21 Things I Noticed about China

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In short, China was fantastic. I’d never thought too hard about going there, but now I’m so glad I went. It’s so modern and dynamic, and also amazingly weird. Hence, this list.

Before this two-week trip the only part of China I’d been to was Hong Kong, which is a different breed altogether. So let me preface this by saying that these are my first impressions. Experiences may differ…

•The ‘Shanghai Bikini’: is when men, especially the 40+ set, roll their shirts up and display their round bellies, keeping themselves cool.

•Spitting: is loud and incredibly obvious. Done by men and women.

•Pastel-coloured clothes: are a big thing in fashion magazines, along with little-girl dresses. On the street, to be fair, things are a lit more relaxed.

•Birkenstocks: are in.

•Ears: i.e. clip on rabbit/cat ears for grown women, were very popular in Beijing.

•Hair Pastels: like, drawing pencils, are sold as hair-colouring chalk.

•Whitening: for your face, duh, is very popular. I’ve tried to avoid face creams that contain hydrogen peroxide, thank you.

•Wifi: is in every cafe, every airport, lots of malls and many public squares.

•Paul frank: is still a thing.

•Trains: are, thank God, all air-conditioned. Also, I paid 50 dollars for a 16-hour train ride. And the Z-train from Chengdu to Shanghai was quite nice; the waiting area wasn’t crowded, the bedding was plush, there were outlets in every compartment and each little bunk had its own tv.

•English: is actually pretty widely spoken, especially compared to Russia. And people are sweet and nervous about their English. Bless.

•Being a foreigner: is very comfortable. Unlike, erm, Uzbekistan, you won’t get anything lecherous. Rickshaw drivers will just yell ‘hello’. Hello to you, friend!

•Beer: is incredibly weak. A regular Tsingtao contains less alcohol than a Bud light. That photo above? I think we (a group of six, mind) were on bottle 43.

•Bargaining: again, those beers? Listed as 25 each, one of our party bargained them down to 7.

•Advertising: is bizarre. I saw giant ads for kiwis (below), and something called ‘hypnotise’.

•Train food: for the Russians would include boiled eggs, bread rolls, tomatoes. In China it’s boxed noodles and weird, Ovaltine-esque beverages.

•Talking: never stops. See: the three people I shared a train cabin with for twenty hours.

•Men: fortunately/unfortunately are never going to give their seat up for you on the subway. One time this 20-year-old girl did, though.

•Bikes: come at you from all directions. There is no logic.

•Children: seem to have a lot of tantrums. I saw at least half a dozen children screaming on the street.

•English names: are nuts. Of the six teenage girls I met, there was a ‘Bilbo’, ‘Frankenstein’ and a ‘Potato’. Alrightey!

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6 Comments on “21 Things I Noticed about China”

  1. hcrowther says:

    HAHAHA, I laughed out loud at the girl named “Potato”. Love it. And hair chalking is definitely a thing here too now, oddly enough; like ombre but temporary, I guess. And I would never expect anyone to give up their seat for me on a subway anywhere in the world…is that common in Moscow?

  2. weird names are actually more common in HK rather than China, they prefer to keep using their original names, even abroad but HK have in their ID place for English name (beside Chinese) and it ends up as ‘Rainbow’ ‘Iceland’ ‘Fruit’ (Fruit Chan, HK director) and my favourite like those ‘stars’ names ‘Angela Baby’, I mean c’mon it sounds stupid🙂 about train it’s not ‘for Russia and for China’ – every train that comes from HK via Chinese cities is devided into ‘only Mainland part’ which ends up while ‘foreign’ part of train keeps on going, since usually in the first one are only Mainland Chinese (for the whole train from Shanghai to Guangzhou I was the only foreigner in a whole Chinese part train) they had mostly cup noodles and snacks, the one that might have more foreigners offers rice boxes etc.🙂 but no matter which one you sit it it’s always loud and crowded haha which level you had? we tried the cheap one sharing with 4 other people – lucky us, once we could have the down bed – much more place for your back but it’s also little bit more expensive🙂
    if you got a seat it’s just because you are foreign girl, why would they give a young person a seat? not to mention their own race, they treat foreigners much better than each other, I felt that too – I’m like a tiny blonde puppet so people made photos with me, gave me their seats (seriously, I was 21 last year why would I need a seat? lol), let me go into the lines (but I didn’t use that). and the children part… they call their children ‘small treasure’ that says a lot about why you see all the children screaming and running🙂
    how long will you stay in China? keep on writing!🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you, that answers so many questions! And surprised me too: I had heard that HK names were more conservative–‘Henry’! ‘James’! But ‘Fruit’ is pretty eccentric.

      And haha, ok, ok, the seat thing is probably only in Russia/Central Asia!

  3. Stanislava says:

    What a fun article! Thanks for posting it!

  4. Anne says:

    Loved your post, the name thing best of all. Reminds me a bit of Jamaica. While I never met a “Potato”, there were certainly a lot of interesting names. My favourite was “Christmas”.

  5. Jean says:

    SSSOOO FUNNY! The Shanghai Bikini! Though the pics aren’t working for me😦


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