Tips on Visiting China

Discussion in 'China' started by Ray, May 27, 2013.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Personal and Public Hygiene

    Sun Yatsen (1866-1925), considered the founding father of modern China, was convinced that "competent governance of the body's natural functions" was a "necessary condition for competent government" (Fitzgerald, 2006, p. 153). As long as Chinese were "lacking in personal culture," he wrote, they would not be respected. Sun and his contemporaries called for an end to the practice of growing fingernails to an unseemly length (for the purpose of indicating that they were men of leisure or, at the very least, not manual laborers), advocated the regular brushing of teeth and criticized the practice of passing gas, burping, hawking and spitting at will. Keeping oneself tidy became part of a new style of personal self-management that was considered essential to show the world that the Chinese people had awakened. For any foreigner who has spent any length of time in China, it would appear that Sun's message was lost on a few. Certainly, public hygiene is not in China what most of us had grown accustomed to in our native countries.

    Most Chinese believe that expelling bodily gases and fluids is essential for good health and, related, that a failure to clear the throat of sputum can result in respiratory illness. For this reason, it will not be unusual for you to witness many instances of public spitting and urination, the blowing of the nose without the use of tissue paper (expelling mucous by pressing against one of the nostrils and blowing hard through the one open nostril), as well as coughing and sneezing without covering one's mouth and face. Although these practices have fallen into general disfavor with most educated and middle-class Chinese, they are certainly not limited only to poor, uneducated farmers and workers.

    Related to the philosophy of ridding oneself of bodily waste when the need arises, Chinese babies are not diapered the way Western infants and toddlers are: They are dressed in crotchless pants and are eventually taught to squat where they stand when they need to urinate or defecate (and, in fact, Chinese toilets—in all public areas and in very old apartment buildings—are simply composed of porcelain covered holes in the ground that one squats over).1 It is not unheard of to witness a mother hurrying her baby out of a restaurant with stretched arms while the infant leaves a trail of urine behind.

    Recently, while I was buying some fruit at a local street market, a little girl—who was about four-years old—smiled at me as she lowered her pants, squatted and urinated, and then grinned widely and innocently as the trail of her urine trickled down past me, just inches from my feet as well as the street vendor's boxes of produce. I personally felt there was something very endearing about that, in a sweet and innocent sort of way, but I can easily imagine how others might be put off by such an occurrence.

    In preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing made a concerted effort to eliminate many of these behaviors via numerous public service announcements on television and on billboards admonishing citizens not to spit or queue-jump. The 11th of each month was officially designated as "Queuing Day" and passengers were told to stand in line while they waited for buses. Related, all banks in China have now implemented a customer service number system (first-come, first-served) to prevent their customers from pushing ahead of one another and it seems to have worked well—not just in preventing queue-jumping in the banks but, in a more general sense, by conveying that waiting your turn should be practiced in all such situations regardless of what one's social position is relative to others. From February through August 2008, the city had distributed 2.8 million pamphlets to local households addressing numerous issues related to daily etiquette and public hygiene, and social etiquette courses were offered to all civil servants as well as 870,000 people working in the service sector, such as cab drivers, wait staff, and bus conductors (, 2008a). By all accounts, these efforts were quite successful.

    Nevertheless, and particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 Olympic Games, China still has some improvements to make in regard to public hygiene. With the exception of Western food chains, most public bathrooms in China lack hot water, soap, a functioning hand-dryer (or paper toweling), and even toilet paper. Foreigners are well-advised to carry several packs of tissue paper on their person in the event they need to use a public toilet in China (although most Westerners never do get used to squatting over Chinese toilets and will do whatever they can to wait until they return to their own apartments). And although there are numerous laws on the books governing public health and safety, they are difficult to enforce with a population of 1.3 billion people. Consequently, eating at small, family-owned and streetside restaurants is ill-advised.

    In addition, it is an excellent idea to get into the habit of thoroughly washing your hands upon returning to your apartment, especially if you have handled money or ridden inside any public transportation. Bank notes are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, especially older bills that are worn and torn in that they provide various nooks and crannies for germs to hide, including fecal matter. A 2003 study reported by CNN revealed that old bank notes from China had 178,000 different types of bacteria and were home to 9,500 organisms from the e-coli family (Brown, 2003). Handling money is like shaking hands with everyone who has ever handled that note. Finally, aside from its cultural significance, there is a sound health reason that the Chinese remove their shoes upon entering their apartments and that is custom you will probably want to adopt as well.

    Oral hygiene had never historically been much of a priority in China (because when you are starving, the condition of your teeth is not foremost in your mind), but one can now see more and more Chinese children with braces on their teeth and the number of store front dental clinics is growing.

    Personal and Public Hygiene in China
  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Currency and Banking

    This chapter will discuss seven topics related to currency and banking: notes and coins, especially how to identify counterfeit money; banking services; initial perception of low cost of living; how to change, send, and receive money; international credit cards in China; notary services and, finally; how to pay bills.


