5 Things I wish I knew before I went to China

1. That working on weekends was a common practice

My expectations did not match my reality. I did not know that I would be required to work on the weekends and have my days off during the week. This made exploring Shanghai and meeting other foreigners that much harder as people had different schedules. When I was able to go out, some of my friends were not.

Every weekend it was a trade-off between going out on a Friday and being tired on a Saturday versus staying indoors. As different countries operate differently I wish I carried out more adequate research.

2. How to speak basic Mandarin

Before I left the only things I knew how to say in Mandarin were “hello” and “how are you?” I honestly thought that because I was going to Shanghai – the foreigners’ hub – English would be a language that Chinese locals were familiar with. I was wrong. Many of the locals that I met (including cab drivers, delivery and shop assistant workers etc.) knew very little to no English at all. Needless to say I found communication quite difficult but Apps like Google translator, Pleco and Memrise helped a lot.

3. How complicated the underground system can be

As a Londoner I know how an underground system works and thought that it would be easy to navigate the Shanghai underground system. I was wrong…again. Shanghai is such a big city and because of this it has many lines and many exits within any one underground station. If you take the wrong exit you can potentially end up at the opposite side of the area you intended to be in. Sometimes it would take me 30 – 40 minutes of walking to rectify my mistake. Also within an underground station it can take 15 – 20 minutes to walk from one line to another line (e.g. for my Londoners imagine walking 20 minutes to change from the Victoria to the Central line at Oxford Circus station). So every time you are calculating a journey you need to incorporate walking time. I wish I had time to mentally prepare for this 🙂

4. It is an authority driven society

The U.K. is a society where we are encouraged to participate in the idea of freedom of speech, which can consist of questioning, opposing and challenging others, irrespective of their status in society. However in China this was not always the case, as I found that questioning authority is sometimes frowned upon. In my time in Shanghai I incurred an injury and I had to go to the hospital. During my consultation with the doctor I questioned how he had come to the conclusion that he presented and was met with what I interpreted to be disapproval. The response to my questions were “he is a doctor,” insinuating that I was not meant to question his decisions. I soon learnt that this was a well-practiced belief.

5. It is a mobile driven society

Prior to my arrival I thought that Shanghai was a cash driven society but in reality many transactions are completed through mobile. Apps like WeChat and Alipay are immensely popular because of this. WeChat is an app very similar to Whatsapp but that has so many more functions. For example you can do things like transfer money to your bank account, transfer money to your contacts, pay for some utility bills, top up your mobile phone, buy cinema tickets and so much more! If I had known this before I left for China it would have made settling in so much easier.


My experience in China was very interesting as I learnt a lot about the country and myself. I have already written about what I learnt about China and I am due to write about what I have learnt about myself, so stay tuned. I am definitely not done with the country and cannot wait to go back in the future, mainly because of the underground shopping malls *insert laughing face.*

If you want to hear more about my experience in China I was recently involved in an article centred on the experiences of women of colour whilst abroad. The link is http://metro.co.uk/2017/11/03/women-of-colour-tell-us-their-experiences-of-travelling-abroad-7033325/


12 thoughts on “5 Things I wish I knew before I went to China

  1. I guess the proverb “When in Rome do as the Romans ” holds true here. Your stay in China and life back in the UK is obviously different but glad to know that you are pretty much adjusting alright.

    Thank heavens for Google translator and similar apps, communication would have been difficult without them. I’m definitely looking forward to your next post – China through the eyes of Theo.B .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank God for apps. I can imagine all of that being major adjustments. The difference in how the society is governed is a big culture. Even here in the U.S it’s like “question everything and speak up!”. It’s so cool that you’re in a foreign country though!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s