What Is China Like?

What Is China Like?

Quick Disclaimers:

1) Everything in my brain gets processed through an American-raised filter, so that’s my bias throughout this list.

2) These are my general impressions of China, so I won’t be getting into anything too specific. Feel free to ask questions in the comments for more details on any of these topics!

First Impressions

  • Driving looks terrifying!
  • Everyone is Chinese. I can’t hide. They’re all staring at me.
  • There’s so much shopping.
  • So many people!
  • There’s so much food.
  • Chinese people seem way more accommodating to foreigners than Americans.


What I’ve Learned After 3 Months

People Are Nice

Tourists often don’t get this impression, but as the people around our neighborhood saw us around a few times, we felt that we were so quickly welcomed into the community. We’ve even been offered a meal by a lady we hardly know.

Uncomfortable Is Okay

Examples: old people living on the top floor of a building with no elevator, hard mattresses, cramming people into cars or on scooters, narrow aisles at stores, pillows filled with buckwheat instead of cotton, no dryers, low-to-the-ground chairs and brooms, super noisy neighborhoods, squatting toilets that are essentially holes in the ground.

Long Sleeves In The Summer

80 degrees and 100% humidity? Yeah, they’re still in jeans and sweaters. Why? Fashion, keeping your skin pale, and because they’re just used to it are a few possible explanations.


Generation Gap

Older people will cut in line all the time and the younger generation seems to be embarrassed about it. This is just one example, but I think it’s because the older people in China have seen some real shit in recent history. Don’t forget, China was under the control of emperors until 1912 and had another major shift in government in 1949.

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Sameness Is Good

Examples: matching clothes, matching haircuts, matching tattoos, uniforms for everything, synchronized performance styles, narrow family expectations.

Promises vs. Expectations

Promises are always over-the-top and actual expectations are normal. This is apparent in marketing, business, tourism, and in ancient Chinese tall tales.

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Creepy Relationships

Example: On a popular dating show there was this guy who was in love with one of the female contestants but had never even met her. He had pictures of her in his house and on his phone, and instead of being creeped out she thought it was so sweet that she cried.

Ancient, Complex History

Here’s some blog posts to get you started on learning about Chinese history: Presidential Palace, Jiming Temple, Nanjing City Wall.

Natives Still Live Here

It’s amazing to me that ancestry in China is so pure and ancient. I honestly think that a big reason the government takes so many precautions to censor media coming into China is because, without that censorship, China wouldn’t be as purely Chinese as it is today.


Loose Traffic Laws

Examples: lack of seatbelts, lack of helmets, lack of car seats, running red lights, driving between lanes, and incessant honking.

Foreigners With Chinese Language Skills Impress

Chinese people realize how different the two languages are, so if you have some skills in Mandarin, you’ll impress a few people.

China Feels Safe and Stable

When I compare China to the countries around me, I feel just as fortunate to be in China as I did to be in the US.

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Romantic People

Chinese people seem to eat up all crying in TV shows even if it’s forced, and they’re all about romantic music.

China Ideals = Balance

A lot of health concepts are built around the concept of maintaining body temperature. Food culture incorporates wet ingredients when eating something dry and often combines sweet and salty.

Dog Meat Is Not A Thing

Chinese people love dogs and there are TONS of pet dogs around here! Even if some Chinese people have tasted dog meat, I doubt it’s the norm.


Some days are better than others and some cities are better than others, but I haven’t experienced too many bad pollution days in Nanjing! Maybe 3 days out of the last 3 months?

In Touch With History

This goes back to the keeping-China-pure thing, but it seems to me like people in China tend to care more about Chinese traditions from food to art to festival customs.

The #1 Thing I’ve Learned About China

China and America have more similarities than difference… seriously. It’s not that scary here 🙂

Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon,


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