“Ten ‘did that really happen’ moments every Laowai will experience”

Moving to a different country has its challenges no matter where you go. But as anyone who has travelled to the Middle Kingdom will realise, China has its own list of… unique experiences that might leave you asking “为什么?” (Wèishénme/why?)

1.  Menopause Dancing

We start our count down with a personal favourite: If you’ve ever fancied an evening stroll through China’s bustling streets, you may have come across a group of (mostly) elderly women performing uniquely choreographed dance routines. With soundtracks ranging from stirring traditional Chinese love ballads to uniquely Chinese takes Western songs such as the Madonna classic “Like a Prayer,” these ladies sure know how to take it to the streets.  Sometimes referred to as 绝经舞 or “menopause dancing,” this practice is seen as not only a social outlet, but also a free and easy way to exercise. Keep it up ladies!

2.  Spitting Image


Imagine. You’re walking through the tree-lined streets of Shanghai’s French Concession, a milk tea in one hand and fresh baozi in the other…. Suddenly the serenity is shattered by the discordant sound of someone or something attempting to jettison all fluids from their mouth cavity. The wind shifts. There is a moment of suspended horror and you attempt to locate the source of the noise.  Ah yes…. Spitting is a permanent fixture of the Chinese soundscape, something many expats never quite get used to.

3.  Photo Ops

Funny photo

Ever wondered what it was like to be a celebrity? Travel to China! While visiting such wonders as the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, or even just taking the metro, foreigners may find themselves to be the unknowing subject of a not so subtle selfie, be approached to join a family photo or even be handed a baby! While some may find this practice bemusing, it has to be a confidence booster to think that someone finds you to be just as photo worthy as some of China’s most famous tourist attractions!

4.  Pyjamas in public

Chinese in Pajamas

In the lead up to the 2010 world expo, an initiative called "No pyjamas in public places- be civilized for the Expo" was implemented to attempt to stop the practice many Shanghai locals have of wearing pyjamas in public.  Comfort won out however, and you can still see many Shanghainese taking leisurely evening strolls in their quilted jammies.

5.  Caught Napping

Chinese sleeping funny places


Whether you’re in the office, classroom or even walking the streets, come lunchtime you may notice a city-wide snooze fest as people put their heads down for a post lunch nap. According to Chinese medicine, by midday, the body is tired and needs to regenerate, making naptime a common practice in most Chinese businesses and schools. Perhaps Western companies can also adopt the saying '中午不睡,下午崩溃', meaning if you do not take a nap at noon you will collapse by the afternoon. Words to live by!

6.  Very…Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation China

You walk into a restaurant; eager to try the culinary delights of the orient. You look down at the menu and are provided with such delicacies as “customer gets angry face” “urinating in pool you are the best,” and “spicy cold children.” If you aren’t lucky enough to read Chinese, you might be left having to rely on some not so accurate translations. While we doubt children really are a staple food source in Chinese cuisine, these mandarin mix-ups do often prove very entertaining!

7.  Gan Bei!

US President cheers

干杯! Literally translates to “empty your cup.” But don’t fret! The phrase is often used as the Chinese equivalent to “cheers!” In Chinese culture, the emphasis isn’t necessarily placed on what you’re drinking, but whom you’re drinking with.  Countless toasts will be had and, if you’re at a business dinner, there are specific traditions that are observed. If you do happen to find yourself out to dinner or drinks with Chinese constituents, try and avoid the baijiu…trust me.

8.  A Breath of Fresh Air?

batman pollution china

After living in China for an extended period the term “getting some fresh air,” tends to take on new meaning.  In January 2017, much of Northern and Central China was rocked by the worst air quality in recorded history. With over 32 Chinese cities on “red alert,” the “airpocalypse” as it was dubbed saw flights canceled, highways shut down and businesses closed. For those traveling to China, air quality index apps are highly recommended and the more industrial your mask looks, the better!

9.  Crowded House

Claustrophobics beware! With a population of over 1.3 billion people, being lost in the crowd is almost unavoidable. Whether it be lining up to board the metro, or waiting for a lift, sometimes the best policy is to push or get pushed! Fancy a trip to the Great Wall during Spring Festival?  Or a dip in the pool on a public holiday?  Might be best to reschedule…

10.  A Crappy Situation

And we round off this list with a rather unsavoury practice,  but as they say“千金难买早知道”- it’s better to know early.  Many Chinese children wear adeptly designed clothes that prove unrestricting when nature calls.  Reports of kids being allowed free reign on streets, in restaurants, even planes have flooded social media, particularly in recent years, with debates erupting on the Mainland and Hong Kong regarding ways to cease this…. crappy practice.

Though China does have its eccentricities, it should also be the top of anyone’s “must visit” list.  With its buzzing metropolises and breathtaking natural wonders, China does not lack in experiences for the avid traveller. The best way to embrace any culture is of course, to learn the language. If you want to learn more or like what you’ve read, head over to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/mandarinshooterquest/ for more language and culture tips!