The A-Z of My Experience in China

A- Affection

Public displays of affection are taken to a completely new level in China. The boyfriends, partners, and husbands in a Chinese relationship are generally quite feminine in comparison to those in any Western or European relationship. For example it would not be strange to see a man carrying his wife or girlfriend’s bag around for her even if the bag is the size of a tiny wallet! The Chinese men do not care about looking feminine or seeming to be under their partner’s control, they see it as a way to show they really care for and look after their better half!


B- Beijing Belly

Don’t be alarmed when you see a Chinese man standing or sitting anywhere with his shirt flipped up and a huge big belly being paraded about the place, this is very much a common practice. A naked belly protruding is perfectly acceptable and is in fact seen as a sign of living a good, wealthy lifestyle. This practice mostly occurs when the weather is very warm, instead of taking the entire shirt off men simply roll it up over their belly to cool themselves down.


C- Coughing/hocking noise

This is one of the most vile, disgusting sounds I’ve witnessed and will certainly never get used to. The first time I heard it I turned my head around in disgust to see that it was in actual fact a woman who had made the coughing noise, was she embarrassed? Absolutely not! Rather she smiled and was happy I had noticed her. In China this sound is quite common and is actually regarded as a sign of a healthy body, clearing out anything bad that may be caught in one’s airway.


D- Driving

Don’t. Driving in China is crazy!! The horn? It is not used in the same way which we are accustomed to using it, sparingly and usually to alert another driver or in times of danger. Instead Chinese drivers use the horn to announce they are coming so that pedestrians do not step off the path or to signal other drivers to move out of their way! When crossing the road, even if a light is green take a millionth check before stepping off the pavement as e-bikes are EVERYWHERE. Funny enough it’s the older generation on e-bikes who are the worst, they will not move for anyone!


E- Eating

What do the Chinese eat? The better question may be what don’t the Chinese eat? Every single part of the animal is fully used even down to the chicken feet and tallons. A walk through a Metro supermarket is quite a different experience in China compared to any other part of the world. You will see everything from intestines and livers to the tongues of animals on sale in the meat section. Another huge phenomenon in China is the ordering of food online and delivery right to the outside of dorms/houses/any building within minutes. You cannot walk too far in China without seeing food being prepared and sold on the side of the street or out of the front window of a family home. There is a belief in non Chinese citizens that eating streetfood can lead to being violently ill, in actual fact it is usually when you eat western types of food which aren’t prepared on a regular basis that causes illness to occur.


F- Face masks

Walking around in Beijing I wore a mask similar to the ones worn by surgeons and nurses in an operating theatre. It was particularly important to wear it on the days when the air pollution measured greater than 150 on the Air Pollution Index on the Airpocalypse App. The masks help to prevent the spread of germs and sickness, some of the more expensive masks have filters built into them in order to filter the polluted air before you inhale it.


G- Great Wall

The Great Wall in Beijing really is every bit as great as its name suggests! That is after the 1000’s of steps you have to climb before you actually get up onto the wall, but when you do, on a clear crisp day around February time (it’s way too sticky and crowded during summer) the views from the top are simply spectacular!


H-Hidden heels

The Chinese are obsessed with these shoes! Every pair of shoes from slippers to runners generally have a small not so hidden heel attached to them. This is purely to allow Chinese men and women, young and old, to seem and feel a couple of inches taller.


I-Index Fingernail

You may be completely taken aback the first time you see Chinese men with talon-like fingernails, I certainly was! It is a tradition within the Chinese culture for men to have very long index and thumb fingernails. Perplexed at this custom I asked a Chinese man on the train the reasoning behind growing his nails that long, he said it is viewed as a symbol of wealth within China. Having long fingernails means that you do not hold lower class, laborious jobs which require a very much hands on approach, thus long fingernails would get in the way.



