Published on:
October 4, 2016

by: Guest

Cultural Differences Edition 3

Dan’s recently returned to the UK after living in Southern China for the past 5 years. Here our Teaching Manager talks about the glamourous topics of unexpected photography, and toilets…

Say “Qiézi”

Probably the most common aspect of culture shock in China that expats bring up is complete strangers wanting to take a picture with you, or of you. This is because for many Chinese you as a foreigner are a highly exotic subject and they won’t think twice about asking for a picture, or just snapping one of you without a hint of subtlety. The issue is that the latter method is often done without permission; you’ll hear plenty of stories about people who have been photographed at ‘inconvenient’ moments.

At first it is amusing and you can play it up for laughs, but it quickly becomes tiresome for many. If you find yourself in an area with a small foreign presence it will happen more often. When someone asks for a picture with you and you don’t consent, refuse. It is more difficult when people are taking pictures of you from a distance as according to Chinese law, consent is not required. My advice would be that unless you’re confident in your language abilities it’s best ignored or if you’re feeling cheeky, you can pull your phone out and snap them right back! That generally puts a stop to it.

Cleanliness is next to godliness

A classic but worth covering briefly. The majority of toilets in China, and this will include on your school campus and possibly in your apartment, are squatting toilets. If the thought of this doesn’t thrill you then make sure that you, or the person responsible for finding you accommodation if it is provided by your school, look for apartments with a ‘westernized’ bathroom.

Public toilets are grim, especially those in long distance bus stations and train stations. It’s recommended you carry tissues and hand sanitizer with you as you’ll be lucky if these bathrooms have running water. This topic also crosses over into food safety. You can’t do much but rely on your own best judgement when eating out, be it restaurant or street food. There is a food hygiene ranking system and restaurants will display their inspection results if you’re looking for some indication of quality.

My advice though is to immerse yourself as Chinese cuisine is awesome in its variety and range of flavours, and should be explored as much as possible. Even if you do experience a couple of bumps along the road you can’t afford not to experience as much of China’s cuisine as you can, it is such an integral part of the culture, and absolutely delicious!

Check out the rest of our Cultural Differences Guide here.


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