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Travel, Teach, Live in China

Culture Shock in China: Top Five
By:Kane Holding

If you have spoken to anyone who has moved to a country that is quite different from their own, you might have heard the phrase 'culture shock' before. This shock is to do with the differences in culture and environment you might experience, and the initial difficulties of adjusting to these differences. China can be a prime destination for culture shock when you first arrive, particularly if you don't know what to expect. To lessen these problems by preparing you beforehand, here are our top five cultural issues that might lead to culture shock.

1. Spitting. Whilst many major cities in China have banned public spitting, it is still common - particularly in northern cities such as Beijing where pollution is rife. Rather than using a tissue, many people clear their throat by spitting onto the ground. It is an unhygienic practice, and it is worth watching where you step sometimes. However, after a while you probably won't even notice.

2. Staring. There are still a small amount of foreigners in China, and if you are outside of a big city you can find yourself the centre of attention. Most people are not trying to be rude at all - they are just curious. Try not to let it get to you, and if you live in an area for a while people will certainly get used to you. Of course, such staring is rare in the big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai where people are used to seeing non-Chinese people.

3. Squat toilets. Your comfortable accommodation and most large shopping malls or restaurants will have toilets that you recognise as typically western. However, many public toilets and Chinese restaurants have squat toilets. These are flat to the ground, and you need to squat to use them - hence the name. If you have leg problems they can be difficult to use, but most people can use them after the initial difficulties. However, if you live in a big city and don't want to use these toilets, a western toilet should not be too far away.

4. Food. Some elements of Chinese food will be very familiar, but as a developing nation there are still many dishes that reflect the idea of eating from necessity, as well as a variety of foods and attitudes to food that many westerners are not familiar with. Expect many meat dishes to include bones, and some menus to include dishes using offal, amphibians, reptiles or even insects.

Supermarkets often have live fish, crabs and turtles to buy for food. Whilst these might be shocking, it is a normal practice here and ensures freshness. Whilst you will not get used to everything, if you give different foods a try and learn, you can discover great new dishes. For the picky eater, there are plenty of simple dishes and even recognisable fast food brands in many cities.

5. Medicine. Most Chinese pharmacies stock western medicine, but the first thing you will be offered is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). You are welcome to give this a try and for basic problems it can potentially help. However, if you want to play it safe then ask for western Medicine - it will often work out to be cheaper for basic things like painkillers or cold medicine, and you know exactly what you are taking.

The culture can be shocking, but it is difference that makes life exciting. Global Language will be there for you to help you understand cultural differences, and to help you adapt quickly once you are in China.

Global Language ( http://www.glchinese.com ) offers study abroad program packages for students or individuals wishing to study Chinese or take martial arts in China. Packages include tuition fees, accommodation, tutoring, school registration, tours, social events, 24/7 service and more.

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