Be & Go
Life in China whether you're working, studying, traveling or volunteering is sure to be a unique, incredible and valuable experience that you'll carry with you throughout you're life. MyBambooBridge has collated information on all aspects of living in China including laws and safety, culture shocks, dating, food, socialising, technology and essential APPs, finances as well as language.
Laws and Safety
See the UK government website on all information regarding laws and safety in China. Their page on help and services in China also includes more specific information including visas, healthcare, embassy contact details, taxes and doing business.
There is a wealth of information on the internet about the various culture shocks you'll inevitably stumble across whilst living in China - familiarising yourself with this before you arrive will help you to adjust and fully embrace your new lifestyle. The following is a list of daily differences you'll encounter - please note these may vary from city to city.
Always carry tissues and hand sanitizer with you. First-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are likely to have Western toilets in restaurants and shopping centers.
Personal Space & Privacy
China's population is 1.6 billion strong and as such, space is a luxury. When traveling to popular tourist destinations or during collective public holidays or in rush hour, the crowds of people can be overwhelming. Don't expect anyone to wait for the mass of people to get off the underground before you fight your way on. Also don't expect anyone to be particularly considerate in terms of holding the door open for the next person or knocking someone as they walk past (a lot of people will be glued to their phone and don't look at where they are going). No one will say please, thank you or sorry - so it's best to shake off your English mannerisms whilst in China to avoid any upset.
On privacy ... when meeting someone new, questions Brits may find a little too personal and invasive are considered perfectly normal in China, or which may include your relationship status, your salary and monthly rent.
In the UK, we like to make a fuss of our orderly queues - anyone that dares jump to the front is greeted with collective tutting, raised eyebrows and evil stares. Don't bother doing this in China. Queues tend to form collective masses of people as the collective mentality seems to be that if you are not at the front of the queue, you will not be left behind.
In second and third tier cities, it is likely that people will stare at you - especially if your features (such as long, blond/ginger hair or dark skin) are making you stand out among a sea of Chinese people. In Beijing and Shanghai this may still happen however in general people are more used to seeing foreigners around the city. You also may be approached for a photograph (or two) - the nature of this behaviour is purely curiosity. If it makes you uncomfortable, simply politely decline or look away.
My China Life
Whether you want to get to know the locals better or stay within your comfort zone, dating is a great way to improve your language skills, get to know the area better and err .. make some special friends. You'll need a VPN (see technology below) to fire up Tinder and Bumble, however Chinese dating APPs include: Tantan 探探, Momo 陌陌 and Heartbeat 心动.
The LGBTI community in China is gradually gaining momentum - first-tier cities have gay & lesbian bars, LGBTI WeChat group chats as well as Meetups for you to get involved with and meet both Westerners & Chinese people! See Qmmunity for more.
Dating cultures vary immensely between cultures (even between the UK and the USA where, given a shared language, you might expect the cultures to be similar) and Chinese dating culture is conventionally more intense than one might anticipate.
As China experiences greater wealth, their diets are beginning to shift in line with their income - you will see McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks and
Costa throughout it's cities. Avoiding dairy is fairly easy as many Chinese are genetically lactose intolerant. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are many restaurants and small outlets that will cater for this - but note that although this will vary from place to place, meat will likely be cooked in the same pan.
Alarm bells concerning food safety in China have been raised by both Chinese and Western media. However, various scandals have pushed the government to do more to regulate the industry - which is improving. Don't be afraid to try the brilliant array of Chinese dishes (see China in 50 dishes put together by WeekInChina) as you can't find food like this anywhere else in the world.
On drinking water - see this comprehensive guide including some useful phrases too. In China, drinking warm/hot water is ubiquitous throughout it's population - you'll find hot water dispensers everywhere so make sure to always carry a flask!
Follow The Food Ranger on YouTube for dozens of foody videos around China!
(& essential APPs)
China's economy, society and lifestyles have been digitalised and it is outstanding to witness and be part of.
You could leave the house with only WeChat on your phone and you'd be able to purchase train tickets to the other end of China, video call all your friends whilst ordering a take-away coffee and/or beer, pay your bills and read a couple of articles ... all whilst uploading a video of this to your WeChat moments. Friendly reminder to remember your password as logging back in can be a struggle due to several security measures.
If you can't read Chinese, stick to Google Maps, however Baidu is generally the most accurate in China and can give estimated travel times via car, bike, foot, underground and train.
VPN (Access the West)
To keep in touch with everyone back home, downloading a VPN before you head out to China is a safe bet. Without a VPN you cannot access Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram. Whatsapp will work however you won't be able to download photos unless your VPN is turned on.
Taobao (Shopping Online)
Real Time AQI (Pollution Radar)
Dianping (Eating out)
Elema (Eating in)
By socialising I mean partying, clubbing and going out to bars. Going out in China is a lot of fun for the following factors 1) It is cheaper as there is often no charge for entry into clubs and alcohol is cheaper than in the UK - although avoid ridiculously cheap spirits as they will inevitably be fake and can do your body some serious damage. If you're on bottled beer, make sure you see it being opened and keep your thumb on the top. 2) Girls are less likely to be grabbed, touched and harassed than they might out in the UK 3) You can practice your language skills as there will be an abundance of Chinese people to listen to you drunk cry in stumbling Chinese 4) Walking home at night is generally safer than it might be on the streets of London, Birmingham or Manchester ...