Travel Tips

Tips to Banish Culture Shock in Beijing

Locations in this article:  Beijing, China Hong Kong

chinese buildingIf you’re one of the lucky travelers heading to China for the Olympic games, you already know that there’s a certain amount of culture shock involved with going halfway around the world.

If this is your first trip to China, take these travel tips with you to minimize the shock and maximize the enjoyment of your trip.

  1. Brush up on your bargaining skills. Shopping in Beijing (outside of the high-end stores and hotels) is an exercise in haggling, so be prepared to argue a bit over price. Don’t show too much interest in an item if you want to keep the upper hand in the bargaining process. Bear in mind that almost everything for sale in the markets are fakes and forgeries, so you definitely shouldn’t pay too much for them. Be friendly, but be firm!
  2. Don’t get scammed. Some local con artists will hang out near art displays and Beijing attractions and offer to “help” you buy tickets or show you out-of-the-way art galleries. Don’t fall for these hucksters! The “help” with ticket purchasing means you’ll pay more for the tickets, and the art galleries will contain cheap, poor-quality pieces that you’ll be pressured into buying. Stay on the beaten path and with the other visitors to Beijing and simply wave a “no, thank you” to the con men.
  3. Try new things, especially new foods. As noted in The Travel Detective Bible, as long as the food is cooked, boiled or peeled, you should try it, even if it’s unrecognizable to you. You will discover some amazing delicacies this way. The street vendors are some of the best sources of local fare, and as long as the vendor doesn’t look filthy and the food doesn’t appear to have been sitting there for a long time, give it a try!
  4. Alter your definition of “rude.” In China, it’s not rude to belch, shove, spit and shout. You don’t have to do as the locals do, but keep in mind that they don’t mean any offense to your Western sensibilities.
  5. Try your hand at a few Chinese words. The language isn’t as scary as it seems, and knowing a few key phrases will help you get around and conduct transactions more smoothly. Here’s one to get you started: “tai gui le” (“too expensive”).
  6. Don’t fear the toilets. In the past, China’s public restroom situation was not one for the weak-stomached. But in preparing for the Olympics, Beijing has put major effort into overhauling public facilities, building new ones, and improving comfort and sanitation. The three-year, $57 million (in U.S. dollars) investment has ensured that Beijing’s 5,333 public toilets are clean, flushable and easily-accessible to all parts of the city. Several hundred more are being built in or near the Olympic venues, as well. After all, clean and sanitary restrooms are an indicator of a city’s civilizaton and living standards, Chinese officials say. As for the complaints that the Asian squat-toilets will be difficult for Westerners to use, the Chinese are busy installing sit-down toilets to accommodate those who prefer that style.

If you embrace the local culture and put these tips into practice, your travels to Beijing should be full of wonderful new experiences and very few headaches. Have a great trip!

By Erica Adams for

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