Top 10 Mistakes Foreigners Make in China

  1. Forgetting to keep paper on their person! Tissues, napkins, anything… You may get 1 or 2 napkins at McDonald’s, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find much paper in most restrooms. Even in nice shopping malls or restaurants it’s a gamble whether or not there will be any toilet paper.
  2. Getting in unmarked or “black” taxis. These taxis aren’t owned and operated by the major companies that service the cities; an individual trying to make some extra money usually owns them. “Black” taxis can be a cheaper option, but if you know where you’re going. Most foreign visitors to China do not know where they are going, so it’s a risk that you will get a really bad price at the minimum or robbed/assaulted at the worst.
  3. Drinking un-bottled or un-boiled water. The water in China can make you really sick. Personally, I experienced terrible stomach sickness for almost 2 months when I first arrived in China. The water can make you throw up or have diarrhea. When I was going through my bout with illness, I lost about 14 kg (30lb) over the course of about 2-3 months. Some of the cold dishes served in restaurants also have tap water too, because the cook rinses everything in cold sink water directly before serving so it comes out cold.
  4. Thinking that traffic laws are strictly observed. Most drivers in China drive like they’re racing Formula 1, and red lights are more of a suggestion than a rule. If you are walking across the street make sure that you have your head on a swivel, because cars don’t stop for right turns on red.
  5. Assuming that clothing & shoes will fit. Unless you are on the smaller, petite side of the scale, you may have an issue with finding clothing or shoes that fit you properly. A dress ordered off of may look more like a shirt, and that tee shirt may look like a skin tight warm up tee that you where under your shoulder pads for American football. There are always going to be custom tailors to make clothing for you though.
  6. Getting suckered into the tea-houses. This is a mistake made pretty much only by men, but “it’s a trap!” – Admiral Ackbar. But really, there is usually a pretty girl that asks a foreign guy to go with him to a tea-house, she’ll talk to him and make him feel pretty, then he’ll be given an exorbitant bill. He will be forced to pay by the big guys hanging out at the door…
  7. Believing everything you read on Chinese websites. Businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, come and go pretty rapidly in China so an advertisement that you see on an expat website or some other media may be old or wrong or the company isn’t in existence. It’s not unheard of to hear about a special at a bar and then find out there is nothing special.
  8. Taking the initial price given as the best price. China is a country where negotiating is a necessity, and if you do not look Chinese you can be guaranteed that you will have the “laowai” mark-up. A good thing to do is to cut that price to about 25-50% of what they’re asking, and eventually walk away. There will always be another seller of the same good, no matter how special they make the product seem to be. The seller shouldn’t be happy when you give them money, unless you are getting ripped off.
  9. Thinking that the time to get from A to B will be shorter than reality. With a population of 1.4 billion, it should come as no surprise that the country is pretty densely populated in most metropolitan areas. Public transit and roadways can get so clogged with people and vehicles that a trip that may take you 30 minutes at an off time will easily double during rush hour.
  10. Believing that the foot massage will be relaxing. Foot massages are popular and famous in China, but they’re not for the faint of heart or those with soft, sensitive feet. The foot massage is really nice, but they go very hard. Your feet may be sore for a day or two.