5 Things You Need To Get Used To In China

When you are planning on going to China there are certain things you need to be aware of or some habits and attitudes you need to adjust to. Since you are a guest in this country you clearly cannot behave like in your own country. Here are my top 5 things you need to get used to when you live in China.

1. China Smell

Henan China Feb 2009

Henan China Feb 2009 (Photo credit: Remko Tanis)

One thing you will notice, even though China is a very clean country, some areas might not be most appealing.

There are certain “smells” that cannot only be found in China, therefore at first you might not be used to this but soon develop the so called “China nose”.

2. Cellphone Zombies

Calling to...

Calling to… (Photo credit: Dennis Kruyt)

All around China, but especially in big cities, cellphone zombies can be found. Those are people walking around focusing on nothing but their cellphones and then bumping into you not even saying “对不起”. Some of them will look up though and when they see you are a foreigner they will throw out a “sorry” or 不好意思

What I usually did when I saw a cellphone zombie was walking straight ahead right into them to make them realize they should pay better attention.

3. Hygenie

Street Food

Street Food (Photo credit: Chris Kealy)

Like I already said, China is a very clean country, but there are some types of restaurants that would definitely be closed immediately where I come from. A typical small Chinese street restaurant looks like this: you sit on small stools at a tiny table which is usually cricket. The “cook” fries its stuff in the same pan the whole day and sometimes, there’s rats walking by.

I remember one day, I ate at my favorite small restaurant near my apartment and suddenly a rat ran around and the restaurants waitresses wearing only flip flops killed the rat stepping on it! Then, they put the dead rat on a pile of waste next to the restaurant. It was hillarious.

4. Unfriendly Daily Life

Crowds in Shanghai

Ususally, Chinese people are not very friendly in daily life. They don’t help people with big luggage getting on buses or something like that. However, if you are a foreigner in China, you will usually be welcome anywhere and people are happy to talk to you.

One time, I ordered ice-cream at McDonald’s and the girl working there gave me and my German friend twice the portion of the normal ice-cream! Totally awesome 🙂

5. Weird Flavors

Green tea (matcha) ice-cream with red bean.

Green tea (matcha) ice-cream with red bean. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To a Western mouth, China is full of weird flavors: pea flavored ice-cream, Gangnam Style chips or green tea ice-cream oreos. As crazy as some of these flavors may seem, some actually taste really good.

Before I came to China, I was very picky with food. But ever since, I tried so many new awesome fruits, dishes and flavors which made my taste buds evolve.

So don’t be afraid and just try your way throuh the world of China’s weirdes flavors! It’s worth the try.


When moving to a different country, you as a “guest” need to accept the new cultures. Especially if you grew up in the Western world, the Chinese culture can be especially different to your home country. However, if you have an open mind and are willing to try new things, you will have the time of your life in the Middle Kingdom.

Are there any other things you would add to my list?

13 thoughts on “5 Things You Need To Get Used To In China

  1. for me the most difficult thing was getting used to public transport – especially buses – hundreds of people trying to fit into one doors in bus… I got literally crushed by an old man, he and other people were squeezing, beating me just to get into. it’s like a black-friday in walmart 😀

    • oh yes! it is crazy. My boyfriend hates buses and the metro, so we usually take a cab together since it’s also really cheap. But when I’m out and about I used to take public transportation. You see interesting things everyday 😀

  2. I definitely agree, the buses and the subway is awful.. another thing that was getting on my nerves and that I had to get used to quickly was, the staring.. They stare you down! haha, not that they always mean something by it, but we look different so they just stare.. Thankfully the locals are getting used to it now, especially in the bigger cities~ But that was really something that I had to get used to.. haha. Its a great post though~ It really made me miss home (Beijing) 😦 … and I have to admit I became one of the cellphone zombies, however I did look up , so I would not bump into anyone~ haha ..

  3. In Beijing, you need to get used to people throwing their food waste on the floor in restaurants. I was stepping on chicken bones and spits. Don’t forget the 4 taboos, one of them is the toilets. When I went back to China in 2008, I was glad my family installed a western toilets in our village in Kaiping. The only village with a western toilet. Yes, the subway is horrible.

  4. Funny post! I also agree that China is a very clean country, but only in the bigger cities. When you get to the countryside and smaller cities, people, restaurants and shops throw their garbage to the ground. Surely someone will pick them up later, as much of the litter can be sold, but it can be very dirty most of the time.

    What do you think Linda?

  5. In which way exactly do you mean that China is clean?

    When it comes to hygiene, there are many aspects that would need improvement. For example, many public toilets don’t have soap for washing your hands (including restrooms at hospitals, where it would be especially important to wash your hands with soap). Some don’t have running water at all (not so much in Shenzhen, but I’ve seen that quite often in Kunming and other not so international cities). Many restaurants don’t have running water. They will usually send their bowls and other dishes to a place that will clean them for them (if they don’t clean it themselves in plastic buckets), but in many cases these bowls are still quite dirty when they come back packed in plastic (people in the south use to wash their bowls again with tea, not sure it helps, but it’s worth trying). Meat and eggs are often kept in the sun or in a warm place all day long (food-poisening anyone?). There’s generally no hot water for washing dishes or clothes. Little kids pee (and sometimes not only pee) everywhere, even on the subway (doesn’t happen everyday, but I’ve seen it happen more than once right next to me – and once the train was in a station so the parent could at least have taken the child to the next garbage can, if the restrooms really are too far). I once went to a park where you can climb stairs that had garbage cans in a 10m interval and people were still dropping their garbage on the floor right in front of those garbage cans. Ever been to the countryside? Often, it seems like there’s no place to take back garbage, so people just throw it away in the fields or into the water. I have a photo of a little lake (I don’t think you can call it lake, it had the size of a field) that is filled with garbage.

    Sorry for the negativity. I agree that China is relatively clean in some places, but it can be very unclean in others (and it also depends on the city).

    • yes i mean like Sara said, in big cities the streets and buildings are very clean. In restaurants and street food its totally different. I often hear people getting stomach problems but thats the risk you need to take.
      I find China in general very clean in cities and highways or something because when I look at San Diego where I live now or other places in the US, its nasty, people throw stuff out of the car etc…

      • Is it really that bad in the US? I know that there are some rough neighbourhoods and New York, for example, is thought to have more rats than people and urine puddles on the subway trains there are quite common. But I didn’t expect places like San Diego to be “nasty”.

  6. I find China to be a very dirty place. There are some clean places like Shenzhen and Xiamen which are clean and modern but most places including Beijing and Shanghai can be very dirty. The new buildings are clean but they often get dirty quick due to the behavior of the local people littering, spitting, and even worse urinating and defecating everywhere. Most of the restaurants would fail food inspection in the west. I don’t think this will change soon as the locals don’t even seem to see a problem.

    I also agree with your observation about phonezombies. But it seems to me that this is a manifestation of a larger problem. That is the lack of awareness and consideration for others. People simple don’t care about others. They don’t care that they are walking into you or blocking a passage way because the lives of others simple don’t matter to them.

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