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In Country Tips

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  1. First of all, there is no tipping in China. However, the idea is just beginning to enter the culture and mentality.  The local Starbucks now has a tip jar at the register, although I could never really get my head around the idea of tipping for filling a cup with coffee for carry-away.  At some of our favorite Western restaurants we do leave tips, though not the 20% that we leave at our favorite places in the Western world.

  2. Hong Kong and Mainland China have different electrical receptacles.  You have to buy a converter for one or the other, if you have electric or electronic devices from one or the other.  Voltage is 250.

  3. No one drinks water from the tap, but there are plenty of sources for bottled water, large and small bottles.  Sometimes, you will actually be charged for a glass of water at a restaurant or cafe, but that practice is not the norm.

  4. Smoking is ubiquitous.  Few establishments, Starbuck, a counter example, do not permit smoking.  Just ask: ďJar, kuh yi choh yen ma?Ē: "Can I smoke here?"  Marlboroís cost around •10 per pack.

  5. It is actually considered to be a politeness to offer someone a cigarette.  So, if you smoke, surprise someone, and offer them a cigarette for any occasion, and accept one, yourself, when offered.

  6. A nice hotel can cost around •300/night, if you are smart.  A suite across the street from us costs •300/night.  Western-oriented hotels will charge Western prices.  They play on the fact that they are "Westernized", whatever that means, although you can find comfort and luxury at a Chinese hotel for 1/3 to 1/8th the price.  Hong Kong prices are Western prices: even a bed-sized room in a dive costs around $40/night.

  7. Beds in hotels, in China and Hong Kong, are, in general, very hard, translation: un-sprung and unpadded, and it is difficult to find a comfortable bed, but you can at least request one and try your luck.

  8. Better restaurants will cost you •100, give or take a few hundred, per person whether they are Chinese or Western-chef restaurants.  Food prep standards are not what they are, in the West.  In Hong Kong, restaurant prices are, basically, exactly what you would expect, in the West. 

  9. People, especially, those from Guangdong Province (including Guangzhou and HK), eat just about everything.  I have had frog, snake, pigeon, and Sun Fish, to name a few.  Although eating dog is banned in Guangzhou, I still see half-a-dog hanging on the rack at the local markets outside of town.  Be adventurous, and try something new.

  10. Another Chinese eating habit that you might not have seen at your local Chinese restaurant, in your own country, is that they like to keep the bones in their prepared food.  While you might be used to eating chicken breast or filleted fish, in China, chicken, fish, frog, snake, fish and anything else with a skeleton will be served chopped into bits with the bones still inside.  It can be a tricky business biting into something on your plate for the first time.  My first fish dish, in country, left me with bones in my tongue, gums, and cheek, on the first bite.  Be careful!  My own experience tells me that, if you get fish at a restaurant, get a whole fish and get it fried: when fried, it usually comes off the bone much cleaner. 

  11. If you are out with a group of people at a restaurant, the custom is for everyone to use their own chopsticks to pick food from the various dishes.  It is said that that is one of the reasons for a large incidence of hepatitis.

  12. My Jewish Mother once almost had a fit when I put an olive pit back onto the disk that came with the salad that it was in.  She wanted some of my salad but not my germs.  Here, people just spit things, like bones, onto the table without the assistance of a napkin.  Dorothy, you're not in Kansas, any more.

  13. When you are away from home, in a foreign land, it is always comforting to find things from home.  When I first got here.  We were taken as a group to town, by the head of the college where I teach finance.  We went to a "Western Restaurant", and even though I love noodles and other Chinese food, I was excited.  The menu had Italian and Mexican.  It really sucked!  Now, sometimes, I meet other people who come to town and find those restaurants.  They actually think that they are good, but it is mostly that those people are unfamiliar with Chinese, and they don't really know good food, and they are just so happy to find the familiar.  Translation of Western Restaurant is: we make food called Italian and American, but it is not very good, and it is certainly not Italian (but I am) or American (again, I am).  Even Pizza Hut is completely different from what it is in the U. S.  There are good Italian, French, Middle East, Indian and American restaurants where you can get a T-bone steak.  Some of them are overpriced, but many are reasonably priced and really good.  It's hard to find Mexican, even though a few restaurants say that they have Mexican food, or Spanish.  There are many other country foods that I have not really seen here ... I really miss good Mexican!

