Before Coming To China
Coming to China can be a bit daunting and confusing, especially if you don’t know anyone who has done it before. Here are 10 things Hutong School students wish they knew before coming to China.
Stepping off the plane and into China is like stepping into a new planet. Don’t panic if you arrive to the city and your first couple of weeks are a complete haze of disorientation and trying to find your way.
Take your time figuring out how to get around, where to find your comfort foods and which cafe to make your watering hole. Remember, the friends you meet probably went through the exact same thing when they first arrived. Soon, you’ll find comfort in new friends, foods and sights. After a few weeks, you’ll feel completely at home here and find that its much more Western than you had anticipated.
Chinese grocery stores and local restaurants are all cheap in comparison to the western prices you might be used to. However, if you’re looking for a comfort food from home or want to go shopping at Western stores, be prepared to shell out more money than you would expect.
Going to a market? Bring a friend with you who has been before so you don’t overpay for a certain item. The skill of bargaining is a very useful one and you are sure to become a master at it in no time while living in China.
There are many apps to use to find the right apartment (check out apps like SmartShanghai – frequently used by foreigners in Shanghai) but know that rent prices are high and standards will not be up to par. Again – don’t freak out and take your time. Ask around before committing to an apartment to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off and your landlord isn’t throwing in extra fees.
Prepare to feel famous. Whether you’re at a touristic sight or on the metro, people will stare at you. Not the occasional glance or 3 second stare down. No no, a full on, 5 stop long stare. While this is probably something you aren’t accustomed to at home, try not to react when people do it here. As with most things in China, everything that is rude to you isn’t to them.
Okay, so there’s wifi everywhere but make sure you know that most social media sites and Google related sites cannot be accessed. Download a VPN prior to your arrival so you can access your beloved apps but be prepared to become extremely patient. Internet isn’t always the fastest thing here but you’ll still be able to function, don’t worry.
Taking the subway at rush hour is hell on earth for anyone that doesn’t enjoy feeling like a sardine. From the second the doors open, you will be pushed into the stream of people trying to squeeze onto the metro. Faces pressed up against the doors are not an uncommon sight, so make sure to plan your metro rides carefully if this sounds like a nightmare to you.
Honestly, snails go faster. Hold on for dear life and wear a seatbelt in taxis. Accidents rarely occur, its the most amazing feat of organized chaos you will ever see. Walking through the metro or on the street might test your patience once again. Whether they’re just going for a slow stroll or they have their face glued to the screens of their phones, they surely aren’t winning a gold medal in speed walking. Get ready to become a pro at zipping through crowds.
Whether you are studying or following an internship, time will fly by at warp speed. Once you’re home, it will have felt like you blinked and it was over. I repeat: Take your time. Enjoy your time here and don’t spend too much time focusing on the negative. Bad days come with any experience. Feeling homesick and can’t wait to go home? That’s fine, China definitely isn’t for everyone, but enjoy your friends and try not to focus on counting down the days. Join in on our activities during the week to get a better understanding of the Chinese culture!
During your stay, you might encounter a few things that dumbfound you. How do they hold a squat for that long? Why is that one nail longer than their finger? And what is up with stinky tofu?
By the time you leave you might not have an answer to all of your questions. Some things are better to be left as they are and not to be understood.
Alright, you’ve been warned. You might fall completely, head over heels in love with the city you’re in or China as a whole. Extending classes, internships or moving on and finding a full-time job is not uncommon here and we would love to see you stay.