Tips On Enjoying China: Avoiding Scams And Other Risks


We have told you a lot about China, and now it is time to summarize. This is hard to do, as there are a thousand details to find inspiring while exploring this country.  China is like an ocean – you can search it to its depths and across its width and still not have discovered every corner of this vast and mysterious land. But now before you book a ticket to China, or if you already have it, before you step out of the airplane read several bits of advice that we want to give you so you will more easily get used to the atmosphere there, and the people, and avoid unpleasant situations, and also know how to stay safe.

Street food, eat there where you see a lot of people and no worries.

How to get used to China and its people – tips on adaptation

For many Europeans it can be a culture shock to come to China for the first time, whether it is for a holiday or for a job. Despite a predominantly modern lifestyle in its urban areas, China is still specifically a world unto itself. You should particularly keep this in mind if you want to visit rural areas.

Beijing streets may be a bit messy.

Tip 1: Some places can seem dirty, messy, and dusty, such as in villages and in hutongs within cities. Sometimes even large modern streets can be dusty, and the dust gets on everything. Get used to the contrasts that lie behind modern residential or financial areas, where you will find cheap buildings made of brick. But that is the charm of Beijing and China. Some restaurants may seem unclean or dirty, but don’t worry: I have eaten there dozens of times and the food was perfect. Also toilets in some restaurants and tourist sites may be dirty unlike in modern shopping areas and restaurants. If you go on a trip beyond the urban areas, take your own toilet paper as public toilets can sometimes have none.

Beijings traffic may be chaotic.

Tip 2: Get used to traffic. Street rules are different here, so be careful. Be careful, especially if you are a pedestrian at a pedestrian crossing. Cars or bikes will seldom let you to pass first, they will try to pass as fast as possible in front of you or behind you. If the light is red for them they will wait until it turns green. But if it is an intersection where there is an alternative green light for cars passing to the left or right you still have the right of way to go first, but forget it.  When you get used to crossing streets and have some experience under your belt, Chinese traffic will become fun for you like a big game.

Chinese youth is friendly and open.

Tip 3: Get used to a different mentality. Don’t be afraid of noisy people. Sometimes it seems like they shout at each other, but actually that’s just the way they speak and emphasize issues. Don’t worry if older people stare at you, they are just curious and probably haven’t seen many foreigners during their lifetimes. Once near a lake on Xiangshan hill, a wise old man stared at me for a few minutes and then we started a very friendly conversation.

Green hat symbol of shame and unfaithfullness punished jaywalkers are forced to wear it.

Tip 4: I have written about the friendliness and hospitality of Chinese people. Also I have written about sharing tables with Chinese people, so don’t worry and join the people and make new friends. But I must mention one thing to you, and it is about giving presents. It can happen that a Chinese friend has a birthday and you should bring a gift if you are invited to the birthday party. Because of cultural differences you should be aware of the pitfalls and avoid making a mistake and causing embarrassment. Acceptable gifts are: flowers (except chrysanthemums, as they are used at funerals), baskets of fruit, paintings or fridge magnets from your country, packages of tea, bottles of good brandy, or cigarettes. I have given my Chinese friends Serbian Slivovitza (brandy made from plums) and they have been very happy with it. Bracelets and necklaces are usually given to girlfriends, so if you have a Chinese girlfriend this can be a nice present. If you really don’t know what to buy, then give a nice red envelope with some money in it. This is a gesture of respect and gives a person the opportunity to choose for himself/herself what to buy. However, there are a few things which you should never give to anyone and they are: 1) an amount of money that starts with the number 4 as number 4 is similarly indicative of death in Chinese culture, 2) a clock- especially to an older person as a clock is similarly suggestive of time passing by, 3) a green hat – never give a green hat to a male friend as there is a saying – ”he wears a green hat” – which means that his wife is cheating on him. If you have a Chinese boyfriend or girlfriend, never buy an umbrella (which symbolizes separation) or shoes as it can be understood that you want to see her/his back and wish her/him to go away in these shoes. Probably no one would really get offended or angry as they know that you are not Chinese and that cultural difference exist, but they may feel uncomfortable.

Safety tips – avoiding scams

Beijing is one of safest cities in world, as are most Chinese cities. Robberies, petty crimes, and murders are quite rare. But there are cheats and scam artists, so check out the tips below.

Never buy clock.

