A Diverse Palate
China is famous for its food, to say the least. Now, it’s nothing like the Chinese takeout you order after a long day of work. In reality, your local Chinese restaurant probably isn’t serving you authentic cuisine. Chinese cuisine is both melt-in-your-mouth delicious and bizarre (to foreigners, at least).
Bazaars and supermarkets offer a wide selection of wildlife you can make a meal out of including turtles, crocodiles, frogs, sharks, cockroaches, cats, dogs, and maggots. The local palate is extremely diverse, so if you have a sensitive tummy, make sure to ask your waiter about the dish you’re ordering.
Pajamas Are the Trend
The rest of the world may consider pajamas “low effort” or “not stress worthy” but the Chinese have very different opinions. Wearing pajamas outside is the new trend and we’re 100% here for it.
Imagine not having to spend hours deciding what to wear just so you can meet up with your friends for half-hour. Despite their age, many Chinese wear pajamas to stores, for a walk, or even a meet-up with friends.
The Noodle Nation
The southeast part of Asia is known for its deep love of noodles and its countless variations and flavors in that food department. As expected, the Chinese can’t get enough noodles — to the point that they actually switch out birthday cake for longevity noodles.
Longevity noodles are a cultural staple made for weddings, birthdays, and Lunar New Year. Spanning several feet in length, these noodles fill the bowl completely. The firmer and longer the noodles, the longer and healthier the life will be for the one eating it.
A progressive nation such as China believes no time should be wasted in transit. There are some routes in China with high-speed trains capable of reaching a gross speed of 217 mph or 350 kph.
The primary goal is to link the remote parts of the country alongside offering a cheaper alternative to airways. In 2010, the record for the highest speed was of a train moving at 301 mph or 486 kph, making these trains some of the fastest in the world.
Birthdays Once in 10 Years
Many locals like to celebrate their birthday according to ancient traditions — the first 30 days after birth, followed up a year later, another after six years, and then once every 10 years. Grand celebrations are a part of the person’s 60th and 80th birthdays.
In addition to that, there are some dates that people simply don’t enjoy celebrating. For instance, most women refrain from celebrating their 30th, 33rd, and 66th birthdays, as they believe this will bring bad luck for a year. For similar reasons, men don’t celebrate their 40th.
Haircuts on the Go
Who has time or money to go to the parlor and have someone cut their hair for an hour? Clearly not the Chinese. There are barbers spread throughout the city on many corners, and the locals are happy with these services.
You can comfortably get your hair cut as well as a shave while grabbing a seat mid-street. Several locals don’t consider it a big deal and will sit down for a quick cut.
Fear the Goose
2019 saw a puzzle stealth video game titled “Untitled Goose Game” take over the internet. The game asks players to control a loose goose as it wreaks havoc upon the inhabitants of an English village.
If this game gave rise to a weird fear of geese, get ready to shake in your boots. In China, geese are a part of the night patrol, assigned to catch robbers. Not only that, but there are more than 10,000 mail delivery pigeons under the army.
Black or Urine-Infused Eggs
A centennial egg is one of the most popular delicacies of China. A fresh chicken egg receives a generous coating of tea, ashes, salt, lime, and clay before it’s then wrapped in rice husk and straw. Then, it’s buried under the soil for three to four months.
Another noteworthy dish is Tóngzǐ dàn. The seller will travel to elementary schools searching for young boys who are yet to reach puberty (under the age of 10) and collect their urine. The eggs are then boiled for an entire day in the collected urine.
Cooking and Cleaning Robots
In a land of high-technology robots and systems, why would any store need a human server, right? In China, you might walk into a restaurant and get a big shock when you see robots conducting everything — from cooking the dishes to serving or cleaning up.
The first of this kind was opened several years ago at a research institute and grew in popularity shortly after. Today, some people purchase such robots to act as helping hands around the house.
Pesky mosquitoes always ruin everything. No matter how many times you wave around your electrical bat or use mosquito spray, they always come back. China is different from other countries, though. They infect male mosquitoes with a unique bacteria that makes them infertile.
Then, they are released into the world to infect females and prevent them from having any offspring in the future. In fact, China produces 20 million insects per week for this purpose.
Ladybug Feeders Everywhere
Over the years, scientists have found innovative ways to bring greenery back to this planet, and one of them is protecting the insects that perform pollinations. However, that’s now what ladybugs are for. They rid the plants of lice.
China uses a distinct paper structure soaked in a special substance to attract these ladybugs. In essence, they are feeding the ladybug so it can tackle the plant lice problem.
