A Teaching Intern’s Guide to Surviving in China| 5 min read

From the crazy food stalls to dingy squat toilets, you need to be prepared for everything and anything in China. Nothing is ever simple in this diverse, busy and unique country but that is what you will begin to fall in love with — once you get over all the different smells and tackle how to use chopsticks. So, to help any future travellers out when exploring the bizarre and crazy world of China, I have put together a guide to, quite frankly – SURVIVE in China.

Number 1: Bring toilet roll

Bring it everywhere. Ensure you always have a packet of tissues in your bags, pockets even in your wallet. You will need it everywhere here, and let me tell you, the food may cause a bit of discomfort in one’s stomach, so, you know, to avoid a messy situation keep the tissues handy.

Number 2: Download Google translate

Yes, although the translation may be poor and you may receive some very confused faces once reading the translation it usually helps. However, you may need to accompany the translation with some very exuberant charades and hand motions that may seem questionable back home. But when it does help you will be very thankful.

Number 3: WeChat

This app which is similar to WhatsApp but with better features such as WeChat pay and you can order most things such as cinema tickets, trains, hotels and food though it. It is like the bread and butter of China’s social life. Everyone has it. If you’re out exploring the nightlife you will definitely end up scanning at least seven WeChat barcodes. Its great, a VPN isn’t needed and their translation services are usually accurate.

Number 4: Learn how to battle cockroaches

Yes, especially down in Southern China there are a lot of bugs. And they aren’t cute or nice in any way. Cockroaches can fly, they can run like The Flash and they play dead. I mean, how much worse can you get? So, in order to prepare for your fight against theses little beasts, have a bug spray and broom handy at all times. Just don’t kill them, as once you kill one they attract so many more that soon your floor will be riddled with cockroaches playing dead. So just get some of that tissue you keep everywhere, pick it up and gently place it as far away as possible from your house.

Number 5: Expect anything to happen

Never expect things to run smoothly — especially during Chinese National holidays. They can be pretty messy. If you think about the whole volume of the China population moving on just those days it’s enough to make you need a stress ball. You can never really book trains without some problem arising like you’re not in the right seat, you’re not on the right train or maybe you just missed the train completely. And that then means you’ve missed the connecting train, you’ll be late for your hotel booking, you’ll have nowhere to stay — you see, a spiral of stress is easy to come across. But to avoid this get to the stations at least two hours before, don’t jam pack your schedule and expect anything to happen.

Number 6: Keep your eyes open

Although China can be hectic, you don’t want to miss all the crazy yet spectacular things it has for you to witness. As you’re driving along, maybe in a Didi (Chinese Uber – highly recommend) you might see random temples up in the mountains, beautiful fields and buildings that just ooze the Chinese culture. At night all the vibrant neon shop signs come to life illuminating the streets and sky. Also look at all the food stores and try new things! I never thought chicken feet would become something I like.

So yes, although you will encounter some language barriers, some interesting toilets and sometimes questionable meats in your noodles, embrace it all. Embrace the people, the language, the culture. China is an unmissable place, one that you will never regret exploring.

Kiara completed the Teach & Travel internship program in January 2019. For more information about the Teach and Travel program, visit us here

Julia Yan

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