Tip 1: Taxis. Be aware while taking taxis as there are thousands of them in Beijing, and not all of them are honest. Don’t get into a taxi that has no taximeter. And some that are metered have meters that can be set so as to raise the price much higher than it should be, and you can’t argue with a driver at the end of ride when he tells you the fare. It is best to negotiate a price when you enter a taxi or before the ride starts. So if the driver doesn’t want to accept a reasonable price, you can go away. For example, the ride between Beijing Airport and city center (around 20km) is usually offered for more than 30 euros, but if you negotiate you will drop it to a reasonable price, to around 10 euros. If you don’t trust your negotiating skills, then you can ask your hotel reception desk to call a taxi for you or call a taxi yourself. You can then be certain of a reliable driver. For example, the ride between the city and the airport cost me only 70RMB one morning last summer, and I gave a 30RMB tip to the driver as he was very friendly, honest, and open.

Tip 2: Scams of various types – the practicing English scam. There are Chinese who randomly stop foreigners on the street, appear to be friendly and open and can ask you to help them practice their English. It is all fine to speak and walk until they invite you to a tea house or to dinner. Chinese people are friendly and warm, but no one with good intentions will stop you randomly with the excuse of practicing English and quickly invite you to go somewhere together. Attractive women do that especially. You must understand that the objective is to get some money from you. Sometimes they turn out to have been hired by restaurant or tea house owners to run up the largest possible bills, with jacked-up prices for meals or tea and kick-back payments to the women who bring the foreigners in. So for example I heard a story about a person who was invited to a tea house by a girl of this type and ended up with a bill of U.S. $300.00. Chinese tea can be expensive, but not expensive enough to cost $100-150.00 per cup. Also I heard about another person who went to lunch with two girls who wanted to practice English and the bill was $900.00. You don’t have any alternative to paying as they disappear just before the bill comes. Most of these women can be found near the business areas in Beijing. I, for example, was approached by one of them last summer in Wangfujing street and asked to go for beer or coffee. I turned them down immediately as the circumstances were all too strange.

Be aware of such club girls they just bring trouble to you and profit to them.

Tip 3: Nightlife scams. Nightlife is very developed in China and lively. But if people on the street offer a massage for around 15-20euros at 2 or 3am in a massage house, don’t dare to go as they will take you to a brothel. This can be very dangerous, you can be beaten and robbed when you arrive at a brothel even before you get service. If you want a real massage, go to massage centers during the daytime or reasonable evening hours and ask friends or the hotel receptionist if they can recommend a legal and legitimate massage center. Have in mind also that if you are caught with prostitutes you may get arrested.

There are also so-called “street ladies” who may approach you and ask if you want sex. Also be aware of too-friendly girls in night clubs. I mean by too-friendly that they approach you first. Generally Chinese girls are shy, and it is not so easy to begin a conversation with them until you invest some time and prove that you don’t just want sex. In nightclubs it is not unusual to find girls who are interested in one night stands, and these will be communicative and less shy than the others, but they won’t approach you by themselves. You will have to approach them. If a girl asks to join your table, reject her offer. It is scam. She will order as many expensive drinks as she can get away with as she has been hired by the owner and will be paid a percentage of the bill. Then she will disappear, and the bill will be presented to you. You won’t get anything out of this experience except a bill to pay or, in the alternative, being beaten if you don’t have money or refuse to pay. Generally, night life is safe, but have these few things in mind.

Tip 4: There are no legal drugs in China. Chinese anti-drug policies are very strict, and there is no mercy for law-breakers. Avoid even smoking marihuana, because if you are caught by the police you may face between a few months and one year in prison. You can even face the death penalty if you are caught with more than 50g of heroin.

Health and emergency tips

For avoiding risks buy bottled water.

Tip 1: Don’t drink water from faucets. Bacterially, the water is clean, but because of a significant presence of scale in water pipes it isn’t healthy to drink. Nothing will happen if you have a glass or two, but it is best to avoid doing so. Public water supplies are satisfactory for taking showers and making tea or coffee or cooking. But when you want to drink it either boil the water in your hotel or buy bottled water. If you are in a restaurant, ask the waiter either for a glass of boiled water or bottled one.

It may seem ordinary but dont be afraid to eat hereBeijing bistro.

Tip 2: There is Chinese saying: “Eat where you see many people eating”. In China, take this literally. So just go to restaurants where you see a lot of people, and nothing will happen to you. If you want to try some amazing street food go where you see that locals eat, and you won’t go wrong.

If you find yourself here dont worry I say from personal experience.

Tip3: If you feel sick, or have a fever or diarrhea that doesn’t want to stop, it is a good idea to check with a doctor. In Chinese cities hospitals are good, but the problem is that in ordinary hospitals doctors don’t speak English. The solution to patronize more expensive, elite hospitals where doctors speak good English. An example is the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. If you have an acute problem such as food poisoning, a broken limb, or appendicitis, call an ambulance using number 120. If you are in a remote rural area and need emergency help, also call an ambulance. The costs of emergency treatment can be moderately high, so better buy travel insurance before you go to China.

I hope my advice will prove to be useful. Now book your tickets and let your journey to China begin.

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