We all know the horror stories people tell you when flying to another country for the first time. With those things flooding our minds, we sometimes get a knot in our stomach as we jump on the plane…only our imagination to accompany us for the next however many hours.
This has been the experience of countless people, as they head on a plane marked with the country name CHINA! I myself had heard the horror stories of the culture shock that was awaiting me. But like anytime you hop on a plane and fly around the world…there are going to be people living a life that is foreign to us…but that is definitely part of the adventure and what makes traveling around the world glorious.
And now without further ado…9 things people traveling to China should know!
#1 The first is one of the most important! Invest in your trip ahead of time. Read – Prepare – Pray. Especially, if you are going on a missions trip or working closely alongside the natives and orphans…you don’t want to just show up and hope for the best. You need to be prepared for both a culture and spiritual shock. Find scriptures that will carry you through each day and have them there to meditate on. Find a prayer partner that will keep you accountable on your trip. Prepare to be part of the culture…learn about their culture/traditions & learn some Chinese (even if they are simple phrases and compliments for your Chinese friends). Having this basis for your trip, will help you dive deeper into building new relationships with the people and learning to LOVE China! It’s not like the West… and that’s okay! In a world of increasing globalization and homogeneity, it’s refreshing to visit a place that is so foreign. Exciting new sights, sounds and smells will greet you at every turn. Keep an adventurous mindset and you’ll experience the trip of a lifetime!
#2 While driving, remember you’re not in Kansas anymore. In many places there are driving rules and regulations…in China, well they are more like suggestions. Believe me, it feels like the old video game Frogger and will be an experience can both terrify & excite you…giving you a road trip/drive you will never forget!
#3 Being stared at is to be expected and not considered rude but normal and very common in the Chinese culture.
#4 If you are going to be working with orphans, or kids in general…learn the song “Xi Yang Yang (Pleasant Goat)”. It’ll get you places with the little kids. It’s their jam. Not to mention that grown ups will be impressed that you know it.
#5 Squatty potties. Just the thought of them can make a person cringe. Sure, sometimes they’re gross and stinky but so are some American public bathrooms too. The trick to the squatty, is to pack a travel pack of Kleenex in your purse, backpack or pocket and then to go to the very last couple of stalls. It’s a secret but most of the potties in the back are the handicap ones and those are American style potties. And if you’re a germ-a-phobe, then you’re already packing gallons of antibacterial wipes and sanitizer, so you’re set to go.
#6 Shopping spree. Buy your favorite snacks before you leave. Snacks in China are not the same as America. Bring something along to curb hunger and keep you energized. Having said this…I love CHINESE snacks, so be open to finding a new favorite to bring home with you!
#7 Whether you’re adopting or volunteering or just being a tourist, tour the orphanage and give as many hugs and kisses as you possibly can. Step out of your comfort zone and find a way to love those who need to know that they are loved. From an adoption standpoint this statement is somewhat controversial, but these trips are never about us and always about the children. These kids want, need, DESERVE to know that they’re loved!
This is a snippet from the experience one of our friends had while visiting an orphanage:
“Last year, I toured our daughter’s orphanage and saw a beautiful young girl who was so sweet and clearly played a role in my daughter’s life. I took pictures of the two of them together, hugged her, immediately fell in love with her, and as soon as I was back at the hotel, e-mailed our agency and begged them to find her file. This sweet, beautiful girl has been deemed unadoptable though and will never know the love of a family. I’ve been given permission to write to this sweet girl and every letter, she tells me that she doesn’t understand why someone like me would care about an orphan like her. I love because God loved me first. If I could bring this little girl home and into my family, I would. Show love!”
#8 Practice your best sorority squat pose, duck face & learn a couple of Chinese words/phrases because chances are pretty darn good that you’ll be approached to be in a picture that will later float around on Chinese QQ. Have fun with it and take it all in stride. You can also take it to the next level and swap pictures…take a picture with them if they agree to take a “silly picture” with you!
#9 Last but not least, the food is remarkable! Try it! Break out of your comfort zone and give it a whirl! You never know what you will discover and crave for the rest of your life…or until you return to China. Oh, and while on this last point…please, please, please LEARN how to use chopsticks. It will be a lifesaver and make eating way more fun!