Water Safety

I mentioned water briefly in an early post, but it’s such an important topic that it deserves its own post. The first and only rule is this, DO NOT DRINK THE WATER. I wouldn’t even trust water filtration systems in most Chinese apartments. 

China just doesn’t have the water sanitation systems or sewage treatment plants we are blessed with here in the States. Oftentimes raw sewage, even from large cities, is pumped right into rivers and lakes. A few miles down stream that now-tainted water is pulled into another town. Even if the water itself were clean, it would travel to you through miles of untreated piping that is who-knows-how-old. 


One time I got to translate for an American basketball team that was playing in China for a season. As soon as I met them I recommended that they avoid the water, but one of the players thought he could drink just a cup or two and be safe. I don’t want to get too graphic…but he was wrong. 

It is just as easy and cost effective to buy bottled water as necessary. A bottle of water, depending on the brand, will cost between 2-10元 ($.29-$1.50). Your health is well worth an extra few cents a day. 


Lanzhou La Mian 兰州拉面🍜

The Muslim population of China, commonly known as the Hui Minority (回族), are famous first for their hospitality, and second for their delicious food, especially their lamb. They use a special mixture of spices in which cumin is heavily featured. They are also famous for their hand-pulled noodles. I’m not even going to bother trying to describe how cool it is to watch them make their noodles, just watch the video 🙂

In short, you’re seriously cheating yourself if you order rice at a Muslim restaurant.

One of the most convenient parts of their restaurants is that their menus are huge pictures up on the walls, like this:


So you can just point and they’ll make whatever it is for you. They’ll often have the prices in the lower right corner of each of the pictures as well. A simple bowl of rice noodles, like in the video, is usually 6元 ($.88) and a full on huge plate of noodles topped with beef and potatoes will run about 17元 ($2.51)。Believe me, all of it is well worth the money. Go try it!


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

The Weather

Weather is one of the first concerns many people have about living in China. Are their seasons the same as ours? How cold does it get? How hot does it get?

The first thing you need to know is, as shown on the map below, China and the U.S. are both in the Northern hemisphere so they experience the seasons at the same time.


You’ll also notice that the Northern portion of China is pretty far North and therefore will get super cold in the winter. Whereas the Southern portion is close enough to the equator to be extremely hot in the summer.

The graph below compares the averages temperatures in Beijing and Shanghai to Denver. As you can see, Shanghai is warmer in general while Beijing is colder in the winters and warmer in the summers.


Travel China Guide has an awesome weather map that will show the temperature for the coming 3 days in many large cities . You might check it out before your trip. It will help you know how to pack.


During the winter months, you’ll meet few natives with less than 3 layers of clothes. This little girl, for instance, is wearing 4 layers while were were inside a building on Halloween day. Many places in China do not have central air or heating, so if it’s hot outside its going to be hot inside, if it’s cold outside it’s going to be cold inside. It’s is also very humid in most places so if you’re cold you’re going to be very cold and if you’re hot you’re going to be very hot, and sweaty. There’s not much you can do about the heat, but if you’re going to be traveling during the winter I would suggest taking a nice coat and a set of thermals.

Touchy Subjects

(This post is going to be heavy, but don’t let it scare you. As you can see above, even Chinese officials are stoked to hang out with visitors.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, the descriptions of the events and situations below are super watered down versions. Politics, economics, history, and culture play roles in current events that I still can’t understand completely.

Falun Gong – 

This is by far the most serious subject to avoid. Falun Gong was started in the 90s as a yoga/meditation business, but quickly grew into a spiritual organization. Falun Gong had the support of the government when they were just teaching physical health and happiness. However, when a spiritual aspect was added and the group gained popularity, the government withdrew it’s approval. Despite the withdrawal of government sanction, the group’s membership grew into tens of thousands. Technically Communism is the only religion approved for practice in China, so this new “cult” posed a huge threat by teaching emotional freedom and other illogical ideology. It was at this point Chinese officials began persecuting the group members in order to irradiate their ways of thinking. It’s not spoken of, but there are labor and re-indoctrination camps dedicated to the detention and reform of Falun Gong members. I’m not going to get into what goes on in these camps. Talking and asking questions about any religion, especially Falun Gong, should be strictly avoided. Don’t even google it or email about it while you’re on Chinese soil.

Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tibet – 

The situation for all three of these territories is vaguely similar. During the Qing Dynasty China owned a huge chunk of Asia. As seen in the maps below.  Through war and political dissension, they lost some ground, that they are still trying to reclaim. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and many islands in the South China sea were once part of China. They’re still Chinese territory as far as the current government is concerned.

Qing Dynasty Map –Qing_Empire_circa_1820_EN.svg

Current Map of China – chinamap

Hong Kong was the property of Britain for about 150 years. During that time Hong Kong was transformed from a fishing island to one of the biggest international hubs in Asia. English and Cantonese were taught in school while Mandarin became the official language of Mainland China. Democracy was taught and implemented. So Hong Kong has it’s own legal system, which allows freedom of speech and assembly. In 1997, Hong Kong was turned back over to Mainland Chinese control. As you might imagine, there has been a significant amount of conflict since that time. In the past few years there have been peace protests and riots conducted mostly by college students. Per the turnover agreement, China can’t do much to stop the riots, but that still doesn’t mean they have to listen to the will of the people. It’s a good topic to avoid.

Internet Censoring – 

I’m sure that most Chinese nationals are aware that their internet, and all media really, is censored, but you shouldn’t bring it up. This is another good reason to stay off your VPN in public.