Ctripper: Rookie mistakes—assumptions to leave behind when traveling in China

by Intern Diaries
Posted: May 23rd, 2011 | Updated: July 25th, 2012 | Comments
Ctrip Ctripper posts come to us directly from the good folks at Ctrip, China's top online travel services provider (and proud sponsor of ChinaTravel.net). Stay tuned for Ctrip special offers, travel tips, news on new travel deals and products, and slices of life-in-China from Ctrip staff and interns. Here, Ctrip intern Kealy says goodbye and passes on some hard-won China travel tips.... >>> Farewell, China it's been good. I'm nearing the end of my year spent studying abroad here in Shanghai, and I have to say, I've earned a lot. I distinctly remember first arriving in China, way back in August, and being completely overwhelmed by everything that I now take for granted. Looking back, there was no big "A-ha!" moment when I suddenly realized the secrets of navigating the Chinese culture. I realize now, however, that there were several assumptions I came in with that were slowly abandoned as time went on. For those of you coming to China for the first time, I have included a few of these assumptions (think of them as "rookie mistakes") below. My advice to you: learn from my mistakes and enjoy making your own instead: "That cake looks good." False. Just say no. Unless you're paying an arm and a leg for a pastry somewhere within the general vicinity of a major hotel, you're just setting yourself up for failure in Chinese bakeries. Chinese cakes may look deceptively like their Western counterparts but trust me when I say they are just not good. And when I say not good, what I really mean is dry, tasteless, spongy and/or filled with red bean. "Crosswalk signs are meant to be followed." Save yourself a lot of time and several near-death experiences and completely disregard the crosswalk light next time you're crossing the street. And more importantly, the walking green man does not mean that you won't be run over. Cars, bikes and mo-peds all disregard the traffic lights, therefore, if you value your life, you will too. Cross the street the way you would cross a battle field— look everywhere at once and dodge as necessary. "The bathroom will have toilet paper, right?" Nope. Stock up on those little packaged tissue packs and carry one with you EVERYWHERE. "I got such a good deal!" Chances are, regardless of how good of a bargainer you are, you got ripped off on whatever you just bought. Often vendors will start with prices upwards of three times of the fair price of an item, so even if you bargain them way down you'll still walk away paying far more than you should have. My advice: accept it. Learn what the prices of items should be, but also learn to ignore that inevitable "Dang, she said okay way too fast for that one" feeling when you mess up. Accept your new purchases with the blissful ignorance of most tourists and let the seller celebrate their few extra kuai. "Street food will give me food poisoning." No, it won't. Well, sometimes it will— but you're in China now, don't live for the "sometimes". You'd be denying yourself one of the most unique, cultural and delicious experiences of traveling for that bit of false security. After eight months of eating street food in Asia, I have gotten sick from it a grand total of once. So go grab yourself some MSG-covered noodles or oily dumplings and vegetable skewers and enjoy. -Kealy
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