1. Don’t stick your chopsticks upright in your rice.
It’s considered extremely rude because it’s associated with funerals. Usually, people leave rice with chopsticks in them at the tombstones of their loved ones in order to “feed them” in the afterlife.
2. If you’re offered a gift, refuse to take it a couple of times.
It’s polite in China to refuse gifts, as it shows humility and that you’re thankful that this person went out of their way. Sooner or later, they’ll give in.
3. Same thing with compliments.
Refuse them no matter what. Don’t say, “Thank you,” as it’s seen as vain. Hey, a compliment’s a compliment though.
4. The Chinese population is gradually declining.
According to a recent United Nations report, the Chinese population will be in full decline by 2028 and will be surpassed by India. Because even though the population has increased since 2000, the birth rate has declined by 40%.
5. Eating dog is becoming increasingly unpopular.
According to CNN, the rate of dog consumption is declining so much that there has been talk of considering legislation that would make eating cats and dogs illegal. And recently, Weibo (China’s Twitter) blew up with viral protesting against eating dogs. Most Chinese people prefer to keep cats and dogs as pets.
6. Breathing in Beijing air is not as bad as you might think.
Although pollution in Beijing is a major worsening issue, according to a recent study, breathing in the air is only equivalent to being exposed to secondhand smoke (one-sixth of a cigarette) as opposed to smoking a pack a day, which is the popular belief.
7. The one-child policy does not apply to everyone.
China’s cne-child policy was only enacted in 1978, so most people born before then are likely to have siblings. Also, the policy was meant more for the urban population, so rural families and Chinese ethnic minorities (there are 55) are allowed to have more than one child.
8. China is not technically a communist country.
Though China was communist from 1949–1976, after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, the country embraced capitalism and became more socialist than anything. Because China’s political system is a one-party system, the Communist Party of China (the current ruling party) is mistaken by foreigners as the voice of the entire country. But that’s like saying that America is a Democratic or Republican country depending on which party wins each election.
9. Ask a Chinese person how to access blocked websites.
Many Chinese people use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to circumvent censored content. According to Foreign Policy reporter Eveline Chao, “Internet users are cosmopolitan, educated, and informed.”
10. Chinese people don’t speak “Chinese.”
Actually, “Chinese” is not a single, unified language. It’s composed of many different dialects, the most common of which include Mandarin and Cantonese.
11. You won’t necessarily be the tallest person in the room.
In China’s northern region, the average height for men is 5’10”, and for women is 5’6”. In fact, the tallest woman in the world (8’1”!) was Chinese.
12. Each Chinese character not an individual word.
Although some words use just one character, most words are composed of two or more characters. Chinese characters are usually morphemes, meaning a unit of language or word that cannot be further divided.
13. No one in space will be able to see you on the Great Wall.
According to Universe Today, you actually cannot see the Great Wall from space with the naked eye, let alone the moon. The pictures that exist of the monument from space are usually taken with professional zoom lens cameras.
14. There is a good chance you will have to use a squat toilet at some point. Don’t be afraid.
It’s actually more sanitary than using a regular toilet. Just remember to BYTP (bring your own toilet paper).
15. Explore beyond Beijing and Shanghai.
Though everyone should visit both places at least once, China has so much more to offer than most people tend to talk about. The south of China is great for spicy food and cities like Suzhou (the “Venice” of China) and Hangzhou (known for the West Lake) in Eastern China are a little more off the beaten path. Make sure you hit some real natural beauties though, like Karakul Lake in Xinjiang in Huang Shan in An Hui.
16. The Chinese food you’re used to eating in the USA/Europe is probably not real Chinese food.
Sweet and sour pork, egg rolls, beef and broccoli… Yeah, Chinese people don’t eat that. Instead, you’ll find more cooked vegetables and simple meat dishes. Different, but delicious.
17. If you feel the need to burp or stare, it’s most likely OK.
Burping is usually a sign of contentment after eating. Staring is common, as it shows that you are genuinely interested in someone else and what they’re doing. Spitting is also common around China, but more efforts are being made to stop people from doing it (health hazard).
18. English is becoming more common.
English is taught in most schools and many others have picked it up, but many Chinese people are too shy to use it. Others, though, are very eager to practice English with you, so don’t be afraid if you’re rushed by people who want to speak with you and make friends. Plus, maybe you can learn a couple Chinese words in return.
19. This kind of thing does not happen.
Sorry to disappoint. But if this is what you expect and look forward to seeing, then save some money and just rent some DVDs.