Green Pea Ice Cream
Ice cream was born in China, and thanks to Marco Polo, its recipe traveled to Europe. Aside from the numerous regular flavors of ice cream you can enjoy in China, there are also a bunch of surprising ones of the most unusual flavors.
For instance, green pea ice cream. Apparently, Chinese locals enjoy this unique flavor in the summertime. Would you try this? What do you think it tastes like?
Two Weeks’ Vacation
Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year is a festival celebrating the start of a new year. It’s the country’s main celebration and lasts for 15 days. This holiday marks an important event where people consider an end to the chilly days.
There’s no other official vacation or holiday in the country other than the one during Chinese New Year. As many tourists travel the country during this period, they have to tolerate the overwhelming crowds.
Fortune Cookies From Japan
Contrary to popular belief, fortune cookies don’t actually originate from China. There’s no fixed origin of these crispy and sugary delights, but it is assumed that they rose to popularity in the early 20th century.
A chef from Japan brought the recipe for fortune cookies to the USA where it was mistaken for a Chinese one. Slowly, the cookies became a trademark item for the restaurants, further supporting the legend.
Ghosts Towns and Empty Houses
There’s an interesting blend in the living arrangements amongst residents. While more than 30 million people live in humongous houses and apartments, the rest is trying to fit their entire life inside apartments the size of a cupboard.
And in that midst lies huge ghost cities. By various accounts, there are approximately 64 million abandoned skyscrapers that have never seen people living in them. Ordos is the most well-known ghost town.
National Sport and Football
Football (soccer) isn’t a sport that originated in South America. Rather, it originated in China under the name Cuju or Ts’u-chü, and this fact was confirmed by FIFA in 2004. Even in its earliest forms, the game was about kicking the ball through the field and into an open net without the use of hands.
It was primarily used to train soldiers back in the second century BC. Although such a popular sport, it’s not their national sport. Their national sport, instead, is ping pong — a sport that was invented in Britain 100 years ago.
National Army’s Iron Discipline
If you’ve ever witnessed a Chinese military parade, you know that it’s a breathtaking sight. The motion of thousands of people who are perfectly in sync is extremely satisfying to watch.
This level of mastery takes hours of exhausting training to achieve — one of which requires the soldier to march with a bottle of water on the top of their head, or a needle pinned to their collar to make sure they hold their head high. The Chinese Army is currently the biggest military unit in the world.
When Not to Plan Trips
There’s no such thing as an official vacation in China, so the people there can only travel during state-sanctioned holidays. This is why it’s always advised to tourists to never plan a visit to this country during Chinese national holidays.
Why? Because all the locals travel during this time. We can assure you, this isn’t an experience for the faint of heart. Most of the tourist spots are filled to the tee with people. Not only will it be challenging to travel around and see everything, but you’ll also be squished and lost in crowds of people.
Remember to Buy Tickets
In China, it’s best to purchase train tickets at least one month early, or the user runs a risk of losing this mode of transportation. The price variation between first and second-class seats won’t seem that significant initially, but the difference in comfort is shocking, causing the tickets to sell out super fast.
If you must navigate through the cities, you can always opt for tickets without a guaranteed seat, but you will be sitting on the floor for the entire trip — even if it lasts hours.
Ticket and Passport
One more important detail — one can’t enter the railway station simply holding their ticket; they must display both their ticket and passport to gain entrance. You must stand in line to get these credentials checked before moving onto security.
This can be somewhat time-consuming but the locals have gotten accustomed to this style of living. For the newbies who have just arrived in China, it’s best to plan time accordingly, otherwise, you might end up getting to your destination very late.
Sleeper Train Things
Sleeper trains are convenient modes of transportation that offer speed and comfort equally. You can reach any location while lying down to take a nap or read your favorite book. However, there are some hygienic issues associated with traveling by sleeper train.
Unless you board at the first departure station, the bedsheet won’t be changed after use by the former occupant. This might cause you immense stress if you’re not mentally prepared to lie down on the same bedsheet as a stranger, but that’s just how it is.
Excellent Public Transport System
Public transport in China is deserving of more praise than it gets. Transporation in this country is reliable, and you can even hail the bus to go to almost any location. However, there’s one problem — most buses and subway lines stop working pretty early in the night.
For example, the subway halts all activities at 10:30 pm in Shanghai, but you could also look into the cheaper alternative, which is a taxi.
Tips Aren’t Cool
In many parts of Asia, tipping isn’t custom. The locals don’t leave tips and often, if foreigners tend to leave tips after a meal or ride, the server will chase after them with the money thinking they’ve forgotten it there. The Chinese locals never leave tips. Ever.