    The official currency in China is the Renminbi (RMB—literally, "The People's Currency"). One RMB—often referred to, in spoken Chinese, as "yuan" (you-en) or kuai (kweye)—is equal to approximately USD .14 (14 cents).6 The official ISO 4217 abbreviation is CNY, although it is also commonly abbreviated as "RMB." The Latinized symbol is ¥. Ten jiao (or less commonly "mao") equal 1 yuan and 10 fen equal one jiao. So 15.43 yuan would represent 15 yuan, 4 jiao and 3 fen (although, in many regions, the fen are simply rounded up and you would be charged 15.50 yuan). In common spoken Chinese this would be referred to as shiwu (15) kuai wu (5) or shiwu dian (point) wu. The denominations of paper notes consist of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 yuan; 5, 2 and 1 jiao and; 5, 2 and 1 fen. The denominations of coins are: 1 yuan; 5, 2 and 1 jiao and; 5, 2 and 1 fen. However, in many regions of China, coins are rarely used.

    After being in China for awhile, you will notice that most Chinese will wash their hands after returning to their apartments, and, especially, after having handled paper money. This is a habit you definitely want to acquire, if it's not one you already have.

    Counterfeit Money

    In China, counterfeit money is a big problem and almost every foreigner, in the beginning, has been passed a fake bill or two. There are several ways you can detect a fake bill (and you will notice that every cashier in China will carefully inspect all 50 and 100 yuan notes). There are five main things to look out for.

    First there are two things to see in the light. If you hold the bill up you will see on the left side in the white space, there is a clear picture of Chairman Mao's face. On the fake bills, the outline of his face is blurred.

    Second, below the white space and below the serial number, there is a red and blue symbol inside a red circle. In the real bills, the red and blue boundaries in the symbol are very distinct. They are perfectly aligned, or else they overlap just very, very slightly. In the fake bills the symbol is distorted. The red and blue sections are not aligned, one is usually a little higher than the other and often there is either a white space between their boundaries or they overlap unevenly. This is the easiest identifying mark of these bills.

    Third, just next to the red and blue symbol there is a green 100 (or 50 on the 50 bill, 20 on the 20 bill, etc.) sign. When looking flat at this sign, it is green. When the bill is tilted upwards, and you are looking at the sign from the bottom up the 100 turns brown. This is a real bill. But if when you tilt the bill upwards the symbol is only dark green, then this is a fake bill. This difference is slight and is easily seen if you have a real bill next to the fake bill.

    Fourth, hold the bill in your hand and rub your thumb gently against the collar on the big picture of Chairman Mao. You will notice a difference in texture on his collar. You will only feel it if you rub gently. If the paper is completely smooth, without any texture, you are holding a counterfeit bill! Next, on the top right hand corner, there is a 100 sign, just overlapping a little below the 100, there is a oval design. If you turn this design up, so you are looking up from the bottom, then place it so that light shines on it, you will see a very faint "100" on the oval. It is just slightly raised, this is a real bill. In the fakes, the 100 is either not there, or is very, very difficult to see.

    Finally, take the bill the long way up in your hands and kind of ruffle it in your hands. The sound should be clear and distinct. In the fake ones, the sound is muffled. You will see all the clerks do this, though this is the most unreliable way to identify a fake bill, as many of the bills are very old and worn and that will affect the sound it produces.

    Though it takes a little bit of experience to identify a fake bill quickly, these tips can help you avoid being passed a counterfeit bill.

    Everything is "So Cheap!"

    All foreigners initially think in terms of their own currency and, as such, are amazed, at first, at "how cheap" everything is in China. Consequently, a meal isn't 30 Yuan; it's "only $4.20." Most foreigners begin thinking in terms of yuan, instead of their own country's currency, in about two years time—as well you should because you're being paid in renminbi, not Western currency, To check for the latest currency exchange rate, you can navigate to

    Banking in China

    In comparison to all Western countries, and even other developing countries, the banking system in China is technologically primitive and customer service is shockingly unreliable. Owing to the gross inefficiency of the overall system, the lack of standardized training across personnel, and the absence of sufficient English language skills among tellers, even otherwise emotionally temperate foreigners can be expected to occasionally lose their tempers while banking in China. You can accurately think of China's banking system as the Aberdeen Proving Ground of personal restraint.

    The major problem is that the banking system is not internetworked with either major Western banks or even other branches of the same bank across different provinces within China. For example, if you open a savings account at the Bank of China in Henan province and lose your ATM card while visiting friends in Shanghai, the Bank of China in Shanghai would be unable to reissue a new ATM card: you would have to travel back to the same branch in the same province you opened the account in to receive a replacement card. Depending on the particular bank, province, branch, and teller, you could possibly receive a replacement card while you wait or the process could take up to 10 working days (and, in the interim, your account, as well as access to your money, is frozen).

    The other significant problem is that customer service in all banks and branches in China is extremely arbitrary and, therefore, entirely inconsistent. There appears to be no standardization of procedures or policies, and each teller seems authorized to make subjective judgment calls on the spot, such that what was true today may not be so tomorrow.

    To offer a very personal and recent example, in August of 2008 my wife and I moved to a different province. My new employer, a government university, was unable to use my savings account with the same bank (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) from a different province, so I was required to open a new account in a local branch. My wife, who is also working, opened an account in her name at the same bank (but at a different branch) a few days before I did. At that time she was told by the teller that she could not have both a passbook and an ATM card (but no explanation was offered as to why), so she was simply issued an ATM card only.