  14. Good mixed drinks are also difficult to find.  I have had a few good Martini's, but the Margarita tasted nothing like those that we would have at the Sunday afternoon Margarita parties by the pool that we used to have when I owned a country inn.  There are all kinds of beers, Chinese, Russian, Dutch, German, Japanese, etc.  Sometimes, that's the safest bet.

  15. A greeting that you might hear people use when they meet is "cher fahn (cher fahn la ma; cher fahn yo mei yo)?", which means "have you eaten?"  This expression came out of the famine, in China, in the early-1900's, when many people had little to eat, but is still a common form of greeting, today.

  16. An expression that is used to say good bye is "man zou", which means walk slowly.

  17. Courtesy, for a while, was shunned, in China, and it is only, now, making a slow comeback.  People, don't always say please (ching), thank you (xie xie) and you're welcome (bu yong xie).  In fact, the counterculture even developed non-verbal codes.  So, if someone refills your glass, surprise them by tapping the table with your index finger (the signal for thanks); use your index finger and the one next to it, if you are married.

  18. Maybe because there are so many people ... I don't know ... but you may notice that if you are standing in line at a cash register, for example, and you give the person in front of you a little room, other people will come up and go in front of you, in line.  Indeed, most of the time, instead of a line, there is just a mob strewn around whatever service area there is.

  19. Travel within the country is relatively cheap.  However, to book airline flights, always use a travel agent, as the price will be about half of what it would be to book it yourself.

  20. At least, in the south, people use umbrellas all of the time: to keep out of rain or sun.  That could be good news for umbrella manufacturers, but, here, a cheap umbrella costs less than US$1; the best ones are around $5.

  21. Interestingly, unlike, in the West where everyone wants a tan so badly that we have tanning salons, in China, people, especially the women, want to be white.  There are ads on TV, all the time, for skin whitening products, and even things like Olay and Estee Lauder skin products that I have seen, in the West, have extra ingredients for skin whitening, here, in China.

  22. In China, often, goods have no prices on them.  Very often, things will be offered to you at a higher price than that, which would be offered to a local.  So, be aware.  Negotiate!

  23. Unlike the "may I help you?" that you might be used to when entering a Western establishment, in China, you will hear, "ni yao shenma?", "you want what?"

  24. Interestingly, to me as a business person, as a student of human behavior, and as someone who has lived in other major and minor cities around the world, small business, often, takes a shotgun approach to trading in goods.  I was shocked when I first encountered it, but then I realized that the shotgun pattern changes from store to store, door to door.  A small store might have some food, small electrical appliances, and some nail polish.  The next store might have some medicine, soft drinks, and small glasses and dishes (nothing fancy) for your kitchen.  You might find food, candles, batteries, and shoes, in another.  There might be 15 different sorts of unrelated things.  Often from one door to the next, there will be a lot of overlap. Sometimes, a new store will begin, right next door to a store that has been there for enough time to build a new business, and the new store will offer exactly the same off-beat selection as the old store.

  25. Of course, since China has so many people, many jobs that would use machinery, in the West, use people, here.  In highway construction, for example, that are people using picks or jackhammers where you would see bulldozers and cranes, in other places.  Even at the local swank department store, there is an area on the first floor open to the outside, and instead of putting a wall up, two guards guard the area during the night.

  26. Hair salons often provide more that a cut, a wash, a style, and massage, if you get my meaning.  It is actually a problem in many towns.  However, I have yet to find someone at a hair salon who realizes the putting the edge of their hand above your ear when washing your hair is to divert water away from the ear, not to channel it into the ear.

  27. Donít be alarmed by all of the handholding, but donít try it, yourself (at least not with the opposite sex).  Girls walk around arm-in-arm or holding hands with their girlfriends, no matter what age, and so do boys.  Don't be surprised if  a member of the same sex wants to go arm-in-arm with you.  Don't be homophobic: just have fun!

  28. Be careful of pick-pockets, in crowds or not.  They will open your bag; they will cut your bag; or they will scoop it up as they ride by on a motorcycle.

