Before going any further about my trip in mainland China, I first have to tell you something about their culture. Unlike the coastal cities in China, almost NO ONE can speak in English there which can be quite a challenge. So unless you have a friend who can read and speak “passable” Chinese, a guide book with Chinese characters or hire a professional guide, it can be hard to survive there. Aside from that, they have behaviors that can be “Culturally Shocking” to us Filipinos or other Foreign nationals as well. If any people from the Mainland China is reading this, I meant no disrespect but only give my honest observation that can lessen the initial “shock” first timers may get. In fact other Chinese also detest some of their boorish behavior. It’s a reality we can’t change, since these may have rooted since ancient times. So what I advise is to keep an open mind. Once you get past these you’ll be able to adapt and enjoy your stay there.
Very Very Very Persistent Touts. My first encounter with touts in China is when I got off the bus in Shangqingshi, Chongqing coming from the airport. One thing to note though is I can’t hide the fact that I’m not Chinese in my feature. I’m more brown and very Filipino in looks. So when I stepped down the bus, there were a few touts who seems tame at first then when I was fixing my bags touts started pouring in. Last thing I know they were all over swarming me and putting those cards and leaflets in my bag pockets. I try to be polite and say “Stop” with a hand signal and tried to run away. That’s when it gets more persistent that touts started to put more stuffs on my bag’s side pockets and hey even my pants pockets!! Geesh. And that’s just the start. We’ve encountered different kind of touts throughout our trip that they even follow you around even when you try to run away from them. The trick is to Deny their existence or even acknowledge them.
Chinese Cutting In. Some Chinese would just rudely cut you in queue. At airports even. At first they would approach the counter seemingly innocent to inquire but when they see a chance to get in, they will get in. You can find their types at bus stations and airports. What you can do is block them with your shoulders or even your bags just to hint a message to them.
Stay away from public toilets as much as possible. Ok, I’m no stranger to squat-type toilets, in fact I have no problem with that. It’s just that for public toilets (men’s toilets that is) which their sign says “WC”, they have no doors for the squat cubicles. The first time I went inside a public toilet was in a bus station in Dazu, Chongqing. As I enter I saw a man taking a poop and thought someone was using the whole restroom and moved back. Then I noticed there were other cubicles and other men on the pee-ing side. Hey they really don’t have doors! So you just have to get used to peeing with some pooping men looking behind your back. It’s kind of uncomfortable at first with seeing a line of pooping men on one side and sometimes smelling their poo while you urinate. So if you must go and gotta take a dump go to a much high end place like a mall or a hotel or a fast food chain where they have doors.
Beware of the Spits! It must be the cold weather. But it is a very very common scene to see and hear people spit everywhere. 10-20 minutes will not pass without you hearing someone expel their phlegm and spit. Both men and women do. They spit inside a public bus even inside the train. So be very careful where you step on the bus or put down your things, spits can be found on the inner sides walls. On more high end buses, they already have small plastic bags ready on the seat pockets in front of you or you can get one from the driver. Somehow I understand about the phlegm during cold, but expelling loudly and spitting in public places? You better prepare.
Smokers all around. A lot of Chinese smoke, even young teens which is disconcerting. And worse they do not even care where they smoke. They smoke even in enclosed buses, trains, taxi cabs, restaurants and even inside elevators. Even if the sign says “No Smoking” they will smoke. I noticed that some Chinese are even bothered by this as well but they can’t do anything about it.
Wild Street Behaviors. One thing we learned is that it’s hard to take a taxi in any of the cities we’ve been. You literally have to run for it sometimes. One craziest taxi experience we had was in Zhangjiajie in Hunan where our taxi suddenly went on a pedestrian walkway with people still walking just to avoid a traffic block. We’re actually on a pedestrian lane where people were walking. Just crazy. And when you see a man just suddenly shouting at the streets, just leave them alone.
Well that’s just about it. Let me clear it up that NOT ALL Chinese exhibit these behaviors but they are quite common. Some Chinese are even willing to help as we encountered some of them as my friend says though I didn’t understand their conversation. I guess it’s just a matter of sorting them out. There are some other things to watch out for like huge huge crowds in some public transportation places but that’s to be expected. Flag-toting Tour groups which can ruin your view. There’s aren’t many foreign tourist here, we only saw very few Americans and Europeans. There are a lot more local Chinese tourist to compete with. And did I mention that whenever you see a Chinese well dressed in tux or suites, it means they are going to travel. Not necessarily on a meeting but just travel itself. I should try that sometime.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.