Oh, China.  Sometimes you really do have to live somewhere to truly understand it.  Coming and visiting helps with that understanding, but when you live here day after day and experience the real life, it makes you look at things different.

My family came to visit and before they got here, I prepped them on some things so that they wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

Walking

Pedestrians do not have the right of way.  Even if there is a pedestrian lane and a light, it doesn’t matter.  As a pedestrian, you constantly need to look around (just because a street is supposed to have traffic going one way doesn’t mean that traffic will do that).  Scooters are the silent killers that seem to come out of no where.

On the other, if you want to cross the street, you need to be a little aggressive/prepared as a pedestrian in order to get across the street.

Tip:  Find someone who looks like they know what they’re doing and stick with them as they cross the street.

Driving

Like I wrote about earlier, driving here is like driving in D.C., except there is a little more flow to the way people drive and a little less obeying traffic laws.  It’s probably best described as “organized chaos”.  People for the most part don’t seem to get upset if you cut them off, it’s just expected.  People honk (a lot) but it’s not usually because they’re upset, it’s because they are giving you a heads up that they are coming.

Tip:  If you are the passenger, you may want to close your eyes at times.  Sometimes the driver needs to turn left and they do that even with cars coming straight.

Eating

We’ve always found it best to eat at places where you find others.  It’s always questionable if no one else is eating at that one restaurant.

Tip:  It’s also recommended to avoid the seafood.

Shopping

Depending on the type of shopper you are, shopping at the markets can be fun…or not so much.  You have to barter so that means be prepared with what you’re willing to spend and don’t be afraid to walk away.  They’ll start at an outrageous price and then say they’ll give you a good price for being their first customer/friend.  It’s still way too high, so start at 10% and go from there (no matter if they seem upset).

Tip:  Stick to what you’re willing to pay.  If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.  You’ll probably find it elsewhere.

Pets

There are tons of dogs around Beijing.  People especially love the brown toy poodles.  The dogs are well-behaved and easily walk off leash but you still need to be mindful of them.

Story:  Maya, our Boston Terrier, only has one eye.  She fascinates Chinese people.  One worker here comments on her eye EVERY time he sees her.  I also heard from a neighbor that some people asked her why I keep my dog when she’s like that.  Thankfully, she was aware that Maya is a happy pup and well cared for.  Sometimes, there are differences in cultures, so it may just be that they’re not used to someone going out of the way to care for a dog.

Note:  Maya is the happiest puppy and does so well without her eye or sight.  She got juvenile cataracts at 1 and they progressed over the years.  She then got glaucoma and lost her one eye due to that.  The eye she has left is doing well (minimal sight though).  It’s unfortunate but it comes with the breed.

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When traveling to another country, it certainly helps to do some research to prepare yourself and be respectful of where you’re going.

TOTE:  China is definitely a different cultural experience, so be prepared!