When shopping in China either in the markets or even in the well-known high-street shops such as Zara, you may pick up a jumper thinking its a normal, plain jumper but on closer inspection you will find some form of graffiti, writing or quotes usually in English. I found this quite annoying when I actually just wanted a plain jumper, but the Chinese go crazy for all the patterns and writing all over their outfits!



Firstly it’s not even optional, to get a full Chinese experience you must attend a night at KTV. What is it though? Besides drinking too much alcoholic beverages and making a complete fool of yourself while summoning your inner Nicky Byrne from Westlife, its Karaoke TV. A concept where you and a group of colleagues, work or otherwise head to a building labelled ‘KTV’, inside you will be greeted and brought to usually a sitting room type room with a huge screen and projector and loads of couches. Here you can spend hours splitting your sides laughing, getting to know your friends even better and most importantly making your debut as a singer. One word of advice, adopt a strict no camera/video/phone policy, this allows everyone to fully relax and go for those high notes.


L- Liquids

If you’re sick? Drink liquids. If you’re warm/ cold? Drink liquids. If you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend/boyfriend? Drink liquids. The Chinese will always offer some form of liquid as the solution! If you go to any salon, friend’s house, restaurant or public place you will be offered a complimentary small cup of warm tea. A flask is the most common accessory worn by the Chinese with their everyday outfits. The flask can contain any type of tea from green to mint or fruit tea, to just boiling water with leaves and special flowers or herbs. You will usually find a boiling hot water tap outside every set of bathrooms where you can refill your flask.



The markets are a very different experience to anything you will have ever come across before. The Shanghai markets are made up of about 6 different floors, each floor has many stalls with similar types of products such as luggage and bags on one floor, silks and materials on another, clothes on another, gadgets on another and so on! It is quite a fantastic experience with each merchant trying to entice all of the foreigners into their shop.

Once you step foot into their shop get ready for a game, a bargaining game, where majority of the time if you play correctly you the shopper will win, but it will not come without about 15 minutes of arguing and negotiating. There is a method to the madness, firstly say you see a very authentic looking Louis Vuitton “Alma”, do a quick round of all the stalls and see where you can find the best price and quality. Having found the right one get into character and get ready to put up a fight, also decide on the highest amount you are willing to pay and have exactly that amount in your wallet.

Walk in and look at the bag again and ask the merchant what their lowest price would be, act shocked at what they quote and pretend like you do not want the bag at all! Then a few minutes later persuasively ask for a “friend price”, usually they will go lower than previously stated, still act shocked, here they will ask you what you are willing to pay, say a good bit lower than what you have in your wallet. If you then come up towards what you expect to pay they will come down to meet you eventually. Finally show them how much exactly you have in your wallet! If this fails simply walk out of the shop, I guarantee they WILL run after you saying “okay, okay, okay” because in the end of the day they want to make some bit of money rather than none.


N- Napping

I know many of my friends would be huge advocates of having quick power naps during the day, but the Chinese take this practice to a whole new level! It is not uncommon to walk along the street and see men and women, young and old just squat down in front of you and take a few minutes shut eye, or on the train standing upright, or even in shops such as IKEA on the display beds!


O- Open-crotch pants

These are exactly what it says on the tin, I was absolutely astonished when I saw a mother lifting up her infant and I noticed that the rear end of his trousers were almost completely missing! Initially I thought maybe the pants have just split but very quickly after I realised these pants were in actual fact a huge trend. The reasoning behind them? It allows the children to simply squat and relieve themselves anywhere and everywhere, completely boycotting the use of a nappy.


P- Personal Space

Oh what a luxury! With a population of 1,372,860,922 as of right now, space is one thing that is completely amiss in China. While riding the subway, get ready to allow at least 100 new friends into your bubble of personal space. They have zero qualms about standing/sitting/squeezing against you, and don’t be surprised if a baby sitting beside you starts pulling at your hair or any items of clothing you have visible, the parents of said infants think it is hilarious and may even ask to take a photo of you holding their child! If you’re tall, like me, it is a distinct advantage as you can have some bit of free breathing space above all the heads on the train!