    I opened the same type of savings account at the local branch of the same bank (ICBC) inside the university campus and had asked a couple of students to accompany me. I indicated that I wanted both a passbook and an ATM card for the new account. The students suggested that they didn’t think this was possible but could also offer no explanation as to why other than "this is China." Nevertheless, they did ask for both instruments on my behalf and were mysteriously told that this would not be a problem. In fact, I was issued both a passbook along with the new ATM card and when I inquired why I was able to receive both instruments when my wife could not, their answer in unison was “you were lucky.” So there you have it: Banking in China appears to be mostly a matter of luck, based on which teller you happen to draw each time you visit the bank, and the particular mood he or she happens to be in.

    Changing, Sending and Receiving Money

    The most practical way of receiving and sending money from and to home is to use Western Union, which is available in many China post office stations throughout the country: Doing so requires U.S. currency. It is easy to change U.S. dollars into RMB but changing RMB into U.S. dollars is a far more complicated process. To do so legally, you will need your passport, tax receipts, your foreign expert certificate (FEC) and an awful lot of patience. For this reason, most foreigners rely on the "gray market" of money changers who congregate just outside the main branch of the Bank of China in each city. They typically offer rates that are competitive with those posted inside the bank and you can negotiate with them.

    Another possibility for sending money home is to obtain a money order ("bank draft") from the Bank of China, and then mail it home via DHL (an equivalent of Federal Express with branches all over the world), although this requires going to the main branch of the Bank of China in your city and a considerable amount of patience, not to mention an interpreter. This process can take as long as three hours owing to the amount of bureaucracy involved (no less than three managers will have to be summoned to authorize the transaction), not to mention the sheer amount of inadequate training, and impromptu last minute and arbitrary requirements you will encounter. As a rule, using Western Union is far more convenient unless the total amount you need to send is greater than $2,000 U.S. dollars (the maximum amount allowed for a single transaction at Western Union).

    For those with Visa/MasterCard debit and credit cards issued by Western banks, you will be able to withdraw cash with them at ATM machines located at any Construction Bank of China (only). Look for the machine with the CIRRUS network logo on it.

    Finally, according to the State Administration for Foreign Exchange, foreigners may carry the equivalent of USD$5,000 in any currency and 20,000 yuan (approximately USD$2,860) either in or out of China without needing to declare the amount with China Customs.

    Bank of China International Credit Card

    If you have a Western credit card you will be able to use it in China wherever Visa and MasterCard are accepted, at least until such time that you establish permanent residency here. However, receiving and paying that credit card bill will be another matter altogether, and keep in mind that most Western credit card companies will not allow their customers to use the card if permanent residency has changed to mainland China. My best advice is to avoid using Western-issued credit cards and pick up a Bank of China credit card instead

    A Bank of China credit card is a lot easier to negotiate than trying to pay Western credit card bills from China, as the statement can be paid in renminbi at any local branch that is authorized to exchange RMB into U.S. dollars (but not every local branch in cities outside of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou can do that). How it works is that you open an account and deposit an amount in renminbi equal to the amount of credit you want in U.S. dollars, i.e., the card must be fully secured irrespective of your credit rating back home. An unsecured credit card would only be available to Westerners who owned real estate or had other considerable assets in China. If you want to increase your credit limit in the future, you will have to return to the original branch you opened your account in to make another security deposit. As mentioned earlier, branches of the same bank within and across provinces are not internetworked.

    Once received, the credit card can then be used to make purchases over the Internet and wherever the Visa Card is accepted. Transactions are converted into U.S. dollars and the bill must technically be paid in U.S. dollars. However, as previously stated, any branch that exchanges currency will usually accept the equivalent amount in renminbi, convert it into U.S. currency as a paper transaction, and then apply the payment in U.S. dollars to your account. Depending on province, branch and teller, you may need to provide your Foreign Expert Certificate and tax receipts in order to pay in Chinese currency. If the Bank of China branch closest to you will not allow you to pay in renminbi, simply ask a Chinese friend to convert the renminbi into U.S. dollars and then use that to pay your bill. Unfortunately, you cannot pay in excess of the total amount due, i.e., you cannot prepay charges that were incurred since the closing date of the last billing cycle until they show up on the next month's statement.

    Notary Public

    In closing, it is also worth mentioning that China does have the equivalent of a notary public, but they seem to be very squeamish around foreigners, especially when the documents are in English only. We know of one foreigner who had to travel to four different public notaries before one would finally agree to notarize his signatures on two simple marriage related forms issued by Hong Kong (and these documents were bilingual). He was told by the first three notaries that he'd have to take the forms to his country's consulate, as only a foreigner's consulate can notarize marriage documents for him. Of course, this was not true as all that was being sought was simple verification of the signature, and not certification of the actual content.

    Nevertheless, what you will find is that Chinese public notaries routinely prolong and complicate what is otherwise a very simple and straightforward process in our respective Western countries. With all the self-importance they can muster, they carefully examine, evaluate, and then ask detailed questions about the actual substance of the document, as if any of that was required to verify the source of the signature. For example, when attempting to notarize a verification of supervision form for a former student of mine who was seeking licensure in a different state, I was asked several specific questions about the former supervisee, why he needed this particular document, and the exact nature of my relationship to him. Did we mention that if you decide to move to China, you will need the patience of Job (and a lot of taxi money)?

