Mar 04, 2010 By Andrea Scarlatelli, www.eCh , eChinacities.com

I’m assuming that by now you have discovered that China is a bit different from your home country. Whether you come from the United States, England, Australia, or any other country that isn’t China, chances are you’ve witnessed things that you just can’t get at home. Unabashed spitting in public? Check. Smoking on elevators? Check. China is a place unlike any other, and you’re reminded of this everyday. So read on for some of my favorite ways in which China is truly one-of-a-kind.

1) 2,000 year-old relics – right next to a Starbucks

Where else can you visit an ancient Buddhist temple, only to gaze beyond the walls and see that pervasive coffee sign that symbolizes our modern age? The contrast between old and new has been a constant source of tension in China for centuries. How much emphasis should be put on the past, on protecting ancient artifacts and historical sites? How much room should be made for new development, for the towering skyscrapers and factories that make this country run? With such a long, rich history, these kinds of questions cannot be easily answered. But sometimes it’s the questions themselves that can provide some striking beauty right in the heart of city – I was reminded of this the other day while visiting Jing’An Temple in Shanghai. While enjoying the serenity and calmness of such a place, all you have to do is peer over the temple walls to come face to face with the reality of modern China.

2) Unrestricted use of fireworks

As Chinese New Year ends and normal working hours prevail once again, I thought this would be a rather appropriate entry to the list. While certain places, especially inside the city, are supposedly “firework free” zones, did anyone actually witness people being turned away while lighting fireworks? Yeah, me neither. The multi-colored bursts of light, the relentless booming of noisemakers, the ear-piercing whistle of those spiral varieties –are all fair game in the country that invented these things.

3) The chance to bargain – for just about everything

Sure, you go to places such as Tao Bao or the fabric market expecting to negotiate prices. That’s part of the, ahem, “fun” of going there (personally, I have no stomach for bargaining, which is probably why I never buy any non-essentials…). But after having lived here for a while, I’ve come to realize that almost everything – and I do mean everything - can be bargained for. Food? Name them a price. A bouquet of flowers? Never as much as they first offer. Even taxi fares (especially to the Pudong airport!) can be negotiated if they go “off the meter.” This will make it very difficult when I go back home and can’t talk my way down to a lower price at the grocery store…

 

 

 

4) The socially accepted practice of wearing your pyjamas out in public

The first time I saw someone walking around in full out pyjamas (you know the kind I’m talking about – the matching top and bottom, sometimes even with matching slippers!), I swore to myself that I, too, would one day traipse around the city in my sleeping gear. I haven’t managed it yet, but I know some friends who have. They say it’s actually quite liberating. I would imagine so – in such a fashion-conscious city like Shanghai, where I see girls prancing around in taffeta dresses at three in the afternoon on a weekday, it was a bit shocking to me to see people utterly uninhibited by the typical social norms. Word is that the government’s going to make this practice illegal during the Expo in another attempt to take away all the individuality of the city – so walk around in your pyjamas while you can!

5) Forget Waffle House – chicken foot is the new hangover food

After a late night with friends, we decided to head out at 4:00am to grab some food, hoping to prevent the wicked hangover we knew would be coming. We stopped by a local restaurant and ordered… chicken feet. Oh yes, the typical hangover food is still available in Shanghai – there are plenty of places open late to grab your greasy hamburger or soggy French fries – but there is no way that things like chicken feet would be an accepted item of hangover food in my home country. Nor, probably, would the beef tongue or frog that was also available on the menu. So next time you’re gnawing on a spicy chicken foot at 4:00 in the morning and you’re asking yourself, “Whatever happened to good ol’ pancakes and eggs in the middle of the night?”, remember – you’re in China. Just go with it.

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Related links:

What I Will and Won’t Miss About China
3 Things I Misunderstood About Chinese People Before I Came Here
Side By Side: Expat Life in China and the Latin World Compared

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10 Comments Add your comment

1

Allan
comment|2891|0

6 Things You Can Do in a Chinese Park That You Can't Do in A UK Park.. 1) sing or have chior practice (Need a Public Entertinment License) 2) Dance, practise T'ai chi and or play musical instrument.s (Need P. E License) 3) Play cards, mah jong. (Need gaming License.) 4) sail model boats on the lake. 5) fish in the lake (Need Fishing License, but would not be granted) 6) Feed the birds \ ducks. (considered as littering, 600 yuan penalty)

Mar 16, 2010 06:18 Report Abuse

2

Anonymous
comment|2900|0

#6. Snot into your hands in the open street without anyone so much as blinking. #7. Spit on the restaurant floor. #8. Get drunk for under 10 kuai.

Mar 17, 2010 04:27 Report Abuse

3

tim
comment|2910|0

i had lived in hefei for 4 years shanghai is crap! a dung hill never mind all that foolishness try out street food or a shoddy market where country people not only spit but cover their noses blowing a snot out as hard as their mental brains are washed away! and then eat some pork handed out to you with some hep. sauce and hiv flotation around the massage. boy ol boy! yummy! eh' ????? also that a fact be it, china does certainly have more freedom than any country esp. america has. how ever, like any other place their are rules. yes, drink from 7pm to 3 am watching country people and city people shitting on the streets even during the day time 2 hands full with booze skateboarding along huai he lu and running about in your undies like a troll on the move, if you like this then be my quest . that is china's way of saying thank you for minding your own business we allow chinese and foreigners and all both the same equal rights ,,,, xiexie ni !! ok' so besides that and a 3 rmb bottle of snow work is and can be a great way for though expats who want to make 3-8,000 rmb a month but teach only 16 - 18 hours a week and providing they offer you an apartment... a great way to rest and get to know the locals like all places you will find that china maybe your new home. think of a bottle , it has two sides. top and bottom usa is the top ,china is the bottom but when you flip it up-side down , they are just opposites all you expats.. good luck! and have a hell of a time!

Mar 18, 2010 21:18 Report Abuse

4

Alyssa
comment|10194|0

Boy, I'll bet you're a fun date.

Jan 04, 2011 01:04 Report Abuse

5

Mr Blythe
comment|15568|182

I sincerely hope you are not one of the expat English teachers you mentioned, or there are going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese schoolchildren learning how to write like an uneducated idiot.

May 04, 2011 20:05 Report Abuse

6

bokky
comment|15639|0

I really want to meet the toothless hobo (and unfortunately probably English teacher, and, what is even more unfortunate to my sense of identity, probably an America) who wrote that. Get this guy drunk, spin him around about 20 times, and give him a pen...anything is possible. Anyone who really wants to f with people in the future, put that post in a time capsule.

May 06, 2011 07:47 Report Abuse

7

j
comment|20341|0

American here. Offended. Lol.

Oct 07, 2011 23:05 Report Abuse

8

del
comment|20344|0

Can't agree more . So many idiots travelling the world are an embarrassment to native english speakers.

Oct 08, 2011 00:23 Report Abuse

9

chris
comment|27340|12835

this article or so called article is crap...after one year living in Hangzhou not only i didn't spot anyone wearing a pyjamas outdoors and this is true also for BJ, or other places in china.
This pyjamas trend is true only for shanghai, hence this article is crap.
Besides i think one of the thing u can do in china which u cant do back in ur conutry are:
getting overpaid for chatting in a class in english
smoking almost everywhere:taxi, bank, even in the gym and hospital
ecc ecc

May 10, 2012 21:57 Report Abuse

10

Shirin
comment|28774|0

The pyjama trend is not only true for Shanghai. I live in Wuhan and I saw a lot of people walking aroung in their pyjamas. I also travelled to a lot of other places in China and noticed it.

Jun 18, 2012 22:17 Report Abuse