After familiarising yourself with two of the prominent areas that are hugely different from your own country, this ‘Part 2′ will continue on to discuss other big differences you will discover once you step off your China flight. Travel to Beijing and Shanghai is generally easier than the smaller and less tourist friendly areas, however you will still experience the same culturally different things as many are the same across the country.

Shanghai is probably the most traveller friendly, being very international and tourist friendly. After this comes Beijing and other large cities, with rural and more unknown cities being the hardest of all – generally most of the general public won’t speak English or understand Pinyin at all.


One element of Chinese culture you are sure to find hard to get used to, particularly in big cities like Beijing, is the large population resulting in almost everywhere being busy and crowded. Nowhere is this more evident than on the subway, particularly during rush hour. This is a completely alien experience as tube carriages are packed full like sardines, often with subway guards cramming people in until the doors barely shut around them. Then for the duration of the journey you are wedged in, with no sense of personal space!

It is quite interesting to watch the chaos as people try to make it on and off the subway without losing shoes, handbags or dropping something. However, once you become familiar with the protocol it is fairly simple, just be sure to get as close to the doors as possible when you wish to alight, and as far away when you wish to remain in the carriage! Another thing to be aware of (although it is changing) is queues aren’t particularly commonplace in China, and although initially there may be a queue formed, as soon as the carriage doors are open it is every man for himself.


The sense of hustle and bustle is not only limited to the Subway. In general the traffic on the roads is just as hectic as the Subway lines and attempting to cross the road can at first be very intimidating as cars, buses, rickshaws and motorbikes will not stop or move around you. The best thing to do is follow some locals the first few times and before long you will be weaving in and out of the traffic confidently. One thing to know is the Chinese love to toot their horns, which generally makes you freeze on the spot convinced they are going to hit you, but usually those hooting are infact nowhere near or heading in a completely different direction to you, so just keep moving!

You will get used to the constant noise, whether it be from the roads, the locals talking at maximum volume or the lullaby constantly being blown out of McDonald’s speakers. It is quite exhilarating to experience and sometimes it is great fun to just step back and watch the madness.


If you are a bit intimidated by the idea of navigating China by yourself, look into a China tour or multi city tour for a milder introduction to China.

Jack Li

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