    Paying Bills

    Paying bills in China, with the only exception of one's electric bill, requires paying a cash security deposit upfront against future usage. That is, in regard to one's home telephone, mobile phone, cable TV, and Internet access, etc., one opens an account, deposits money, and then uses the service until the monies are exhausted. There is no "billing," per se, in China, nor do people maintain or use checking accounts—services and most utilities are strictly managed on a "pay as you go" basis, and require that you appear in-person in order to pay another deposit. Most foreigners know they have run out of money on their accounts only after the services have been abruptly interrupted. China Telecom and China Mobile do send service announcements (or voice recordings) when one's balance reaches 30, and then 10, yuan, but most foreigners cannot read or understand them and, so, they are generally useless to all but the Chinese.

    The apartment electric and water bills seem to be the only exception to the above rule. Your FAO or building manager will present you with a bill for the previous month's usage and you typically have up to 15 days to pay it in person.

    Banking in China and Currency
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Buying, Raising, and Traveling with Pets in China

    As the average income in China has risen over the years, so too has the number of household pets. Owning a pedigree dog is now considered vogue among China's nouveau riche and, in the year 2007 alone, the Chinese spent $757 million on approximately 11 billion pets. Although most of the household pets in China include birds, fish and reptiles, there are an estimated 150 million dogs and close to 11 million cats as well (Chaney, 2008).

    According to a recent article in the New York Times, as of October 2010, there were 900,000 registered dogs in Beijing alone (not including the thousands of dogs that are unregistered) and that figure is growing at a rate of 10 percent every year (Wines, 2010). The same article explained this recent boom in dog ownership as a residual side effect of China's single-child policy: Many owners claim that dog ownership is a way to provide companionship to young children growing up without siblings and to fill empty nests in homes whose children have grown up, moved off to college, and then remain in distant provinces after graduation (ibid, para 10).

    Buying and Caring for Pets in China

    Depending on location, breed, and pedigree, pure-bred dogs can cost anywhere from 1000 to 1 million yuan (approximately $144 to $144,000), and there has been increased activity on the part of China's National Kennel Club (CNKC) in establishing guidelines for the registration of pure-bred dogs as well as promoting and monitoring dog shows.

    Yorkshire Terrier enjoys a bath and trim in Beijing.
    As the demand for services continues to rise, so too has the quality of veterinary care and animal grooming services. In virtually all first- and second-tier cities, one can easily find all-in-one establishments where animals are bred and sold, medically treated, and groomed, i.e., pet shop, breeder, animal hospital, and groomer all rolled into one.

    If you decide to buy a pet in China, it is best that you check with the locals for information about the most reliable animal hospitals in your area. Avoid buying pets from street vendors as these animals tend to be sick and are typically pumped up with large doses of antibiotics to mask their symptoms: They usually die within hours or days after being brought home.

    In addition, it can be very difficult to find well-trained groomers in second- and third-tier cities and those who are unskilled will routinely anesthetize the animal before grooming it in order to make their lives easier. Do not allow your pet to be groomed by anyone who first anesthetizes the animal. Aside from the fact that this is an indication of incompetence, there is always some risk associated with general anesthesia. Grooming fees vary considerably by location, skill of the groomer, and breed, and typically range anywhere from 100 to 300 yuan ($14.60 to $43.80).

    Bringing Your Pet to China

    If you have a pet in your native country and you plan to be in China for an extended period of time, arrangements can be made to bring that pet along with you. Many airlines do have provisions for shipping larger pets in the cargo department of their planes and a few will even allow small pets to be brought onboard if the pet carrier can be placed in front of one's seat. It is best to check with a travel agent to obtain a list of airlines with flights to China that allow onboard and cargo shipping of pets.

    However, transporting large pets in the cargo department is only really feasible during those times of the year when temperatures are not extreme (as the cargo department is generally not temperature controlled). Although this is a controversial subject among vets, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) strongly recommends that pets not be sedated for the trip as: 1) it is felt that the reaction of the animal, if and when it awakens en route, will be far worse than if it is allowed to gradually acclimate to the experience in a state of full consciousness and 2) at high enough altitudes, the physiological changes from sedatives and/or tranquilizers may be enhanced often resulting in pets that cannot be revived once they have landed. For these reasons, due to liability concerns, most airlines will not transport animals that appear to be sedated.

    Once you have made arrangements to ship the pet in the cargo department, the best way to prepare the animal is simply to have it spend as much time as possible inside the carrier it will be traveling in. Place its food and water bowls inside the carrier as well as one or two of its favorite toys so that it will become accustomed to and comfortable with that environment.

    In addition to making the necessary travel arrangements, you will also need to secure all the proper health-related documents as well. Each city has its own regulations, so you'll need to verify this prior to departure but, as a rule, the following describes what is required.

    First, you will need to have your pet's health certificate approved by your country's appropriate government bureau. For U.S. citizens, pet owners will need a USDA stamp of approval.