  29. In general, people donít know directions, including, where things are located by the points of the compass.  It is usually difficult to find someone who can tell you how to get somewhere.  Maps of cities are usually readily available at newsstands, bookstores, or in the shop in your hotel.  Buy one, even if it is in Chinese.  Then, figure out where your hotel is, and go from there.  Personally, I always travel with a compass: it has come in handy, many times, especially, in snow storms in the Alps or the Rockies, but it's always easy to get turned around when the sun isn't out.  I actually lost my favorite U.S. Army surplus compass, in Beijing, and the new one that I got just isn't the same. 

  30. Often, it is difficult to get the right answer to any question.  Part of this has to do with embarrassment: people do not want to admit that they do not know something, so they will just give an answer.  Then, if you have asked a question, in English, they will say they understand, even if they do not.  It took me a long time to realize that.  Be careful that you got the right answer.  Test it by asking several people to see if you get the same answer or several different ones.  Then, even though you might not still have the answer, at least you will know.

  31.  In most restaurants, the roll of napkins is played by either a roll of toilet paper or a small pack of tissues.  In fact, often, a charge will be added to your bill for a pack of tissues left, specifically, for you when you order. 

  32. Salt (or black pepper) is usually not on a table at a Chinese restaurant.  Ask for "yen" (salt) or "hey hoo jiao" (black pepper); red pepper in oil is "la jiao".

  33. Always take tissues along with you, as toilet paper is not available in many bathrooms, and neither are paper towels.

  34. Although it is not true in better hotels, toilets, in general, are the old French stand-over, not-sit-down type toilets. 

  35. If you open a bank account, it can take several hours standing in a bank waiting for your number to be called, and transactions also take time.

  36. In China, you can only buy Chinese Yuan (CNY) at a bank.  There is a black market of dealers, but you have to be careful that you donít get counterfeit money, so it is safer to go to a bank.  In Hong Kong, there are many dealers, which are easier to deal with than banks, since there are no restrictions on the amount that you can exchange in a day.

  37. In China, it is difficult to exchange CNY for foreign currency, and, even if you have the paperwork, there are restrictions on amount of exchange per day and on wire transfers of foreign currency out of the country.  In HK, you can only convert CNY5,000/day to foreign currency at a bank.

  38. PIN numbers for bank cards, in the U.S. are only 4 digits.  In China, PIN's are six digits.  If you do manage to get a bank account, here, you will find that your bank ATM card can be used as a debit card at many stores and restaurants.  I can also use my Visa debit card from the U.S. at some bank ATM's, but not all.  And Visa and MC are accepted at some places.

  39. In doing transactions, people will usually say "kuai" instead of Yuan.  For example, yi bai kwai is one hundred Yuan.

  40. China fact: Paper money was invented in China, in the 900's A.D.  It was abandoned in the 1100's, but it is thought that the idea of reinventing paper money, in Italy, by goldsmith's who sat at their benches (banco, thus, the modern name, bank) and kept accounts by issuing gold certificates was brought back from China by Marco Polo.

  41. Because of their rapid and dramatic transformation into a market economy where people get rich quick, money seems to be very important to everyone, much more so than in the West.  That leads to a number of patterns in behavior that you should be careful of.

  42. If your cell phone doesn't work, in China, or even if it does, it is easy to buy a SIM card for your phone at almost any convenience store, and they will also offer cell phone recharge cards to put calling time on your phone.  The SIM card will work anywhere in China, if you buy that right kind, but you will need to get a special SIM, if you want to use the phone in both China and HK: I have a China/HK card from China Unicom, which gives me separate numbers for HK and Guangzhou: I can make and receive calls from both, and people, in Guangzhou can call my GZ number and reach me, if I'm in HK, and vice versa.

  43. With my cell phone (China Mobile), I can call out of the country by dialing 12593, then, the country code and number.  The cost is extremely cheap by any standards, East or West.

  44. Once you have a cell phone, you might notice that people use text messaging, in China, rather than making an actual call.  It is simply part of the current cell phone pop culture of China.  Before I came to China, the only time I ever received a text message was from my 14 year old nephew ... I didn't even know my phone had a text message function before that.

  45. Telephone answering machines and cell phone voice mail have not yet made their way into the mainstream, as yet, in China.  Cell phones will report missed calls, but, if you call someone at the office or at home, don't expect a answering machine to pick up your call.  In Hong Kong, though, you might be able to leave a message or a voice mail.

