“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.” — Chinese proverb
China is the world’s most populous country, with a fast growing population of 1.3 billion (officially). The country has 21 cities with a population over 5 million people (compared to 2 in the United States), while more than 150 cities have over 1 million people. This human density alone is enough to shock even the most experienced traveler, and there are many more surprises in store during your stay. My best advice to you is to leave your preconceptions at home, as modern China has developed rapidly over the past 20 years. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind to minimize your potential culture shock:
Yes, that stands for bring your own toilet paper.
The Chinese-style squat toilet is the greatest surprise to most foreigners, and even in large cities it is often unavoidable. Your hotel is likely to have Western-style toilet seats, and so will any Starbucks, but even American fast food chains usually have ground-level fixtures where you will have to balance carefully while doing your business. Before you leave your hotel, make sure you’ve got portable toilet paper with you or tissues. Lots of public (and some private) restrooms don’t provide it. [Read more...]