    The following documents are required to clear customs and quarantine and it is suggested that you have the documents translated into simple Chinese in order to expedite matters once you arrive:

    International health certificate issued in the originating country showing the name, sex, and breed of the pet (certified by USDA).
    Vaccination record showing that a rabies shot was given within the preceding 12 months, but not less than 30 days before departure. Cats must be vaccinated against enteritis (E3) within 12 months of arrival into China. In addition, you will need certificates demonstrating proof of vaccinations for feline panleucopaenia (FPL) and feline respiratory disease complex (FRDC).
    Owner's residential details in China
    Copy of airway bill (if traveling as cargo)
    As a rule, pets brought into China from overseas have to undergo a 15 to 30 day quarantine period at a special facility set up by the city, but some cities, including Shanghai, will allow the pet to remain quarantined inside the owner's apartment after which (usually 30 to 45 days later) the quarantine station's staff veterinarian will pay a call to the residence to examine the pet. If the pet passes the examination, the owner is then given a certificate of health which allows the pet to be legally registered. The maximum fee for all of this is typically 1,000 yuan. When returning home, the pet will have to be brought back to the local quarantine health station within 15 days of departure for another examination and a health certificate will be issued which allows the pet to clear China customs and board the plane.

    Traveling With, Buying, and Raising Pets in China
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Culture Shock and Clinical Depression

    This chapter examines the four stages of culture shock and how to distinguish one's adjustment reactions to them from clinical depression.

    Four Stages of Culture Shock is estimated that up to 50 percent of all new expats eventually leave China earlier than planned...
    A great deal has been written about the nature of the culture shock experienced, to varying degrees, by all foreigners in China. Essentially, just about everything is different: currency, food, available merchandise, mores and ethics, social customs and traditions, personal hygiene, medical care and family life, not to mention the physical and natural environment, to name but the major ones.

    One's ability to adjust to life in China depends greatly on how resilient one's character is as well as how determined one is to make the myriad of psychological, emotional and physical adjustments required. Almost anyone can tolerate most anything for a limited period of time: Therefore, the ones who must make the greatest personal, emotional and mental adjustments required to live in China, with relative success, are the ones who—for one reason or another—have made a long-term commitment to remaining here for the "long haul."

    Psychologists have identified four distinct, and often overlapping, stages that characterize the phenomenology of those who move to and remain in a different culture: 1) Excitement; 2) Withdrawal; 3) Adjustment, and; 4) Enthusiasm.

    Excitement or Honeymoon Stage

    When you first arrive in China, you will very likely experience an exhilarating sense of excitement and adventure. You will think to yourself "I can't believe I'm finally in China," and you will be fascinated and overwhelmingly impressed by all the "exotic" differences in culture you will encounter. This stage is often referred to as the "honeymoon" period.

    Withdrawal or Negotiation Stage

    Usually, within a month or so, that sense of excitement will eventually give way to new and unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as you continue to have unfavorable encounters that strike you as strange, offensive, and unacceptable. These reactions, for most Westerners, are typically centered around the formidable language barrier as well as stark differences in: public hygiene; traffic safety; the type and quality of the food; the unavailability of creature comforts; poor, grossly unreliable, or nonexistent customer service; the manner in which agreements and contracts are disregarded or continuously changed and, related; the feeling that one is constantly being cheated or lied to (see unit on Mianzi and Guanxi).

    You will find that you severely dislike the culture and will experience intermittent feelings of anxiety and depression characterized by a demonstration of animosity, a short-temper, a strong sense of "being stuck," and a frequent tendency to criticize and mock the people and their culture. Depending on the individual, this stage can last for up to three to six months, or it may persist considerably longer for those who lack the capacity, faculties, and social support required to properly adjust.

    In fact, the psychosocial adjustment required of Westerners is so enormous, it is estimated that up to 50 percent of all new expats eventually leave China earlier than planned. Spouses of executives reportedly suffer the greatest degree of anomie with consequent acute episodes of depression, anxiety, and alcoholism (Farrar, 2009).

    Adjustment Stage

    For those who have managed to develop a sufficient social support system, stage 2 will eventually segue into an adjustment period during which time the individual begins to feel more settled-in and confident as life becomes considerably more routine and predictable, which often tends to coincide with the acquisition of some Chinese language skills and the ability to minimally communicate around basic needs without assistance. The individual will feel far less isolated, and will regain his or her sense of humor. I still remember the enormous sense of satisfaction and comfort I derived the very first time I was able to verbally instruct the taxi driver where I wanted to be taken in Chinese. This stage of adjustment seems to last from several months for most, to up to two years for some.

    Enthusiasm or Assimilation Stage

    After a period of time of living in the country, one begins to realize that he or she now feels "at home" in China. What used to drive you crazy in the beginning now seems mundane or insignificant (or will simply be unattended to), and you will actually start identifying several characteristics or features of the culture that you genuinely prefer to your own. In addition, you will notice that you have gradually incorporated (assimilated) several traits or behaviors from the new culture, such that if you were to return to your native country, you would in fact experience something of a reverse culture shock.

    Distinguishing Culture Shock from Clinical Depression

    While it is "normal" to experience intermittent feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression during the withdrawal or negotiation stage of culture shock, there is certainly a risk that these feelings could progress into more serious clinical conditions such as anxiety or mood disorders. The distinguishing features will be both quantitative and qualitative.

