The People’s Republic of China is a perplexing place for outsiders—a communist country where you’ll often feel like you’re trapped inside a shopping mall, where English is constantly a form of decoration and only occasionally a means of communication.
The international mega-cities of Beijing and Shanghai have taken Westernization to heart, but outside the cosmopolitan centers, China is still a hot mess of a destination—in the best way possible.
Now that U.S. passport-holders can get 10-year visas for business and tourism, the options for experiencing both Chinas are multiplying.
This guide—collected wisdom from a year in a massive, smelly, industrial, capital city called Jinan—will serve you particularly well in China’s lesser-known cities and mountaintop villages—and everywhere in between.
What Not To Expect
1. Borders, Privacy or Subtlety
This is not a place for sensitive noses or squeamishness and definitely not a place for those who need their personal space. It’s a country of rigid cultural and political rules while, somehow, anything can be done anywhere. Feel free to smoke cigarettes and throw garbage on the floor of homes, restaurants and offices. Hock up your lung butter without batting an eyelash and relieve yourself in the open—especially if you’re a child, but honestly, anyone can do it. Walk in the street; drive on the sidewalk. Ask questions about age, marital status and physical appearance the moment you meet someone. And if you don’t look Asian, prepare to pose for photos with Asians who’ve never seen an American in person before; you’ll feel like a celebrity stalked by amateur paparazzi around every corner. READ MORE at Paste Magazine…