Prepared Travelers Do It Better
Before I went out to China to teach English I prepared myself by doing a variety of things. From learning a little bit of the language to practicing eating with chopsticks – they all were useful. However, after coming back here are some of the things you might like to know before you go to be better prepared.
If you have been listening to NPR recently you may have heard of the pollution problems in Beijing. In the crowded cities the pollution is more visible. Shanghai had it’s cloudy and foggy days, but Kunming was alright. If you go out into the southern villages it is beautiful and clear.
It is very common to see really cute masks worn by women walking the street. Having one doesn’t hurt when you’re taking the bus to keep the pollution away.
Start eating everything you can with chopsticks. Authentic Chinese food is hard to come by, but if there is a local Chinese neighborhood try checking it out. Even getting something from a local health food store’s Asian section is heading in the right direction.
Rice and tea – you better get used to them. White sticky rice with lots of soups, veggies, and mantou is good. Start slowly cutting out bread from your diet. Do that with cheese too. Unless you’re going to a part of China with a pretty big sized expat community – Western food is scarce. But Chinese food is delicious and within a little while you will get used to it and be craving it all the time.
Carrying a Chinese dictionary is a life saver. Even better yet, take a Chinese course online or at your local community college. Check your Facebook friends or local library fro resources. It will make you feel more confident in your ability to converse, but during that learning time you will learn that saying Thank You too much creates distance from friends, and that there are formal ways of greeting elders. It’s all part of the learning process before you go.
If you would like to learn more about adventuring in China, being a TESOL Teacher, day to day living, and the really cool cultural differences that are not always talked about. You can check out A Collection of Thoughts from a Summer of Travel, Teaching, and Tea – my travel zine. Xie xie!