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10 truths and lies about travelling to China

10 truths and lies about travelling to China

If there is something that no one can deny about the Asian giant is that it is unlike any other country. In fact, China could be considered a whole different world. Based on a foundation of stereotypes, some more accurate than others, we have come up with a selection of 10 truths and lies about travelling to China.

1. In China “they eat everything that flies in the sky which you can see, except airplanes; everything that swims in the river and the sea, except submarines; any four-legged things on the ground, except tables and chairs”.

TRUE

We can’t confidently claim that, but we believe that this old Chinese saying is quite accurate and close to reality. If you travel to China, forget it has nothing to do with the Chinese restaurant down the street. You won’t find those spring rolls or stir-fried beef in oyster sauce you like so much here, so get used to the idea that if you are travelling to China, you will discover a new assortment of products that will introduce you to their cuisine by force of flavours (and smells).

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2. There are panda bears in every corner.

FALSE

Nothing further from the truth, and even more so considering that they are an endangered species. There are approximately only 1,500 specimens left and they can only be found in mountain regions in the centre of China.

There sure are research bases and breeding facilities, such as the one in Chengdu, where panda bears and red pandas cohabitate in a huge natural park that is accessible to the public.

Depending on the season, you might even be able to see the panda babies or even touch them. But of course, cash in hand.

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3. No one will understand you, regardless of the language you speak.

TRUE/FALSE

Although it is true that English is not a popular language amongst the Chinese population, nor even in the bigger cities, communicating in most tourist sites, such as hotels, won’t really be a problem.

Communicating on the street is a whole another story. Asking about an address or trying to book a table at a local restaurant can be quite an ordeal.

We recommend downloading an offline translator app into your phone and carrying the name of the places you want to visit written in Chinese. This small tip will save you more than a headache.

4. Did they say “yes”? Be wary of this, they might mean “no”.

TRUE

In China, there is nothing as misleading as nodding your head, which actually means the opposite. There is high chance that an affirmative answer following the question “Do you know where X is?” means actually the opposite, and as soon as you start asking for directions, your interlocutor turns his/her back at you, like nothing.

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5. Bathrooms are never where you expect them to be.

TRUE

There is nothing as untraceable in China as bathrooms. Getting into a place, asking for the bathroom and being pointed towards the exit doors is not something extraordinary, especially if you are in a hutong –traditional neighbourhood–, where most establishments don’t have private toilets and make use of community bathrooms instead.

6. In China, distances are measured by kilometres.

TRUE

Never forget that in China what might look like a short distance on the map, somewhere within a walking distance, it’s actually a couple of kilometres apart, and it probably implies crossing mile-long roads where finding a traffic light or a pedestrian crossing is almost impossible. Mark our words: your best ally will be public transport.

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7. You will never be alone.

TRUE

In China, without really knowing how or why, you will never feel alone, not even at times when you desperately want so. Get used to it and accept the idea that visiting a tourist hotspot that is not crowded will be something quite unlikely, not to say impossible.

If you are somewhere with no Chinese people around, something’s up. There something fishy, for sure.

8. In China, you will only eat rice.

FALSE

Even though rice is a basic ingredient in Chinese cuisine, it doesn’t mean that this is the only thing they eat. In fact, China is one of the countries in the world with the most-varied diet. Still don’t convinced? You just have to go through the menu at any given restaurant and randomly order a couple of dishes to see for yourself that none of them include rice. Still, if you want it as a side, a bowl of this white gold will never be missing from your table.

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9. You will have to pack your suitcase with patience.

TRUE

You won’t need anything in China as much as patience. Because no matter how unbelievable the country can be, the Chinese character is sometimes (exceedingly) difficult and others unrelatable, so having a bit of extra patience might be a good asset.

10. China is INCREDIBLE.

TRUE

There’s not a truer statement. China is an amazing country, with such an outstanding diversity that we can guarantee you will discover something new every day, probably even more impressive than the last.

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Last but not least, remember that the currency in China is the Yuan so do not forget to exchange it before travelling there. You will find this extremely easy with Global Exchange.

Vanessa Santiago

Autora de "Viajeros Callejeros" (www.viajeroscallejeros.com), un blog en el que escribo sobre mis viajes alrededor del mundo, proporcionando datos prácticos como rutas, transporte, alojamientos y lugares a visitar en cada país, para poder organizar tu propio viaje por libre con información de primera mano. Mi gran pasión, como reflejo en el blog, es viajar y lo hago tanto como puedo. Y quién sabe, quizás algún día se convierta en mi modo de vida.

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