Hello! My name is Mang and I just spent a year studying in Nanjing, China. Although I loved each and every experience, here are some of the things I wish I knew beforehand to make my year abroad a little bit easier.
Food safety is not one of China’s main priorities, and you will really notice that. Don’t be surprised to see cockroaches or rats in restaurants – actually you will be extremely lucky if you don’t see any. Expats are particularly susceptible to food poisoning, it’s so common that teachers don’t even question it if you miss class because you have a bad case of diarrhoea. However, it’s nothing a bit of imodium can’t solve. I never left the house without it.
PEOPLE WILL STARE
You will feel like an alien in China, especially if you are white, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Luckily I am of Asian descent so I wasn’t stared at as much as my foreign friends, however, if you thought catcalling in England was bad, you might want to prepare yourself for middle aged Chinese men in clubs who will harass you until you have a drink or smoke with them.
IT’S NOT NORMAL TO BE POLITE
Everyday norms such as queuing and putting your tray away at McDonald’s is just not a thing in China. People will push, and people will shove. Personal space is nonexistent on public transport. Spitting is a cultural norm, and people will do it loud and proud, outside and inside. Cars will honk nonstop for absolutely no reason at all. But, as hard as it is to believe, you will end up getting used to it, and coming back home to quiet and clean England will be a treat.
YOU WILL SPEND A LOT OF MONEY TRAVELLING
Studying in China, an hour away from Shanghai, will mean that you have easy and cheap access to other countries in Asia. For example, I visited South Korea and Japan, and know people who went to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, and even Australia. However, you don’t have to venture out of China if you don’t want to. There are so many different places in China that you’ll wonder if you’re actually still in the same country. For example, Harbin is famous for it’s annual ice festival and temperatures regularly go below minus 30 degrees celcius, whilst areas in the south of China, such as Beihai and Hainan, can get up to highs of 40 degrees celcius.
YOU WILL FEEL HOMESICK
This is a given, but the homesickness I experienced was one I never experienced before. It wasn’t my family and friends I missed the most, it was Western food. Cheese, bread and milk (normal fresh cow’s milk) is hard to come by in China, and if you do manage to get your hands on these luxuries, it will cost a bomb. The thing I missed the most was lasagne. I went to several different Western restaurants in China, but the lasagne they served is just plain sad. However, it’s not all bad – McDonald’s does 24 hour delivery!
For more information and to see what I got up to whilst I was abroad, feel free to check out my blog: manggetsdeported.wordpress.com