I’ve been back from China for two weeks exactly and I am feeling a little too overwhelmed with things to blog about, Spanish to learn, work to, well, work…? etc. (So much for a relaxing summer!) But alas, a free night has come along and it is time to jump back into the swing of things!
Anyway, I figured I would end my blogging hiatus and introduce Asia with some tips in case you ever feel the urge to head that way.
1. I guess I should start by pointing out the obvious: you’re not in Kansas anymore…! Bring your patience and maybe a map, because everything is written in Chinese or Cantonese. Hong Kong is a different (more western) story, but deep in the heart of China it is also EXTREMELY difficult to communicate.
2. Beware of the potties…
They’re not “weird,” they’re just eastern. I laughed when my teacher suggested practicing squatting over toilets before we left. Really though, it’s necessary.
3. Those lovely squatty-potties usually do not have toilet paper. It’s not like the stall just ran out, they literally just do not put toilet paper in them. Unless you’re going to let it air dry, I found it convenient to keep a pack of wet wipes in my purse at all times.
4. I can’t imagine having explosive diarrhea and attempting to maneuver myself over one of those toilets. Luckily, I found that all of the handicap stalls are western toilets sent straight from the heavens! I would recommend hightailing it over to one of those lifesavers if that wicked situation arises! (Unfortunately, I’m only writing from experience here…)
5. If you do not know how to use chopsticks, you will learn very quickly! At a majority of restaurants you have to ask for forks, which tends to be an issue because it is almost impossible to communicate with most your waiters. I was very chopstick illiterate before this trip and by the end of my time in China, I was the chopstick master! Of course it is definitely a trial and error process. After dropping broccoli in my professor’s purse at a banquet, let’s just say… I learned the art of chopsticking very quickly. Luckily, she found it a couple days later. I was beginning to worry that they may stop her in customs for smuggling vegetables into another country!
6. Pizza Hut will become your new best friend. My friends and I could only handle so much Asian food, so we ate Pizza Hut for dinner almost every night. But, Pizza Hut is much different there than what we are used to. It’s a little swanky—velvet seats and all! Also, don’t even think about ordering a personal pan pizza for just yourself. “No, no, too much food! Too much!” They literally will not let you, which leads me to tip #7.
7. Apparently, we found this mostly in China, whoever is taking your order will decide how much food you will have. If you ask for cold water, they will bring you boiling water or “Spirit” (Sprite). If you want honey mustard and mayonnaise on your sandwich, they may tell you “no” but give it to the next person in line. If you want one scoop of ice cream, they will give you and charge you for two. Once again, only writing from experience here…
8. If you are American, don’t be alarmed if Chinese people on the street stand very close to you and smile off into the distance. It took a while to figure out that they were trying to take a picture with us, not pick-pocketing or just disregarding personal space. Be ready to be photographed, video taped, stared at, etc. because it WILL happen on a daily basis. It was actually a good (and slightly pathetic) self-esteem booster as everyday we were told we looked like celebrities! So, just be a good sport, hold up your peace sign with your fingers (which actually means “victory” to them) and put on a smile because it will definitely make an Asian’s day.
9. Lastly, be ready to climb a million stairs at any touristy place you visit. Make it to the top, though, and I assure you it will be worth it!