  46. When I was growing up in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Monday was laundry day, and you would see peoples' clothing hung out on the line.  My mother never did get a dryer, even though everyone else had one by the time I grew up.  Here, everyone hangs out their wash.  Dryers are uncommon, and the electricity to run them is beyond the means of most people.  You will, therefore, see colorful clothing hung on the line on every balcony of every apartment, no matter how posh the apartment building is.

  47. If you live here for a while, and you want to hire a maid to clean your apartment, you should know something about the state of house cleaning, here.  Most people use a wet rag, not even with soap added to the water.  Moreover, you will not even find all of the cleaning sprays and solutions that you might be used to, in the U.S.

  48. Chinese washing machines are also different from those in the U.S.  While U.S. washers have a tall agitator, Chinese washers have a sort of beater-bar disk in the bottom of the tub.  They can be very hard on clothing, so we use the kind of mesh bags, used in the West for lingerie, for everything, here.

  49. There are other common items that are difficult or impossible to find.  Bayer aspirin is difficult to find, although antibiotics are common, both Chinese made and foreign.  I have never seen Lysol spray.  Breakfast cereals from the U.S. are difficult, but not impossible to find.  It is difficult to find a place that serves American breakfasts or sandwiches (of course, there is Subway, but I'm Italian and used to Italian and Jewish delis).

  50. Cars ownership is new, in China.  Normal roadway rules are largely ignored.  When you cross a street, look both ways, as people will even drive the wrong way on streets, and bicycles are everywhere, going every which way.  Red lights are also ignored by many drivers.  Look all ways before crossing the street.

  51. Japanese (as opposed to produced in China) Hondas are almost a status symbol, in China.  With the undervalued Yuan, even the cost of a Honda can be several hundred thousand Yuan, making purchase achievable by only the richer of the population.  A foreign luxury car, like a Mercedes or a Lexus would cost over half a million, so people who drive those kinds of cars are the super rich.

  52. The Chinese make good use of the transportation that they have, as you can see on the cover page of In Country China.  There are also modes of transportation that are unique to here, like the combo motorcycle-truck type of thing that is included in our picture gallery.  I have seen a family of 5 on a motor scooter, even, 6 kids and a driver.

  53. Beware of cars with white license plates: it is either a member of the police or the armed forces.

  54. Actually, when the Chinese talk of black and white people or black and white society, they are referring to government people as white and organized crime affiliates as black.

  55. Bicycles and motorcycles are prevalent, in China.  Although the day of the rickshaw are gone, except in the same sort of quaint venue as a carriage ride in Philadelphia or Central Park, but there are motorcycle taxi's (you just hop on the back) and motorcycle and bicycle taxis with carriages on back.

  56. Chinese people must have the best natural balance of any people on earth.  I have seen as many as six kids on a motorbike with a driver in the middle, and girls ride the backs of motorcycles, side-saddle without holding on to anything.

  57. You're not in NYC or Paris, so be careful to ask about the closing time of the subway systems, if you are going out for a late dinner or drinks.  Here, in Guangzhou, the Metro closes before midnight.

  58. Currently, in China, train and bus travel are the means of travel, of choice, by most locals.  When I was new, in China, a friend asked me to come to visit.  I asked how to get there, and the response that I got from several people was to take a 5-hour bus ride to the nearest town and then take a second local bus from there for another hour of travel to another smaller town from which I could get a taxi.  I asked my friends about a train or plane and was told there were none.  Being a skeptic, I went onto the internet and found that there was a 45-minute airline flight that got me closer to my destination than the 5-hour bus.  Certainly, train travel can be an interesting way to get around, in China, since you see more scenery and meet more people.  However, be careful about getting a train ticket during the big holidays, like in early October or May or around the Chinese New Year.

  59. The Chinese seem pretty fearless.  Our air conditioner broke down.  China apparently invented the two-piece residential air conditioner, and the outside portion is in two ledges, about 3 feet high, stacked one on top of the other, built into the wall beside the window.  The repair man crawled through the window, toes on the bottom ledge, fingers at the top, and worked on it, secured only by a tether to the window armature.  My stomach was turning just thinking about it.

