Saturday, October 22, 2011

China Confessions and tips


First confession, I hid in my hotel the first day my husband had to go to work.  I was scared to go out on the street, I was scared to use the metro, and I was terrified of getting in a taxi again!

This is something I did like, have no idea what it is
Second confessions, when I went to China I saw myself as an open minded person.  I have a minor in Anthropology and my personal belief is that you can learn from any culture.  So despite all that, I didn't like China, I didn't like most of the food.  I thought the first 2 days were awesome, and then I wanted something different.  After day 4, I felt sick, by day 6 I told my husband I wanted to eat at American restaurants, so we started eating at KFC and McDonalds.  I never thought that would would be me.  I think they are really good at making crunchy slimy vegetables, and a lot of the meat seemed to be riddled with bones, cartilage, etc.  We ate at fancy restaurants, restaurants on the street, restaurants in our hotel.  After the third day it all seemed the same to me.  Eating at McDonald's seems pretty safe, but my husband did end up with a hot dog for breakfast when he wanted a sausage egg McMuffin.  I would have a hard time taking my kids to China, based on this alone, because unlike Europe where you can order spaghetti for your kids anywhere you go, it is hard to get something you want to eat, let alone something that you would think your children would want to eat.

Third confessions we got ripped off a few times in China.  We got ripped off at the airport, by someone who talked us into getting a "mini-van taxi" that cost us about 3 times the amount it should have.  I bought a souvenir at the Great Wall, and then saw it somewhere else for 1/3 the price.  We had a rickshaw driver ask us if we wanted a ride for a certain amount and then took us into a Hutong, or alley, and demanded 300 yuan (Chinese currency).  We paid it and walked on.  100 yuan is about $15, so even when we were being ripped off, it was never an amount that we could justify risking our lives for.  I felt like we left China with our integrity in tact, and I try not to worry about the money we lost.

Fourth confession I kind of liked getting mobbed by Chinese people for the first few days.  I always thought I had the most beautiful baby, and now I have the most populated country that agrees with me.  In saying that, I didn't really appreciate still having an audience when I would want to nurse (breastfeed) my baby.  It was kind of creepy having older Chinese men come over and try to see me nursing my baby.  People would actually take pictures of me nursing my baby, or come over and try to get a better view.  They had no sense of personal space.  I also know how to say I have a baby boy in Chinese, and when we would change his diaper in public I could hear from many Chinese people surrounding us, that we had a baby boy.  These things kind of disturbed me, and now I have a sense of what it feels like to be a movie star.  I don't really like it, it is nice to feel loved, but some things should not be for public viewing or criticism!
Little children often had parents who insisted they get pictures with us, these children did not really like getting their pictures taken with us!

And finally, although I have a multi-visit visa, I don't really want to go back when my husband has to.  I may just stay at home that trip.  Although I have a goal to go to all Disneylands around the world, and when the Disneyland is finished in Shanghai in 2016 I will have a good reason to go back!

  1. Think of the yuan like you would an American dollar, sure 100 yuan is only $15 American dollars, but you can almost get the same amount of stuff for $100 yuan as you would in the US for $50-$100 U.S. dollars.  
  2. If someone is trying to steer you away from where you need to go, like the taxis at the airport, or the entrance to the tourist site you were headed for, beware!  Follow the posted English signs!  Unless you have a Chinese speaking person that you trust with you, it is best to follow the signs.  Practice saying, NO to anyone wanting you to go to somewhere off the path of where you are headed.  These can be people who want you to go to a "free" art exhibit, people who want to take you to a "better" deal, just ignore them and walk on.
  3. At super touristy places, like the Silk Market, or the Great Wall, you need to haggle for prices.  I found in Nanjing if I haggled them down to 1/2 the price they originally asked it was a good price, in Beijing at the Silk Markets it was more like 1/5 the price.  Do not feel bad if you talk them down to a really "low" price, they will not sell you something at a loss!   
  4. Beware people who can speak English, this does not go for everyone and really only for people who are trying to sell you something, anything, tour guides, souvenirs, rickshaw rides, taxi rides, etc.  They generally are trying to make you pay too much for something if they speak English.  People will aggressively try to rip you off!  They can seem friendly at first but can become very aggressive.
  5. KFC and McDonalds have picture menus with English on them and you can request these at the cashier but not for breakfast, I found pointing to the menu up above worked best.  
  6.  Go with no expectations.  If you expect to find tourist attractions well maintained, or if you have an idea of what you think will be there, you might be disappointed, you might be pleasantly surprised too.
  7. Your hotel should have a "business card" that they can give you to give to a taxi driver with the hotel's address on it, so you can get back to the hotel.  They should also have a card with different tourist attraction locations written in English and Chinese for you to give to a taxi driver.  
  8. Have a map of the city, taxi drivers can drop you off some distance away, I think they just do whatever is most convenient for them.  My husband was dropped off 3 blocks away from our hotel, I was dropped off in the middle of a street with my baby.  They just tell you to get out, with you wondering, "am I there?"  Even if you are turned around you can point on your map to the location you want to go and I found most Chinese people were very helpful to steer me in the right direction.


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