    Although there will be intermittent periods of emotional disturbance during this stage of culture shock, these episodes should not constitute the majority of the individual's day-to-day life: that is, the individual should enjoy baseline functioning and a clear mental status for most of his or her waking hours. In contrast, if you find that you becoming irritable, anxious, or angry most of the time, are losing interest in activities that used to bring you pleasure, have either gained or lost more than 5 percent of your prior body weight, and are either sleeping considerably less or far more than you used to, you might be suffering from a diagnosable mood disorder.

    Remember that even within one's own culture, both changing jobs and moving to a new location constitute severe psychosocial stressors. Individuals who are particularly susceptible to clinical depression include foreigners who: 1) are older, particularly those over the age of 60; 2) have a prior history of severe adjustment disorders, and related; 3) have a history of major mental illness, including bipolar disorder and (or) a history of alcohol and drug abuse or dependency.

    If you have been in the country for more than eight months and find that you are feeling worse with time instead of better, you should definitely consider seeing a physician. It is very possible that medication will be indicated and could be very useful in getting you through the rough spots.

    Coping Strategies

    There are several measures you can take to facilitate an easier transition through the second stage of culture shock. For starters, it helps considerably if your expectations are realistic to begin with. The more mentally prepared you are for the myriad of differences you are going encounter in China, the more likely you will be able to cope with them over time. That is one of the main reasons this guide was written.

    Second, you can increase the likelihood of adjusting more quickly and easily by trying to establish a social support system as soon as possible (preferably during the honeymoon period). Seek out other foreign teachers you have something in common with and use them as a "sounding board" during the rough periods. In addition, and this is especially important, try to establish at least one friendship with an English-speaking Chinese colleague. Having an "insider" on your side who can be there for you to interpret, explain, and even negotiate some of the more frustrating differences you are struggling with will go a very long way in easing your transition. In short, you need a support group. The very last thing you should do is withdraw and isolate yourself from other people, even though this is most likely what you will feel like doing.

    The following eleven chapters were specifically written to help mentally prepare prospective foreign teachers for the various facets of life in China they will encounter that often produce the greatest degree of anxiety, depression and anger after the honeymoon period (stage 1) has waned.

    Experiencing and Dealing with Culture Shock in China
  6. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Having a Baby in China

    Expectant mothers crowd into the maternity ward at People's Hospital, Shenzhen
    Given the significant differences in the healthcare delivery system between China and our respective Western countries, one can easily imagine that the experience of having a baby in China is quite different than it is back home, especially outside the three major international cities of Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. Within these three aforementioned cities, the demand for more modern levels of care with Western trained doctors who can communicate freely in English has spawned an outgrowth of boutique Western maternity hospitals that are comparable in quality to—and often exceedingly costlier than—what one would expect to find and pay back home. One such example of a high-priced boutique Western maternity hospital would be Care Bay in Shanghai, which boasts a “luxurious experience” and professional services that include “maternity yoga.”

    The vast majority of foreign teachers who live outside a first-tier international city will have little choice but to rely on the maternity services provided in second- and third-tier cities, so this section will primarily focus on that experience as we feel it represents what most foreign couples and foreign male teachers married to Chinese women can expect. Obviously, most of this will not pertain to Western employees of international companies who have comprehensive medical insurance that covers maternity expenses and can afford to commute to and from Shanghai or Hong Kong for prenatal care and delivery.

    Routine and free prenatal care is available in second- and third-tier cities but it is limited. Typically what happens is that a pregnant woman will receive a red prenatal care book from the hospital early in her pregnancy and this book is used to track and record nominal data such as vital signs and weight, as well as the results of a cursory gynecological examination to rule out obvious signs of colpopathy (vaginal disease). The frequency of these visits is expected to increase from monthly to biweekly and finally to weekly as gestation progresses from the first six months, six to eight months, and finally from eight months to delivery, respectively. For an additional 100 yuan, the patient can request additional blood and urine lab tests but these will typically not be ordered unless the gynecological exam reveals some abnormality or the expectant mother presents with a specific complaint. Often, the gynecologist will suggest that the patient purchase “prenatal care vitamins” for an additional 100 yuan.

    At 20 weeks of gestation, the mother may elect to have an ultrasound ostensibly to rule out any gross physical abnormalities but, more commonly than not, to determine gender. Technically, it is illegal for the ultrasound technician and doctor to reveal the gender of the fetus: However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the determination of a male fetus is generally confirmed via some unofficial congratulatory remark while the determination of a female fetus remains undisclosed. In addition, in the absence of clear confirmation either way, there are rumors that fetal gender can be ascertained for the right price.