Q- Queuing

Queuing in China just doesn’t happen. It’s each person for themselves when it comes to looking to get a space on a bus, train, tickets in a booth, paying in shops, anywhere that you would usually have to queue. If you want to get anywhere prepare to hussle and push your way through. Once the Chinese see you are a foreigner they will presume you do not know the system and budge you out of the way, do not be afraid to stand your ground and do the exact same right back, they will not expect this at all and will usually let you through.


R- Rice

Rice or ‘Mifàn’米饭, pronounced ‘Me Fan’,is China’s answer to potatoes but on an even larger scale! Rice is served in every dish from breakfast right through to tea, accompanied with eggs, vegetables, chicken, pork, spices, you name it and it can be added to rice to make a special dish!


S- Squatters

Trying to find a western style toilet in China is comparable to trying to find a needle in a haystack. Instead of a western style toilet the Chinese prefer to use a squatter, which is basically a hole in the ground. Initially I was horrified and couldn’t even begin to imagine what the logic behind using a squatter was. In my opinion it seemed completely unhygienic. In actual fact the reasoning behind the squatter is that it is much more hygienic than sitting on a toilet bowl which contains germs from many other people.


T- Taxi driver’s

The Chinese name for a taxi driver is ‘Shīfu’师傅.  Initially they may come across as dismissive or arrogant towards foreigners, usually not wanting to take your custom. In order to show that in taking you there will not be any miscommunication or arguments whereby the taxi driver will be blamed, have your desired destination in Chinese characters ready to show the driver or else be able to communicate clearly in Chinese the desired address. More often than not the driver will not have any words of English so will be very reluctant to take English speaking passengers. A very useful app to download is ‘Didi chuxing’ 滴滴出行, it is basically the Chinese answer to Uber and is frequently used everywhere in China.

U- Umbrella

When we first arrived in China during the summer it was roasting I mean like 30+ degrees, now can you imagine our surprise at seeing the Chinese people walking around holding umbrellas? Umbrellas are for rain? In actual fact they double as a sun protector in China. The Chinese try their level best not to get tanned skin as brown skin is a sign of poverty it shows you have been working in the fields! Instead the Chinese try very hard to have the palest skin possible to signify a high social class.



Before entering China download a VPN such as Betternet, Astrill, or ExpressVpn. What is it? It is a virtual private network which enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their devices were directly connected to the private network. Too technical? It allows you gain access to apps such as Facebook and Instagram which are banned by the Government in China!


W- Wechat 微信

Download this app, pronounced ‘way sing’, it is the modern day Bible for the Chinese. It is an App which combines the likes of What’s app, Snapchat, Uber, Just eat, you name it this app has a feature for every situation. Your bank card is linked to it and you can pay in almost every shop by scanning your QR code, you can also transfer money to your friends when splitting bills, have group chats, have moments, you can order food using it, order a taxi using it, absolutely everything can be done on this magical platform.


X- ‘Xiè xie’谢谢

Pronounced ‘sh-yeah sh-yeah’, learn this phrase if you are planning on going to China, it’s imperative you finish almost every sentence with it. It means ‘thank you’, and the Chinese like to use it everywhere and anywhere.


Y- Yelling

It may seem as though the Chinese are always shouting and screaming at one another, however they actually just speak really really loudly. As the Chinese language is based on tones they need to make sure they say the tones loud and correct and not be confused with different meanings, for example ‘ma’吗 means horse but also mother, depending on which tone you use! You don’t want to call your mother a horse!


Z- ‘Zìpāi Ma?’自拍吗

Pronounced ‘Zi-pie’, if you get asked this question it means you have been chosen for that all important Chinese Selfie. Unfortunately the Chinese tourists tend to linger around and continue to ask unless you agree. Be careful to just take ONE and be on your way, because if you take a selection of photos a line of tourists will gather and you will feel like some sort of celebrity!