  60. The expression for surprise, etc., in China is: Ai yo (ya)!  It is the Akh (guttural fricative) in German or Russian, Oy veh, in Yiddish, Ay carumba, in Spanish, etc. 

  61. Wah (?) is an expression of awe (or surprise?) in Guangdong, like Wow or What!? in English.  However, in Xi'an, for example, it means baby.

  62. Finger counting is different in different parts of the world.  For example, to indicate the number 1, in America, you use your index finger.  In France, they use their thumb to indicate 1, while, in Italy, raising a thumb to someone is the same as using your middle finger, in America.  The Chinese have a wonderful system of using one hand to do numbers 1 to 9, and two index fingers, crossed, for 10 (the Chinese character for 10 is a cross).  You can see all of the hand signals for counting by pressing on the link: finger counting.

  63. In the West, 7 is a lucky number and 13 is unlucky.  In China, 8 is a lucky number, 7 is not, and 4 is unlucky.  In the West, hotels and other buildings, sometimes, delete the 13th floor; in China, they delete the 14th.

  64. In addition, Ayu has informed me that if you give a girl flowers, the number should end in 9.  So, give her 9, 19 or 29, but not a dozen or two.  It is from a play on words: "jio" can mean nine and it can also mean a long time, depending on the prosody.

  65. A few more common hand signals are as follows.  If someone holds up both fists and flicks their thumbs, like they are lighting a lighter, it means "lovers".  If they hold both hands with index fingers extended towards each other, like guns, and repeatedly touch their index fingers together, it means "kiss".  Yummy and TinTin demonstrate for you -- Lovers & Kisses

  66. Shopping at larger stores can be trying.  First, you find something that you like.  Then, you find a sales person who can tell you if it in stock.  Next, you tell the salesperson that you want to buy the item, and they write out (by hand) a sales slip, which you, subsequently, take to a cashier.  Finally, after you pay the cashier, you have to go back to the salesperson to pick up your purchase.  Be patient.

  67. The Chinese make the most beautiful boxes for things.  I have bought items, expensive and inexpensive, and the boxes that they have come in are both beautiful and elaborate.  In fact, sometimes the box is much more beautiful than the object that it contains.  Here, you can't judge anything by its cover.

  68. Foreigners are new to modern-day China, so don't be alarmed or put off, if you notice someone staring at you with either curiosity or suspicion.  Just say, "Ni hao" (Hello; you can see our language page for more common words and expressions in Chinese), and they will invariably break into a smile, return the greeting or give you a thumbs up.  You are a guest, in country, and you should remember that you are also an ambassador of your own country.  I have encountered other foreigners, here, who are friendly and considerate, as well as some who act either aloof or obnoxious.  Be a good ambassador, and show Chinese people that foreigners are just people.

  69. Since foreigners are new to China, you might hear people call you a Wei guo ren or a Guay lou, which are just the Mandarin and Cantonese words for foreigner.  Don't be offended, just say : Shira!, which means, "I am".  It will immediately break the ice.

  70. If you are a man (I am a man, so I know this from experience, but I do not know how it is for women), many girls will tell you that you are handsome.  Don't get excited!  A common Chinese name that girls call guys, all the time, is "shuai ge", which, literally, means handsome brother.

  71. Before I came to China I was expecting the Tao te Ching, Confucius, and other things that I knew of the  Chinese culture.  Of course, I guess that is like expecting cowboys and Indians, if you visit the U.S.  Most people don't even know what I'm talking about when I mention those sorts of things.  On the other hand, the people, here, know little of Western culture, traditions, standards, or expectations.  A girl student once asked me if the U.S. is like in the movie, American Pie.  For some reason, also, everyone thinks that foreigners like beer.  Every time I go out to a restaurant or a bar, they will be quite surprised and knocked completely off balance because I don't want a beer. (There are actually beer girls, hawking one particular brand or another of beer, at many bars, dressed sort of like cowgirls.  They are completely crestfallen when I don't order from them.)