    Of considerable concern to international healthcare professionals is the alarming increase in the number of cesarean deliveries being performed in China: While C-sections accounted for only 5 percent of all births in the 1970s, that number jumped to 50% in 2007 and exceeds 60 percent at many urban hospitals throughout mainland China. These statistics far exceed the standard rate of 10 to 15 percent established by the WHO (China Daily, 2007). However, the popularity of C-section deliveries across mainland China appears to be part of an international trend. Recent statistics indicate that in 2006 the rate of C-section deliveries in the United States had also risen to about one-third (31.6 percent) of all births, representing a 50 percent increase over the past decade (Rubin, 2008). The reasons cited for this increase include greater convenience and higher fees for the doctor, and the avoidance of labor pain for the mother. As a cesarean section is a major surgical procedure, there is consensus among healthcare professionals that a vaginal delivery will generally be safer for mothers unless there is a complication or clear indication for the procedure, such as insufficient pelvic space. The total cost of a C-section delivery will run anywhere from approximately 5,000 to 7,000 yuan (USD $730 to $1022), depending on location and hospital, while total expenses for a vaginal delivery are typically around 2,000 to 3,000 yuan (USD $292 to $438; China Daily, 2007).

    Another predominant concern among foreigners is the ability of mainland Chinese physicians to respond to neonatal complications or emergencies. This appears to be a hit or miss type of proposition and will vary considerably depending on the hospital and doctor.

    Personal Story: Having a Baby in China

    The following is an excerpt from a report shared by a foreign teacher in China regarding his experiences with his Chinese wife’s delivery:

    Child Citizenship and Education

    When a child is born to a foreigner in China, he has the choice of filing for Chinese citizenship for his child or registering that birth with his embassy, in which case the child would receive citizenship in the same country as his father: Dual-citizenship is not allowed.

    Foreigners living in the three international cities in China will have the option of sending their child to an international school, while those who do not will usually elect to home-school their children and there are numerous resources on the Internet for doing so. A good place to start your search, especially for American families, is Jon's Homeschool Resources: it contains numerous articles and materials for teaching children at home with excellent links to many other useful resources. However, in the vast majority of cases, most foreigners married to Chinese women with children seem to return to their countries of origin well before the child ever reaches school age.

    Having a Baby in China for Foreigners
  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Transportation and Domestic Travel

    This chapter will summarize what you need to know about getting around in China: ground and air transportation, buying a motor vehicle, and obtaining a Chinese driver's license.

    Ground Transportation

    China's urban infrastructure has a fairly extensive, although antiquated, transportation system. Buses can be taken to just about anywhere within the city for anywhere from one to four yuan (depending on location) but, in all but the capital city, don't expect the buses to be new, clean or even safe (there doesn't appear to be anything even remotely related to routine maintenance and the buses will just run until they break down en route).

    Typical Subway Station, Guangzhou, China
    Taxis are abundant and relatively cheap. Some municipal governments allow taxis to charge for time and distance while some only allow for the meter to be based on distance alone. Depending on the city, the first kilometer can run anywhere from 8 to 10 yuan (about $1.12 to $1.40) and taxi drivers in most cities will expect you to bargain with them for any distance greater than the first kilometer. It is generally easy to reduce the total fare by 10% if you know where you're going (i.e., how much it should cost) and can speak even a little bit of Chinese. Be advised that a few provinces, such as Guangdong, do provide for a one (1) yuan fuel surcharge to be added to the metered fare and most drivers will balk if you ask them to give you change in excess of the cost of the fare, i.e., handing them a 100 yuan note for a 15 yuan fare.

    In most cities in China, as is true the world over, the a few taxi drivers will try to take advantage of a foreigner by taking the longest route possible or by failing to use the meter and charging an exorbitant rate. However, once you know how much the fare should be, this becomes exceedingly more difficult for them to do. Until you acquire some Chinese language skills or know your way around, simply have a colleague or friend negotiate price for you in advance and you won't have any problems.

    Finally, Chinese taxi drivers are notorious for passing fake notes as well as their oldest and most tattered bills when giving change, especially to foreigners. You should check your change carefully for counterfeit bills, particularly if you have been handed a 50 yuan note, and you are entitled to reject a bill if it is falling apart or torn (the Chinese do precisely this all the time). For information on how to spot a counterfeit bill, please see the chapter on Currency and Banking.

    Every city has a bus terminal and train station that will take you from one city to the next and fares are inexpensive by Western standards. Some foreigners find adventure in riding the trains and others would rather have a wisdom tooth pulled. As a rule, trains that travel great distances are over-crowded and it is best to purchase the best accommodations possible. However, the train fares for "soft sleeper" compartments are often just slightly below what it would cost you to fly.

    Trains and buses in China are best for short excursions, i.e., two hours or less, and, if available, paying a little extra for the first-class train coach is usually worth the added expense in terms of greater comfort and the better personal hygiene of one's traveling companions.

    Air Transportation

    The newly inaugurated Terminal 3 of the Beijing International Airport
    By Western standards, domestic airfares in China are relatively inexpensive especially if you are not traveling during Golden Week holidays or Spring Festival. One can probably travel by plane from Harbin (in the upper northeast) to Guangzhou (in the southeast) for under USD $100 (about 800 yuan) during off-peak traveling times. There appears to be no advantage in price to booking your flight well in advance and most Chinese airlines will not accept reservations more than 45 to 60 days in advance of your departure. Generally speaking, and barring holiday periods, booking a seat about a week or two in advance is sufficient for ensuring both availability and the best price. In every case, the government owns a majority share of and thus controls all airline carriers in China: Consequently, airfares tend to be rather consistent across airline companies as there is no genuine competition between them.

