a comfortable place to stay overnight is not difficult so long as you’re willing to pay for it. However, refrain from using the English name of your hotel as your means for getting back to your room. The English names of hotels and stores in China are severely lacking in creativity; several hotels with completely different Chinese names will often have the same English name.

You must remember that in China, so-called “five-star” hotels are the equivalent to three- and four-star hotels back in the USA while Chinese “four-star” hotels are the same as US two- or three-star hotels… and so on and so forth. If a Chinese hotel is rated at one-star, you might as well just go to sleep in the street.

At the hotel, do you just want to take a quick shower and then roll around in bed? No, don’t. You should first look around. In China, hotels can sometimes look proper from the outside, but have all sorts of problems once you are inside. You should first have a look around at everything from the air conditioner to the hot water heater. If the hotel does not provide a bathrobe, you should call the front desk and request one.

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5) Standard rate of discount is 1/5 to 1/10 of the quoted price

In China, the standard rate of discount is 1/5 to 1/10 of the quoted price. Cutting prices so much is a great feeling and is something you will absolutely miss once your time is up here.

Whenever you inadvertently stumble into a souvenir shop at some scenic location and casually tell the shop keeper, “I’m only just looking around,” for whatever unknown reason these shop keepers will take this to mean the tourist’s way of saying, “I have come into your shop, and so therefore need to happily pass two hours of haggling with you.”

If this takes place on the street, you may be restrained by the arm by the shop keeper at any time during the conversation in order to promote his wares. However, it is equally tiresome in malls and stores. Upon finding something you like, you need to get a receipt from a clerk, then go line up at a cashier that is located a great distance away to pay your money, and then finally come back to pick up your purchase. It may be that Chinese can never relax and permit one person to solely have the responsibility to perform the entire process.

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6) Never snatch the menu away from the waiter
If you are going to be discussing business with a Chinese person, it is likely that you will be invited out to dinner by them. Remember, you should never snatch the menu away from the waiter; this is because it signifies that you will be the one who will be paying the bill!

If your Chinese companion uses his or her own set of chopsticks to serve food to you, you shouldn’t worry—this is the way by which Chinese people honor their guests by providing them the best serving of food. As well, you must make a grandiose and exaggerated show of how delicious the food tastes.

Upon finishing the meal, you should leave a bit of food left over in your bowl—this is to signify that you have eaten your fill, and are not able to eat another bite. If you have eaten your bowl clean, the person treating you to dinner will think that you are still hungry and want to eat more food.

During business dinners, drinking alcohol is an activity that cannot be avoided. The host of the dinner will be the first person to make a toast. If someone pours wine for you, remember to drink after they are finished toasting you. It is the duty of the people sitting next to the host to pour wine for everyone; if you don’t want to drink too much, remember not to drink your glass empty or else it will quickly be refilled.

The survival handbook tells us that even conversation held during a banquet with Chinese people must involve “restrictions”. Politics is a topic that should be avoided, especially regarding sensitive subjects. The best topics to discuss are the modernization of China or the surprising and rapid growth of its economy, the rapid progress of its society as well as recent reforms. If you are lacking in knowledge in these areas of conversation, you should be alright so long as you keep praising China.
Source: wenxuecity

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