1 – Install a VPN
A VP-What? You may ask. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network aka magic that will make blocked websites such as Facebook, Youtube, the NYT available to you in mainland China.
On MAC and PCs, most of the reliable VPNs are not free. We recommend Astrill. With prices ranging from little as $5.83 to $9.98 per month with plans ranging from 3 months to 1 year. It’s a fast and reliable VPN which even displays the upload and download speed.
Also, do not forget your phones! As we are consuming most of our media on the go, it is important to install those VPNs on your cell phone before you arrive in China. Try Onavo Protect (free) for IOS and VPN unlimited (Android)
2 - Fight the language barrier
Everything will be different! The signs on the street, the price tags in supermarkets and even letters in your mailbox! Don’t miss out on anything and install a dictionary on your phones. Make sure you have enabled Chinese Pinyin keyboard and Chinese Writing keyboard in your phone settings and indulge yourself in the Chinese language. It is truly mesmerising. We highly recommend Pleco which will also allow you to save and organise new words and even test yourself on them! A great app on both IOS and Android.
Start your China immersion with social media! Download WeChat aka Weixin 微信. It is a cross over between Whatsapp and Facebook. A very communication tool that everyone use in China! It will help you a lot meeting new friends.
Also, if you can, business cards are always a handy thing to have. It is very common to exchange them when you first meet someone. Please remember to receive and give your business card with two hands, thumbs facing the sky.
4 – Eating customs
As non-obvious as it may sound, make sure you know how to use chopsticks before coming to China. Little cantine and street food will certainly not cater for forks and knifes lovers. Also, it is not impolite to sip your soup loudly! So don’t be too surprised! ;)
5 – Taking the taxi
Very few taxi drivers speak English. Make sure to give the nearest intersection name rather than the full address to the taxi. For example, if you would like to go to do your grocery shopping at the Avocado Lady on Wulumuqi Road, you have to tell the taxi first the road where you want to go here Wulumuqi Road and the nearest intersection Wuyuan Road. So, you would say: Wulumuqi Lu/Wuyuan Lu and that’s enough for the taxi to depart! Oh yeah Lu = Road in Chinese.
6 – Stay safely hydrated
Water is non-potable in China. Make sure you always buy water bottles. It is very easy to find and cheap! Also, when you ask for tap water at the restaurant, you will most likely end up with hot water which is safe but also healthy to drink according to Chinese sayings.
7 – Road Safety
Although this is pretty obvious, there are some uncommon features of Chinese road customs. For instance, when you are on a pedestrian crossing and the little man turned green, be aware that vehicles at any intersection will always have the possibility to turn right despite being faced by a red light. More than ever, look both sides before engaging on the road.
8 – You might miss…
… deodorant and tampons. Make sure you stock up on those items, as they don’t really exist for the wider public. Moreover they are a weeny bit more expensive in China.
9 – Survival phrases
我要这个 = wo yào zhège = I want this.
Please also use your fingers to point to the stuff you want.
不要／要＝bùyāo/yāo = I don’t want / I want
不要辣＝bùyāo là = I don’t want spicy (very useful if you don’t want to eat spicy food)
10 – Open your eyes
Don’t forget that you are coming to China to experience another culture. You will be truly amazed by where curiosity can take you. Despite the language barrier, it is possible to meet native Chinese and become good friends with them. Remain open.