12 Quirky Things to Know Before Visiting China

Maybe you’ve watched Disney’s Mulan a few hundred times and have a strong hankering to find your own Shang or to see The Great Wall. Perhaps you’re intrigued by how hard people say the language is or have come to buy “luxury goods” for cheap. Great! It is an awesome land with good food, loads of history and scenic places. But, for whatever reason you visit –it helps to come a little bit prepared to ensure minimal culture shock.

After living in China for nearly five years, I’ve made a list of things I wish people would have told me before I came. I’ve narrowed it down to my top 12 quirks, here.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…in China!

“Welcome to China! Gan Bei!” “Laoshi , welcome to our home! Ganbei!” “Laoshi, over here! Ganbei!” “Drink more! Drink more!” Melody’s mother-in-law urged as she poured more wine into my glass while Melody’s father reached over to refill my other glass with baijiu to “ganbei!” (bottoms up!) yet again. It seemed as soon as I…

End of the Road?

Tsampa. This is the legendary foodstuff that has enabled sherpas, nomads and countless adventurers to navigate and survive Tibet’s often harsh terrain and unpredictable climate. In the mid to late 20th century, the term “Tsampa-eater” became an all-encompassing label to refer to various peoples from the Tibetan area, even though parts of North India, Turkestan…

On the way to Shigatse!

“You let us know, we can find you a bush or something,” Gelek said over his shoulder from the front seat, “restrooms on the way are not so clean and can charge one or two yuan.” “Oh, lovely, thank you,” I muttered, looking out from the window of our van at the vast dry open…

Where the Earth meets the Sky

Morning, American breakfast? I woke up about half an hour before my alarm was to go off at 8am, confused about what time it was since it was still pretty dark outside. I learned later that sunrise doesn’t start until about 8:30am. Looking in the mirror was slightly jarring my first morning in Lhasa. Oh…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Tibet

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Sichuan Airlines” rang through our cabin as we all emitted a collective groan. You see, this was the second time today we had to sit through the preflight video. What had started out as a two hour flight from Chengdu turned into a seven hour-long voyage as ill weather halted…

Yes, I am Asian: Asian American.

 “Ay, you! What province you from, again?” “Are you sure you’re American?” “But your face looks Chinese…eh, maybe you could be from Xinjiang, but no, not American.” These are the types of greetings I get every day in China from curious taxi-drivers, to cashiers, to grandmas who want to tell me that I should know…