By Helen Hargreave
When you think of China, what do you associate it with? The Great Wall, Peking duck, the Terracotta Warriors? These are all common things that spring to mind when you think about one of the most popular TEFL destinations on the planet.
However we all know that visiting a place and living there are completely different – so what can you expect when you get there? Here are a few inside facts before you join the 1.34 billion people living in China…
1) The Number 4 is considered unlucky
In Western culture Friday 13th if often considered unlucky. In the East, it is the number four; this is because the number four ‘sì’ sounds similar to the word for death sĭwáng. For this reason you might not find the fourth floor when entering a lift, and there are even cases in Hong Kong where all floor number with the number four are left out!
2) Public spitting is very common
Accept and ignore! This WILL happen, so no matter how much you want to look completely disgusted at the man loudly clearing his throat from the depths of his stomach, kindly look the other way. There will always be differences between East and West, this is one of them!
3) Chi fan le mei you?
This technically translates as ‘Have you eaten (rice) yet? – but in general this can just be used as an informal greeting, similar to Ni hao (Hello!)
This just shows the importance of food in Chinese culture – business meetings will often take place over lunch/dinner, if I were you, I’d get learning how to use a pair of chopsticks sharpish!
Top tip: It is sometimes considered rude to finish all of your meal –it suggests that you are still hungry, it is therefore often best to leave a small bit of food left over on your plate to show your contentment.
4) The Chinese New Year (Lunar year) is very important
At 15 days long, the Chinese New Year is the longest holiday celebrated in China – this year will mark the year of the snake. A lot of preparation therefore goes into the holiday, including a full spring clean, gift-giving, a haircut (!) and purchasing ingredients for the all-important dumpling making! The 15th day is often marked by the Lantern Festival where families get together to build elaborate lanterns and join in activities.
5) Dancing in the street!
After a few months of living in China, TEFLer Denise noticed something strange going on in China: dancing!
Usually about 8 o’clock at night in an empty space; a park, a roadside, a town square, you will hear loud music, (could be anything from hip-hop to ballroom), and you will see small crowds gathering in the darkness to dance. It’s mostly women but can sometimes also include whole families. Watch out for it because it’s something that really makes you believe in community spirit.
What else have you discovered about living in China?
About The Author: Helen Hargreave is one of the TEFL Experts at i-to-i.