Hospitals

Even though I’ve lived in China I’ve never had to spend much time in hospital. This man, however, could be considered an expert on the subject. If you’re going to China soon I would suggest watching this video to be more prepared for your trip.

  • If you live in a big city you can find good foreigner friendly medical care.
  • Most Chinese Doctors don’t speak English
  • Bring any Chinese speaking friends with you
  • Take your passport
  • Be prepared to pay in cash (they suggest 1000RMB)
  • Use the hospital guides (the people with the red sash) they’re paid to help you
  • You’ll spend a lot of time in waiting rooms
  • You won’t be assigned a room
  • You travel to all the various doctors, they don’t come to you
  • Keep a list of your allergies on a list of paper with the English and Chinese names
  • Double check that you’re not allergic to any meds they give you

There are a billion mom and pop stores everywhere, but the stores listed below are the stores that are available in all moderately populated cities.

Typical grocery stores:

You can buy groceries and common household items here. Many of them also have jewelry, handbag, and pottery shops attached to them.

 

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Chain Malls:

Wanda plazas aren’t just malls, they’re city blocks with door-to-door shops and stores.

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Similar to dollar stores:

Miniso is my best friend. You can get lots of knick knacks and household items for just a few kuai.

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Foreign grocery chains:

These stores are nice to visit if you’re wanting to cook Western food at home. Sometimes they require a membership card that you’ll need your passport to apply for.

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Outdoors and sports:

Think Cabela’s or Big 5 Sporting Goods.

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Applying for a Chinese Visa

A bit of research is required when it comes to visas. The type of visa you apply for will vary depending on the length and purpose of your stay. You can see all the options and requirements here.

This is the visa application form. They are hyper-aware of any spelling or numerical mistakes on the applications so you may want to ask a friend to check all the details before you submit it to the embassy. Your passport, a copy of the picture page of your passport, a visa photo matching these requirements, an attachment of your flight itinerary, an invitation letter, and a check or money order for the allotted payment will need to be attached.

In your research you’ll find that you could fill out all the applications on your own and then hire someone you know to take the application to the embassy for you. Or, you could go through a company like ItsEasy, and pay to have everything done for you.

Having processed hundreds of visas for other people, I would suggest just going through an agency. It will be a bit more expensive, but it will save you from a ton of stress. They’ll walk you through the process and ensure everything is in order for your trip.

 

Being a Good Guest

You’ve received an invitation to have lunch at a Chinese friend’s house. For the sake of this story, your friend’s name is Yu Ping. You met Yu Ping in a little noodle shop just inside of the Xi’an wall. True to Chinese hospitality and kind culture, Yu Ping keeps you company while you’re eating, and the two of you hit it off! She invites you to her home for dinner that evening and you accept. She gives you her phone number and street address and explains how to get there by bus. After lunch you continue your sightseeing when questions start pouring into your mind. “How in the world am I supposed to be a good guest?” “What am I expected to do or say?” “When should I eat?” “Where should I sit?”293257_10151063686160733_1425330436_n

Don’t be intimidated, these are all fantastic questions. You’ll soon discover there is a really good reason that Chinese people are famous for being wonderful hosts. They’ve  spent thousands of years perfecting the art of hospitality. They’ll shower you in gifts and go to extreme lengths to ensure your comfort. Naturally, you’ll want to be a good guest. Here are a few things to pay close attention to:

  • Chinese people do not bow upon greeting and they rarely shake hands. Just nod and say “ni hao”.
  • Offer to take your shoes off before entering the home
  • Bring a gift to the host – a nice fruit basket is always appreciated
  • Give and accept all items with two hands
  • They’ll refuse the gift at least two or three times before finally accepting it. As should you.
  • Never open a gift in front of the giver
  • Wait for the host to tell you where to sit
  • If at a banquet, toast to the host. Tap your glass twice and stand to get everyones attention
  • Never leave chopsticks standing up in the bowl, rest them by the side of the dish
  • Don’t take the last item from a plate or tray

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Knowing Chinese culture there are deep and significant reasons that these things are or are not done…but I’m not familiar enough with their history to explain everything sufficiently. However, I do know that if you’re paying attention to these few rules you’ll be able to navigate the Chinese social scene with no problem!

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Internet and VPNs

You might have heard of the Great Fire Wall of China. In a nutshell, in 2010 China began censoring their internet very heavily. The Chinese political party reserves the right to block anything they find dangerous to national security, inappropriate in any way, critical of the Chinese government, or destructive to China’s reputation; the definition these terms have yet to be given, so they could be used as an excuse to block pretty much anything at any time. For instance, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, iTunes, YouTube, blogs, and all things Google are inaccessible.

Now here’s where things get interesting. You can probably live without social media if you’re only going to be in China for a couple weeks or if you’re cool and want to do a social media cleanse. However, if you’re there for an extended period of time, it’s nice to have the capability of keeping up with events in the U.S. Therefore, VPNs.

Webopedia explains VPN’s way better than I ever could. They say “A VPN secures the private network, using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.”

Basically, you can download software on your devices that will allow you to circumvent  censorship. Most VPNs come as a monthly or yearly subscription. The prices and efficiency vary widely from service to service. If you want to get a VPN you should do research to ensure that particular service will be effective in China and to how many devices the software can be downloaded. A lot of VPN providers would be effective in many countries, but China is exceptionally diligent on their censoring.

Here are a few VPNs that have worked for me:

Most of these VPNs can be refunded within a week or so of purchase. I would suggest downloading from various providers and then cancelling the ones that don’t work. They’ve always been good about refunding my money within a week.

A word of warning. Don’t be scrolling through Facebook or Instagram while in public. It’s just asking for trouble, you’re not going to get arrested, but something interesting happens when people are placed under such heavy restrictions; they begin to restrict themselves in anticipation of consequences. Meaning, the common Chinese people don’t want to be seen with someone breaking the rules. Just be respectful no matter what you choose to do.