We got used to the fact that almost every country in the world has locals who speak English fluently. Since this language has become international, people tend to believe that they will be understood in any foreign country, as long as they can express themselves in English. However, in some parts of China this is not true at all.
If you plan your visit to such big cities as Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou or Shenzhen, you will have no problems with communication, as these cities are true tourist hubs. Every year they attract thousands of foreign guests who travel, study, work and live in China. However, this cannot be said about smaller Chinese cities. There, the language barrier is the number one obstacle to overcome for a foreigner when traveling in China, so it can be helpful to learn some new phrases in the language. Remember, that China has two main dialects, Mandarin and Cantonese (spoken mainly in Hong Kong).
While English has already gained cosmopolitan status, especially in the big cities, many Chinese people have difficulties with it. Even if you travel to big Chinese cities, keep a business card from your hotel just in case you need to show it to a taxi driver or if you get lost while exploring.
It’s highly recommended to learn just a few useful words and phrases before you visit China. Of course, the best thing is to take Mandarin classes before your travel or try to teach yourself some of the basics; there are many websites with introductory lessons in Chinese.
2. Choose your Right Destination
China is unbelievably large. No matter how long a trip you have decided to take, note that you will be unable to cover the entire country – not even the most popular destinations. So we would suggest that you focus on one (not more than two) particular destination and enjoy exploring it. In China, you can choose from many diverse experiences: some of the world’s largest deserts, remote jungles, seemingly endless grasslands, and, of course, some of the world’s largest cities.
Our Travel Advisors suggest these destinations:
• Beijing: The capital of China is its heart and soul. This Chinese city is the true historical heritage of the country. Places to visit: The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, ancient hutong alleyways, majestic imperial parks…
• Sichuan: A province with three regions. For those who like to explore steamy bamboo forests and quaint Ming-Dynasty villages, we suggest staying in the South of the province. To enjoy beautiful lakes set among alpine-esque mountain scenery, move to the North.
• Guangxi: Picture-perfect rice terraces and other-worldly karst peaks dominate a lush, almost jungle-like landscape which is perfect for hiking, cycling and river trips.
3. Culture Shock
Chinese culture is extremely different from Western. We suggest that you review the etiquette and main traditions practiced in the region you will visit before you go.
China is highly influenced by Buddhism; you should also note this religious fact.
Some Chinese traditions may seem strange. For example, it is good manners to use two hands when giving or receiving money or your business card. When it comes to street vendors, it is widely acceptable to negotiate prices. If you are not planning to buy anything, do not ask about prices, because if you do the vendors may follow you around for a while.
5. Eat Chinese food
China has many stunning attractions and heritage sites, but arguably its main attraction is its food. If you have never tried Chinese food, there is no better place to do it than in the country. If you have already tried Chinese cuisine in your home country, it’s high time to compare it with what locals prepare. Trust our advisors; you will feel a great difference.
The cuisine itself varies vastly from region to region. The “Four Major Cuisines” of China are Chuan, Lu, Yue and Huaiyang – representing West, North, South and East China cuisines respectively. The street food is a must-try. It’s often the best part of a city’s culinary experience.
This is the list of dishes we suggest you try:
Sweet and Sour Pork 糖醋里脊
Gong Bao Chicken 宫保鸡丁
Ma Po Tofu 麻婆豆腐
Chow Mein 炒面
Peking Roasted Duck 北京烤鸭
Spring Rolls 春卷
And don’t forget about the traditional Chinese beverages and famous Chinese tea: Oolong Tea, Pu’er Tea, Jasime Tea, White Peony, Silver Needle, Gunpowder Tea, Chun Mee and many others.