What to do and to expect when visiting China (especially for a longer period)
- Buy foreign currency only from the banks. The dodgy guys in front of them won’t help you or give you better rates. Another important issue is to retain the receipts from the exchange. Back in the days, you will show them to the clerk when you want to convert back RMB to Dollars or Euros. I heard some rumours that you could do this in some banks even without a receipt but don’t take the risk. Another reason for exchanging your precious currency in official bureau is that the rates are the same EVERYWHERE. Centralized economy, they say, no speculative commissions or fluctuations.
- Try to be modest. Since it is part of their heritage you can throw here and there in the conversation expressions that show you don’t consider yourself to be the bravest, wisest and cutest individual.
- Quarrel about paying the bill. You will show you are a typical Chinese.
- Buy yourself a sim card or plan from one of the major companies. Arm yourself with patience because there are a few bureaucratic tasks to tackle. International rates for roaming are very high, so act wisely.
- Establish personal contact with the company / businessman you are dealing with whenever the opportunity arises – international trade centres, business trips, fairs. As you know, there are plenty of goods that can be imported back into your home country. Bear in mind Chinese businessman are fond of guangxi (personal connections), so they trust the person they have met and drunk with.
- If you have the intention to stay for awhile at one city / region you might try to contact the local expatriates. Most of them will be quite willing to show you around or at least give you some ideas where to go off the beaten track and how to cut down the expenditures.
- Register yourself in the police department when staying for more than a couple of weeks outside hotels.
- Go to the tea hours with that charming girl, you’ve just met. There is a scheme (Beijing) that goes like this. A charming girl approaches you and invites you to the nearby tea house or bar. Beware, her intentions are limited only to make you buy unnecessary stuff and pay a hefty bill. While I am convinced that you are an attractive person, come on... But soon I will write a separate post for this issue.
- Try to cut down the price in the big shopping malls. Although, there are always exceptions to the rules.
- Be confused to hear “Hallo”. Don’t expect this to lead to a long conversation. The average Chinese citizen does not speak much foreign languages. Why? Try to memorize thousands of the characters and then ask again.....
- Get perplexed if you are being asked if you had already your meal. Chi fan le, ma? Is the equivalent of How do you do? So don’t get carried away describing the delicious tofu you had for meal. It is a polite way of showing consideration.
- Get angry at the office clerks. Seen it several times. First of all, it looks too rude to the locals. Not only you won’t achieve anything, but that will make terrible impression. (sidenote – you may have valid reason for losing temper, but that’s how the things are going). On some of the banks there are buttons, indicating whether you are satisfied from the service or not.
- Tip the waitresses or the bellboy. Tipping is just not part of their culture. People might come running after you with it.
- Use Irony (even self – irony). Seriously, Chinese are notorious for being operated from that sense.