  72. As China is integrating itself with the global economy, there is a push to learn English.  In truth, there are not many people, in China, who speak English, and, if you go to smaller towns or villages, probably no one will speak English or anything else but the local Chinese dialect.  At least buy yourself a dictionary with Chinese symbols, and you will be able to work your way through by looking up English (or whatever your native language) words, and showing the Chinese people the Chinese symbols, in your dictionary.  That is partly the way that I got along for many months, and I still do, in many situations.  You can try, also, to pronounce the words from the pinyin English spelling, in the dictionary, too, but pronunciation is tricky.  In cities, though, you might find that people will come up to you and try to strike up a small conversation, just to practice their English.  Don't get excited and take it for more than it is.  Let them down, gently, if you're not interested in being an ersatz English tutor.

  73. Curiously, many Chinese feel the need to give themselves an English name.  I have never encountered such a phenomenon in any other country.  I suppose the rationale is that it will be easier for foreigners to remember and pronounce their names.  Personally, I like Chinese names, and I am saddened that some people think that they need to anglicize theirs.

  74. There are actually almost 60 different languages, in China.  In Guangdong, HK, and Macau, the language is Cantonese, and sometimes, that is all a person can speak.  There is a push for a common language, called putonghua (literally, common language), which is what we, in the West, refer to as Mandarin.  However, if you are in the western and northern regions, especially in smaller areas, you may find that the language is completely different than what you can understand, if you know some Mandarin.  My first assistant, in China, was Cantonese.  He couldn't understand the language that the people spoke at our local Xin Jiang (in the west) noodle restaurant.  I can pretty well understand noodle shop people because I eat at noodle shops, a lot, and that also helps me understand Xi'an's language.  A major difference, for example, between those two other languages and putonghua is that they are more staccato with some soft syllables, like in the Russian language, while putonghua is more singsong and even.  Beijing's accent has very hard r's.

  75. In the South of China, like in the south of France or in Mexico, there is a several hour siesta around noon til 2 or later.  You will find some shops closed, and even banks and hospitals have minimal staffing at that time.

  76. I am 5' 10.5", so I am neither short nor tall.  People in the south of China tend to be shorter, and I feel fairly tall.  However, people in the north tend to be taller and bigger boned, and I feel short, there.  In fact, it took quite some time, in the south, for me to find places that had shoes that were big enough for me.  My girlfriend, on the other hand, who is from the south, had trouble finding clothing that was small enough for her when we went traveling, in the north.

  77. The Chinese people must be the most flexible, in the world, body-wise.  Everyone. from babies to old men, can squat down into a position in which the upper leg is completely folded against the bottom part, and the rear end is almost touching the ground.  They don't need chairs, here, and I see people "sitting" like that to do all kinds of things, from picking up a penny to reading a magazine at a coffee table

  78. A Chinese university scientist has actually developed a pair of eyeglasses that will translate Chinese characters into English.  They are not in the commercial stage, as yet.  Everything, here, is, of course, written in Chinese characters.  The larger towns will also have most street and highway names, in English, but not much else.  At the smaller restaurants, the menu will be in Chinese, but some will also have pictures that you can point at.  Alternatively, in really small restaurants or at restaurants, in smaller towns, you might try body language: make motions like a fish swimming or dance like a chicken.  It will make it more fun for everyone, and the Chinese will love you.

  79. In the U.S. and Europe, in the 1940's, holding up the index finger and the next one was the sign for victory.  In the 1960's and 1970's, the same gesture was the symbol for peace.  This victory-peace signal has become quite popular, in present-day China.  Whenever you see someone having their picture taken by a friend, you will invariably see them give the victory-peace sign.

  80. Karaoke is a very "in" thing to do, in China, and people have karaoke parties for every kind of occasion.  It's very cool to own your own karaoke devices.

  81. Taking a girl to Haagen Dazs is supposed to show her you love her, according to the ads, but it will cost you about as much as a dinner at a better restaurant.  My neighborhood home-made gelato place makes it better at about 1/6th the price!

  82. You might see people out taking wedding pictures.  Don't get excited!  It's not a wedding.  As it turns out, it is more important to take the wedding pictures, which are done before the wedding, than having the wedding itself.  People have their wedding pictures taken, sometimes, many many months before the actual wedding.

  83. Just like in the West, several decades past, divorce is not accepted here.  Divorced women have told me that it will be difficult for them to remarry.

  84. Many sons and daughters, after getting out of school and getting married, move in with their parents.  It is still the tradition, here.  Many families will include the parents, grandparents, and children and their children.  Children are often raised by the grandparents, also, as part of that tradition.