Tips aren’t considered acceptable in taxis, hotels, or restaurants. If you like their service, make sure to convey your feelings through words instead of money because they will not accept your money, even if you make five or six attempts.
Payments for Food
When your Chinese friend or colleague invites you to lunch or dinner, here’s one thing you need to know for sure. As they are the one who invited you, it’s almost certain that they will pay for the meal.
They will also expect it to work the other way around — if you invite them out, they expect you to pay. Since people in China get their meals at set times, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be able to find a place to eat if it’s not during a standard mealtime.
No English Works
English might be the common language to fall back on when you’re visiting various countries, but that will surely not be the case in China. Be prepared to not find a single person who can communicate in English — not even in hotels.
Unfortunately, those Chinese phrasebooks are a bust too. Unless you can say the sentence with their tones, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t be able to say anything meaningful. Thus, it’s best you memorize some basic characters and download a translation app.
Facebook and Google Are Obliterated
The Chinese don’t know what Facebook is. Google isn’t available there either, which means no access to the popular search engine — Google Maps, GMail, or YouTube. Android users face some significant issues trying to load apps.
After a bit of controversy, both dating to 2009, Facebook and Google were banned and the restriction hasn’t been lifted ever since. In the meantime, they’ve found new ways to communicate, like WeChat. So, unless you’re prepared to spend a few days in social isolation, prepare a VPN beforehand.
Hot Water Is a Staple
Hot water can be found in every nook and cranny of China — in airports, train stations, restaurants, and parks. So, people who own a thermos can enjoy a cup of steaming hot tea or a bowl of delicious noodles wherever they are.
This is a tip for travelers, too. If you’re traveling on a budget, make sure to carry a thermos so you can cook or steep a bunch of items on the go.
Very Friendly Folks
Chinese locals are very warm and friendly. Although they are generally quite supportive, this can quickly become a problem if you’re asking for directions. They’ll want to help you out and give you the answer or — according to them — they will lose face.
Ultimately, even if they don’t know the correct location, they will attempt to show you the way, mistakenly giving you the wrong directions. To avoid this complexity, it’s best to download a map on your phone. Keep in mind that Google Maps doesn’t work.
Bars on Windows
When you see bars on a window, what’s the first thing you think of? Usually, it’s put up as protection to prevent thieves from breaking in, but Chinese locals have one more reason to install them. Regardless of whatever floor the apartment is on, there will be bars on the windows.
In addition to the obvious safety benefits, people do it to protect small children from falling out the window. Kind of genius, don’t you think?
Glassless New Apartments
If you buy an apartment right after moving to China without being somewhat used to their living standards, this one may be a real curveball for you. New houses don’t come with glass windows.
After the apartment is sold, the new owners take it upon themselves to install the windows. Thus, there’s an interesting contrast between the empty window opening and the redecorated ones, making you think there’s a deeper, abstract thought at play.
As of 2021, China is the most populous country in the world. While its massive manpower is one of its main forms of power, it can also as easily be a weakness. Although the population keeps rising at a steady pace, the opportunities to get quality education don’t rise as fast, causing exam rooms to get rather overcrowded — not to mention how competitive it is in terms of getting accepted to colleges and universities.
If you couldn’t gauge how huge the Chinese population is, look up Chinese school entrance exams. No gap can be spared between the students, and that’s how it’s been for quite a while.
China’s Breathtaking Nature
China has been blessed by Mother Nature so much so that it houses multiple incredible sights and landmarks guaranteed to please the eyes and mind. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a national park situated in the Hunan province and it commonly goes by the name Avatar mountains.
In fact, the famous sci-fi movie released in 2009 of the same name was shot in this park, earning it that name. The pillar-like rock formations throughout the whole park are covered by a thick growth of plantation, giving it an out worldly appearance.
All’s Not What it Seems
The Great Wall of China isn’t so great when you see it upfront. Sure, it’s one of the most historically significant architectural feats on the face of the Earth, but it has lost some of the build’s original glory over the years.
Movies may have given you a certain perspective or image of the wall, with a cobblestone floor and small hard hill roofed placements a few feet apart. However, if you visit the real thing, you will see how the structure has decayed over time.
Pandas Are National Treasures
Pandas are exclusive to China, earning them the title of “National Treasure.” Honestly, if an animal as adorable as that was found solely in one location across the globe, we are sure that country would cherish it just as much.
The Chinese are so enthusiastic about pandas that you will find them everywhere — in tourist offerings, products they use such as cups, clothes, and even cosmetics packaging mascot.