    An excellent online resource for both checking and booking discount airfares and hotel reservations is Their customer service is superlative (they once called me to advise that one of my flights had been postponed by 10 minutes) and you can pay either by cash (RMB) or credit-card. If you are paying by cash, they will deliver the ticket to your apartment in person and you pay upon receipt. If you have a Bank of China (or other local) credit card, you will be issued an E-ticket and most major airline carriers have electronic ATM-like machines inside the airport that allow you to select your seat and issue your own boarding pass (assuming you don't have any baggage to check).

    For those interested in domestic travel within China, you can also take a look at the China Travel Guide for information about major cities, popular attractions, and tour packages.

    Driving in China

    Many foreigners who plan to stay in China for the long haul find buying a motorbike an inexpensive and convenient way to travel about. However, owing to the sheer abundance of these relatively cheap modes of transportation and the havoc they play on traffic, many cities have stopped issuing license plates and registrations for the use of motorbikes within city limits. The cost of these motorbikes run anywhere from CNY 4,300 to 8,000+ depending on make, model and engine size (either 125 or 150cc), including a two-year registration and insurance (which should come to about 500 to 600 yuan). As an alternative to the gas powered motorbikes, many foreigners are now opting to buy very reliable and efficient Chinese manufactured electric bikes instead, which, depending on the maximum speed and tire size, are perfectly legal and do not require a driver's license or registration. Excellent models that travel up to speeds of 40kph (25mph), can be purchased for under 2500 RMB.

    In addition, Chinese brand cars such as the QQ, the Xiao Li, and the Breadbox (an SUV-type vehicle) can be purchased for under 50,000 yuan (less than USD $7,100). Foreign imports, including all Japanese makes, will run considerably higher in China than you would pay back home. The current price of gasoline, as of this writing, is about 6.43 yuan for one liter of 93 octane.

    Traffic Jam in Xiamen, South China
    Legally speaking, you do need a Chinese driver's license to drive a vehicle in China (excluding electric bikes and regular bicycles) and, contrary to popular belief, an "international" designation on your Western driver's license is entirely insufficient for driving legally in China. The amount of time, effort and money involved in procuring a driver's license seem to vary considerably from province to province. In some provinces, the license is almost given away to any foreigner who presents his valid Western driver's license while, in others, both a driving class and road test are required. For legally obtaining a valid Chinese driver's license, it is suggested that you check with another foreign teacher about what is required. Although many foreigners have been driving in China for years without a Chinese driver's license or proper registration and have never had a problem doing so, this is not recommended. Finally, you will need to adopt a Chinese name for the purposes of obtaining a Chinese driver's license as the space provided for the driver's name can only accommodate up to four characters. Most foreign teachers do acquire and adopt a Chinese name well before they ever apply for a license that has been provided to them by their students.

    Keep in mind that driving in China, as well as the rest of Asia, is not the same as driving in your home country. According to a 2004 article originally reported in the Shanghai Star, "Latest research shows that every day in China at least 300 people are killed in traffic accidents, ranking the country top in the world for both the death toll and the death rate. And the figure is accelerating by 10 per cent every year." In China, the right of way—in the event of an accident—is always determined, as a practical matter, by "who got there first." So, if you run into a car with your motorbike because the other driver flew out of a blind alley and there was no "humanly way possible" you could have avoided him, as a matter of common practice, you are generally considered to be fully responsible because you struck him and you will be required to pay for all estimated repair costs and any anticipated hospital bills. What typically happens is that the policeman on the scene will act as a mediator and will help both parties agree to a settlement amount, payable on the spot. In the case of a more serious accident, or where immediate hospitalization is required, the vehicle that struck first will typically be impounded and later an investigation will be conducted during which time the contributory negligence of both parties will be determined. Your insurance company will then reimburse you for the expenses you have already laid out based on the percentage you were deemed not responsible for.

    Driving in China takes some getting used to as many motorists simply do not obey the traffic laws. Old foreign veterans of China seem to acquire a "sixth-sense" after awhile and are able to drive without incident.

    Modes of Transportation in China for Foreign Teachers
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Enjoy China.

    It is a great experience!
  9. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    By and large nobody speaks or understands English. Even common words and phrases like Train, Water, Coke, Toilet, Road, Airport, McDonalds are not understood. Army yourself with Chinese translations. DIet Coke is Jian Yi Kele.

    Printout multiple copies of your hotel address ( They won't even understand your hotel's name, you need to learn the Chinese name).

    If you are a guy, you will be accosted by pimps and salesman every 200 meters, asking if you want a massage or a "L"olex.

    Don't think of driving in China without proper license.

    Chinese hotels, restaurant, taxies are quite cheap. Shopping is shyte. Don't eat from hawker stalls, food will be adulterated.

    Sightseeing is decent in months where there is no smog.

    People are generally nice, except hawkers or shopkeepers (HKG ones are bigger pricks).

    Women can travel safely in big cities.

    Always prefer trains esp the bullet ones.
  10. Blackwater

    Blackwater Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Jan 9, 2012
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    Akhand Bharat
    phaaji if u know lot of things about china.

    uska bhi pata bata do:lol::lol::lol:

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