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Jinli Street, Chengdu, China

Planning a trip to China soon ? Or just curious to learn more about this country ? Here are the 5 most surprising things you should know about China !

1. CHINESE WILL BECOME YOUR ONE AND ONLY LANGUAGE

Most globe-trotters know it : if you are able to manage English, you will be able to travel and communicate pretty much everywhere in the world. When English is not the mother tongue, many people are still able to use it by learning it at school, for business purposes, or even on TV.

Unfortunately, China remains an exception ! Apart from very international cities such as Shanghai, Chinese people almost never speak English. Surprising for such an important character in the globalization process ? Not that much. China is such a big country (its size equals the size of Europe) that Chinese people can travel miles and miles away without using any foreign language. Its recent and incredibly fast economic development also did not give that much time to Chinese people to learn English and understand its importance.

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Basic Chinese characters

So what’s the best option ? To learn Chinese, of course ! Don’t think you will master this highly challenging language in a week, you will probably be disappointed. Get ready to manage Chinese intricate pronunciation and its 50 000 characters. But don’t be scared, the positive aspect is that being able to pronounce one sentence or to read three characters in a row will make you the happiest person in the world !

2. AS SOON AS YOU ARE EUROPEAN / AMERICAN, CHINESE PEOPLE WILL LOVE YOU

If you ever go to China, get ready to become a superstar ! Being watched or being photographed by Chinese people will become part of your daily life. « Please, please ! You are so beautiful, can I take a picture with you ? » is one of the sentences I could hear pretty much everyday when leaving there. Most of you will think « why would someone ever want and dare taking a picture with someone he doesn’t know » ?

Because you are wonderful ! Most Chinese consider Europeans, Americans or any other person looking similar to be very pretty considering the size of their eyes and the height of their nose. As soon as your eyes are bigger than Asian ones, and that your nose is higher, you will be considered as very attractive and will be highly admired.

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Huanglong River, China

It is thus a pride for Chinese to get the opportunity to get a picture with you and to post it on the famous Chinese social media « WeChat » to show it to all their friends. And for those who don’t dare asking you, whether they will take a picture of you while you are not watching her/him (yes, it happened to me a lot), whether they will keep watching you as much as they can.

3. CROSSING THE STREET CAN BE TOUGHER THAN YOU THOUGHT

Pay attention ! Crossing the street and simply walking on the sidewalk in China can easily become a risky mission. When most people don’t really ask themselves any question when walking on the street peacefully, you should take certain things into consideration when doing the same in China.

Indeed, motorbikes are considered as pedestrians in Chinese highway code. You will thus discover that it is perfectly normal to face motorbikes in the middle of the sidewalk. You will also find that motorcycles are pretty much crossing the street in as many directions as possible, which disturbed quite a lot the European pedestrian I am.

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Traffic jam, China

Taking a taxi will also be an experience you will never forget ! Cars get as close as possible to each other, until they are almost running into each other. So get prepared to sudden and harsh brakes ! But don’t panic, Chinese drivers are the best to deal with that driving style.

4. DANCING IN THE STREET IS PERFECTLY NORMAL

Don’t be surprised if you ever see people dancing in the middle of the sidewalk, Chinese particularly enjoy public choreographies. If it can be surprising for Europeans, it is perfectly common in China, and especially for old women, to dance in public areas.

Dancing is a way for older generations to keep on socializing with other people, and to keep having a physical activity. When most retired people in Europe spend their time at home watching TV, Chinese grandmothers meet their friends every night in a public space to dance together. It is a way for them to meet new people, to make friends, and to keep having a social life.

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Typical Chinese dancing

Some choreographies are also executed by employees in front of their company. Many Chinese restaurants organize a quick dance every morning in order to motivate their employees for work. It is thus very typical to see Chinese cooks and waiters dancing together in front of their restaurant in the morning.

5. BABIES’ CLOTHES WILL PROBABLY SURPRISE YOU

Are you sure babies around the world all dress the same way ? That’s what I thought before going to China. But I quickly figured out there was a big and striking difference compared to all the countries I have ever been to.

Most Chinese babies clothes have a hole between the legs allowing babies to pee or poo directly without taking them out. You will thus often observe children running in the streets and showing the most private part of their body to everyone. A funny detail you will notice and remember for sure !

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Typical Chinese babies’ clothes

Sources :

http://english.cri.cn/7146/2011/04/25/2702s634058.htm%20;%20

http://theweek.com/articles/549461/old-chinese-women-cant-stop-wont-stop-dancing-streets%20%20%20;%20

http://www.gettyimages.fr/detail/vid%C3%A9o/view-of-a-crowded-city-street-in-macau-china-film/sfw21570004%20;%20

https://sensiblechinese.com/chinese-characters/

Still want to learn more about China ? Here’s a selection of interesting articles you can check :

http://www.crossculturalsoup.com/another-planet-china/

http://www.crossculturalsoup.com/8-tips-successful-business-china/