  85. In China, names begin with family name, followed by first name, like Chen Ayu, who is Ayu from the Chen family.

  86. Cars, in an actual wedding procession, will be decorated in a minimalist style, with a flower or a bow at major corners of the car body.

  87. That brings me to another observation.  Male and female grow up separately and seldom mix.  At many parties I have been to, including weddings, the males are on one side of the room and the females are on the other, kind of like the junior high prom.

  88. China fact.  There is currently a one-baby rule.  Women are allowed to only have one child.  It is a perfectly legitimate request in a country with over a billion people.  It is possible to pay a "tax" and have another child, but, from what we hear, many people circumvent the rule bys using the i.d. of a female relative who has no children.

  89. As a physicist, I can tell you that medicine is a developing science.  In the East, there is a time-honored system of medicine that is different than the West, as you may have heard.  In Hong Kong, medical services are similar to the West, and the quality is what you would expect, in the West.  On the mainland, you can get both Eastern and Western style medical services, but getting the latter will vary.  If it is in a large town, you will be able to find Western-style care, and you don't have to find a Western doctor.  Better Chinese hospitals will have good doctors.  In some cases, there will even be a clinic within the hospital that uses the better doctors to treat foreign patients.  In fact, sometimes, the Western-run medical services are just over-priced and are not as good as the good Chinese hospitals.

  90. In China, people don't go to a doctor, normally, they go to a hospital or clinic.  We even go to the hospital, down the block, to get our teeth cleaned, where they use the ultrasonic cleaning tools that are so popular in the West.  Of course, you will probably need to speak Chinese or have a friend accompany you who does.  Our local hospital has all of the latest imaging devices.

  91. Unlike in the U.S., antibiotics are not prescription drugs.  You can get them over the counter at any Yao Dian (drug store).  In fact, people take antibiotics at the drop of a hat.  Often, first signs of sickness, whether a cold, the flu or an actual infection, they do get an intravenous dose of penicillin.  I have heard that you can also get a shot at the hospital, if you drink too much alcohol.

  92. Safety is always an important issue for travelers, and my personal experience, in China, has been that it is relatively safe.  I have lived in cities, like New York, where safety can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and also with the time of day, so I am not naive.  For example, when I cross the border between Macau and the mainland, late at night, and three guys with a van ask me if I want a ride to Guangzhou, I politely decline.  However, in cities, like Guangzhou, you will find that there are many security complexes.  In our little complex, we even have video cameras, constantly monitored by security guards.  It gives me a safer feeling than I have had in many other places, night or day.

  93. I have only been asked for my i.d. papers three times.  The first time was by a bunch of Arabs in a car who tried to tell us that they were the tourist police (there is no such thing).  They wanted us to hand them our passports through the car window ... I'm not that stupid!  First of all, they were not even Chinese, and the Chinese do not hire foreigners for official jobs; then, they never showed me their i.d.  The only people who ever ask for your papers are the police or the military.  That only happened to me once when I went to visit a friend at his girlfriend's house, which was in a back street Chinese neighborhood, and the police figured that any foreigner, there, was there to visit a hooker ... like I would ever need or use a hooker!!  The last time was being taken by private car from an isolated beach, on the mainland, near HK, to town at night.  The military were at a crossroads in the dark in the mountains, apparently, looking for illegal entrants to the isolated coastline.  It was also around the time the Olympic torch was passing through HK and Guangdong.  It is never comfortable being stopped by 6 soldiers with automatic weapons.

  94. My mother told me about "Mickey Finns" when she was young.  The concept is still alive, here.  Be careful drinking at bars.  Don't let strangers buy you a drink, and don't leave your drink unattended, whether you are male or female.

  95. When I was little, we got a badminton set.  It was so exciting.  Since then, I have not often seen badminton, again.  Today, in China, badminton is alive and well.  Everyone plays it everywhere (no need for net).  There is even a badminton birdie factory outside of town with a giant birdie out front.  The other game that is really popular with the boys is basketball.  Now that several Chinese have made it to the NBA, every boy dreams of being the next.  In addition, I got myself a yoyo to pass the time, while waiting for my number to be called at the bank or waiting for the bus to come.  Then, I discovered yoyo's were very popular with the kids in grade school (they told me where to find and which were the best yoyo's, in my neighborhood).