Old and New Co-Exist
Old China co-exists with New China, although there’s a very clear distinction between the two standards of living. In a neighborhood with beaten-down houses, residents who do menial jobs to earn a livelihood, you will be able to spot the pillars of the most expensive, luxury subway station with those lightning-fast trains.
In the background of those small neighborhoods where most people live in poverty, there are huge skyscrapers illuminated by the thousands of tiny lights inside the apartments and offices.
Extraordinary Architectural Feats
China is a land of mind-blowing architectural establishments. If you thought the Empire State Building was the best building you’ve ever seen, you aren’t even ready for what China has to offer. The highest round building in the glove, Guangzhou Yuan is in the shape of a large “O,” with some stellar progression between the building blocks’ order that we simpletons simply can’t put into words.
Similarly, the CCTV Headquarters — HQ for China Central Television — is in a highly unusual shape, explained to be a “three-dimensional cranked loop.”
Self-Massages to Relax
Chinese people absolutely love self-massages. In all honesty, going to the spa once a month can turn into a costly affair very quickly. When you still want that massage to keep your joints relaxed and loose, you can’t go wrong with doing it yourself.
There’s a wide variety of self-massaging gadgets available in the machine including Shiatsu massage cushions; there’s really something for everyone. Locals can be seen giving themselves a massage wherever they feel it’s convenient — on the train, in the elevator, in a restaurant, on the streets… everywhere.
Upgraded Instant Noodles
What can be more practical than instant noodles? All you need is some hot water and the noodle packet to cook yourself a filling meal anytime, anywhere. However, the Chinese take their food very seriously, even more so when it’s noodles.
They have upgraded their instant noodles to add ingredients and steps that makes the entire dining experience that much more enjoyable. Newer spices, sauces, vegetables and/or meat, and dehydrated kimchi are amongst some of the best inclusions you’ll find inside these instant noodle packets.
Lighting Up the Situation
How far would you go to get the attention of the cutie across the room? Westerners would answer with something generic — like smile at them or wave in their general direction, but the Chinese have their own way of calling all attention to them.
They literally make sure they are in the limelight. And what better way to do that than to hold a mini torchlight between your lips? The light illuminates their face, giving the prospective interests a chance to see them better.
The Famous Night Markets
China’s night markets have become an indispensable part of its culture, and anyone who has ever visited the country, or is conducting research to do so very soon is aware of the buzz inside these markets when the sky is dark. The ordinary street filled with cars and pedestrians turns into a lively hub by nightfall.
These markets host anything and everything you can think of — from mouth-watering local delicacies to clothes and accessories.
Parlor on the Street
The Chinese have brought everything out on the street so you are never forced to get services from big corporations ever again, given that’s something your moral compass discourages you about.
Even if for sheer convenience, these street shops offer a diverse variety of services you can get at an affordable rate. You can get a tattoo, manicure, or permanent makeup right from the street without much hassle. Would you be brave enough to give it a try?
Donations Through WeChat
With everything developing at an ultra-speedy pace, it would be unfair if the neglected section of the population didn’t pick up on some of that too. While beggars in your country might be asking for donations by knocking at doors or the windows of big private cars, the paupers of China have rediscovered themselves with technology.
They can accept donations via WeChat pay, their local payment system. Found beside many popular tourist destinations or busy parts of the cities, these beggars will hold their WeChat information or barcode out for people.
Naps Increase Productivity
The Western side of the world could never imagine a world where sleeping at work could be considered “okay,” let alone encouraged. However, the Chinese view things from a different perspective.
Naps increase productivity, so instead of tying the employees or workers to their chairs, the employers allot them nap times throughout the day so they can rejuvenate and restart work with more spirit. This would be a matter of great envy for people who can’t even rest their heads on their desks without their bosses sneering.
Taste Enhancers in All Dishes
Chinese food is big on flavors, and Monosodium Glutamate is a seasoning packed with hints of saltiness and sweetness that adds the signature taste you’d get from any dish in a Chinese restaurant.
It’s a taste enhancer that’s as common as salt and sugar in China and can be found right next to those ingredients in supermarket aisles. For people who aren’t accustomed to the taste, it might be a bit weird at first, but adding the right amount of MSG to food gives it a distinct flavor.
Leashed Kids on the Streets
Chinese locals really have parenting figured out. Having kids is a task in itself, but pair that up with taking them out in a crowded place and you have one of the most demanding challenges ever made.
Small kids are generally hyperactive, so they tend to run wild, and often lose their parents in the midst. Given how large the country’s population, we totally empathize with the parents who choose to put a leash on their kids to make sure they don’t stray too far.