I’ve been missing China of late, which got me thinking of the things that I loved and learnt in the time I spent there. Here’s my top eight:
Chinese people prefer to drink warm water
I’ve asked many Chinese people why they opt for warm, as opposed to a nice refreshing glass of ice-cold water. The answer has invariably been “because it’s better for your health”, but I’ve never been given the exact reason why. According to traditional Chinese medicine, warm water can help to kick-start your digestive system and prevent muscle cramp. Mixing hot food and cold water can also cause an imbalance of temperatures, so it’s thought to be best to stick to warm water during mealtimes as well. I have to say, drinking room temperature over cold water has been one of the things I’ve taken away from my time in China!
You can count to ten on one hand
It seems so obvious when you think about it… every society should have a method to count to ten on one hand! Bag of shopping in one hand? No problem, here’s how to communicate using your spare hand:
Rice is (usually) served last
When you go out for a meal in China, rice is often served last after all of the meat and vegetables have reached the Lazy Susan. Rice and noodles are the filler after a big meal and the other tastier (and more expensive) dishes take precedence.
You can find green tea everything
Green tea toothpaste, ice cream, or my personal favourite, Kit Kat… you can find green tea just about anything in China! Would you give them a try?
Watch your lucky numbers
The first time I experienced unlucky numbers in China was when I noticed that many apartment blocks miss out floors that have ‘4’ in them (the pronunciation of ‘four’ in Chinese sounds like ‘death’). Therefore, floor 4 becomes floor 5 and the building may lose a few floors in height than those shown in a brochure. Some apartment blocks also miss out the number ‘13’, although that is something that has been passed on from Western superstition. The luckiest number in China is 8 as it sounds like ‘fortune’.
Zebra crossings are just for show
You’d be mistaken for thinking cars and motorbikes will stop for you as you look to cross a zebra crossing in China. I suspect it has something to do with the sheer volume of people in China, although I can’t be sure. If you stop for one person you might be waiting five minutes for another opportunity to drive on!
You can buy everything online and pay for everything on mobile
Mobile payment is huge in China, as is online shopping. On the biggest online shopping day in 2016 (Singles’ Day/Double 11/双十一), netizens spent an eyewatering 121bn yuan (£14bn) in just 24 hours on ecommerce platform Alibaba. 82% of those purchases were made by mobile phone! In China is isn’t uncommon for people to head out without their wallet or purse, because almost everything can be paid for through mobile on platforms such as WeChat Pay and Alipay. Be sure to look into them before your next trip!
Stray off the beaten track and take every opportunity to speak to people you meet
One last (big) tip if you’re heading to China: Learning Chinese will help people open up to you in conversation. You should also take every opportunity you can to stray off the beaten track. One of my favourite things to do when I spend time in China is take the slow night train to small towns like Pingyao and practice speaking Chinese with fellow passengers. If you’re lucky people might even teach you how to play Chinese card games such as Big Three – dà sān (SI/TR: 大三), or Fight the Landlord – dòu dizhǔ (SI: 斗地主 TR: 鬥地主).
There really is no place like China. If you’d like to contribute any things that you learnt on your trips, reach out on our social media channels! We love to hear from you.