  96. Another really cool thing about China is that they build walls around everything, including highway or street construction sites.  After all, they did build the Great Wall.  Company sites and schools are surrounded by walls.  Many complexes and neighborhoods within cities are surrounded by walls, too.  In building construction, instead of using the heavy metal scaffolding that is common, in the U.S., they erect scaffolding of bamboo around structures, as they go up.  That even applies to buildings that are 20 stories or so high.  Then, over that scaffolding, they attach heavy netting to keep anything from falling from the structure, while it is being built.

  97. In many cases, especially with large construction jobs, temporary housing units are erected for the workers to live in.  Indeed, housing comes as part of the compensation package for all sorts of jobs, across a broad range.

  98. In many ways, the society reminds me of the West in the 1950's.  Kids don't date, in high school, although that is beginning to change.  Girls are just beginning to discover makeup.  In general, morals and attitudes are what we might call old-fashioned, so be careful how you comport yourself.  The level of maturity and sophistication is, in general, lower than what you are used to, if you are from the U.S. or Europe.

  99. An interesting additional note on women's fashion is that many women, and girls of all ages, wear high boots, in cold weather as well in the summertime.  I remember that trend in the West, back in the late-1960's during the Mod Era.  It is interesting to see it reemerge, here, now.  However, when it comes to shoes and boots, the women, here, are not like some women in the West (Hi, Linda!) who have to have a pair of shoes to match every outfit.

  100. A fashion trend for toddlers is pants with a slit in the crotch.  No underwear or diaper, either.  That way they can go any time, any where.

  101. I realize that it is not unknown in the West and has been sort of "in" over the past several decades, but, in China, most babies are carried papoose-style, mostly, just using a blanket to bind them to their mother's or grandmother's back.

  102. Having dogs as pets was banned for several decades.  Even now, there are stiff license fees, in many large cities (for example, in Guangzhou, the fee is about US$1,500 per year) that continue to try discourage ownership.  Moreover, as a result, many people are scared of dogs, large or small.

  103. People, mostly older ones, walk around the street swinging their arms and clapping hands, from and back, or some other arm movements, and sometimes they walk backwards...it's all a form of exercise.

  104. Another funny phenomenon that you might observe is the daily "pep talk to the troops" at a restaurant.  Often, I see all of the staff lined up outside a restaurant with the manger reviewing and trying to rouse them much like a drill sergeant in the Marines.

  105. All of the sound-gags that were part of cartoons, while I was growing up, like "boing", sliding whistle, handsaw wobble, etc., are peppered indiscriminately, in things, like music variety shows.  It makes me laugh, but more at the misplacements than at the actual sound effects, themselves, which are pretty passť.

  106. The head of the country is Hu and the second in command is Wen.  Abbott and Costello would not have believed it.

  107. At sporting events, for example, in case you go to the Olympics, this summer, shout, "jai-yo!" to root on your favorite player or team.

  108. Spoken Chinese language, especially Cantonese, might seem loud to you.  I first noticed the real difference in volume of spoken English versus spoken Chinese when I listened to students at an awards function.  You could barely hear them over the PA system when they gave the English versions of their speeches, but it was easily audible, in Chinese.  Since then, I have studied the difference, and I have come to the conclusion that Chinese is a very open-mouthed language, on the whole.  If you listen to and watch people speak the French language, for example, it is very closed and tight-mouthed language.  English is somewhere in the middle.

  109. It is always nice to know at least a little of the language when you visit a foreign land, so please visit our Chinese language lesson page to pick up a few useful expressions.  We are also working on a Cantonese language page, which should soon appear on the sight.

  110. For some of our thoughts about business and money, in China, visit our In-Country Analysis page.

outdoor market in Hainan Island, China
orange trees for Chinese New Year  



  Wangfujin shopping street, Beijing, China
Martyrs' Park, in China  
  Hong Kong seafood restaurant
singer on Bar Street, in Beijing, China
wedding photos, in China
Shamian Island, China
newspaper wall, Guangzhou, China

Hunan Restaurant

Guangzhou, China

Qingdao, China

  Zengcheng, China


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