10 Things You Should Know Before Moving To China
You might be playing with the idea of moving to China, better yet, Chengdu. Chengdu is ‘top-notch muff’ as my good friend Mr Foghorn Kirkby says (if you aren’t British you probably don’t get the reference, just know it’s a good thing). Whether you are new to Chengdu or plan to make the mighty leap to the land of pandas there’s just a couple minor things you should know to prevent the inevitable shell shock. I’ve experienced all of these first hand or heard it through the grapevine.
1 | Taxi Driver Etiquette
Or lack thereof. Taxi drivers will smoke, spit, slurp and snort. Have incomprehensible conversations over a small radio at the decimal range of a megaphone, which on a hangover does not bode well. Keep the windows down in the middle of winter and begrudgingly use the aircon in the sweltering summer.
I am still baffled when the occasional taxi driver blatantly sees me flailing my arms around, as if trying to signal down a rescue plane, makes eye contact but drives straight past me. Some say they don’t want to pick up foreigners because they simply can’t be arsed with the language barrier and sometimes they’re just innocently clocking off work. If you’re lucky to get a female driver which is as rare as catching a MewTwo, they are the loveliest of them all.
There are 98% of drivers who will get you to where you need to go, in record timing. The remaining 2%-waste of precious polluted air-who act like driving is a completely foreign concept will struggle to read a map or understand your spoken Chinese…even if spoken perfectly. You may also come across the ‘whimsical taxi driver’ who asks non stop questions, gives you copious amounts of cigarettes and is generally quite pleasant and gets you where you need to go, máfan free. Some deny the existence of such a being.
2 | Road Rules
Like every country in the world, there are rules of the road. The UK and the USA are on par with each other in terms of vigilance, Vietnam and China are on par with each other in terms of complete and utter chaos. The innumerable amount of illegal 3 point turns, U-turns, overtaking, driving into oncoming traffic I witness on a daily basis is frightening yet fascinating. Where do they get the audacity to make such bold, negligent moves? Do they value their lives? Are typical questions I find the voice in my head repeating on a daily basis.
E-bikes seem to have the most freedom on the road UNLESS you’re caught riding with 2 people (God forbid). A grey boiler suit wearing jobsworth with an orange flag or a “cop” will flag you down at a crossing. Make the passenger get off the bike but then allow you to get back on when the lights change and ride off scot-free. Completely fruitless and nonsensical when you take into account the people driving around with fridge freezers and 3 dogs on the back of their e-bikes. But that’s ok folks! It’s a fridge freezer, faaaaar safer. What could go wrong?
The traffic cops only seem to work 7-9am and then 5-7pm, peak hours but after that it’s free reign of the roads. Now, China isn’t completely lax when it comes to safety, they do not tolerate drunk driving, they have a very thorough breathalyzer test. A simple snap of a rubber glove onto their hand and a simple blow from the driver (into the glove) will determine an offender. Can’t fault their meticulousness. Yes…really. For these things we refer to as, Because China.
3 | Avoid Hospitals That Look Like Ex Swimming Baths
Coming from the U.K, I am accustomed to stringent health and safety rules and regulations regarding doctors and hospitals. Cleanliness, privacy, suitable equipment are what I thought would be the simplest of expectations. China, on the other hand, must have lost the memo about allowing people basic human rights. Please bare in mind that I am referring to the very bottom of the pile, public hospitals.
I have a truly horrendous story to tell about the ill-fated day I went through, but I’ll save that for another time. Just take my words for it and use a private clinic. Also, do not be fooled by ‘Global Doctors’, they’re a totally overpriced rip-off. But hey one doctor will say a prayer for you…true story.
It’s not all shit on the walls and re-used needles, unlike the U.K where you wait 3 weeks for blood test results, you get yours instantly in China. Unlike the U.S.A where you pay an arm and a leg, the medical costs are significantly cheaper. I was recently introduced to ‘Distinct Health Care’, reasonably priced, clean and English speaking. If you are ever sick, this is their WeChat I.D: CD17711357425
4 | There's a WeChat Group for Anything and Everything
Need a job? There’s a group. Need a house? There’s a group. Need a social life? There’s a group. Need to buy second hand coat hangers and a used tampon? There’s a group. There is basically a WeChat group for everything and anything. If you don’t know what WeChat is, it’s sort of the equivalent to Whatsapp but on steroids and I advise you download it if you haven’t already.
When it comes to WeChat groups, they can either be your lifeline, or the bane of your life. My go-to groups (Chengdu Only): The UK Group (solely for people from the UK), Food Finders (For foodies and discounts), GGI (Girls Gone International-Girls only), Chengdu Buy and Sell (for those second-hand goods) and BecauseChina (for the entertainment factor). There are also sports groups, music groups, currency exchange groups and even groups which should be forbidden because some desperate pervert has nothing better to do with his time.
The only vexing thing you have to suffer from groups is being led into the false pretense of having 50 new messages from actual friends. Until you realise it’s just people in the UK group discussing Brexit/weather, or a certain restaurant posting the same advert 500 times a day. Or even worse, that one individual who has an opinion/answer on everything and anything and probably sits there waiting for someone to ask a question, JUST so they can be the first to answer and be the brightest crayon in the box *clapping emoji*. You know who you are…Mel_ Atonin1954.
I guess it’s a small sacrifice for a decent payoff. From my experience, people are super helpful whenever they can be, when it comes to visa questions, where to get your hair done questions and where to buy flaxseeds and gluten-free pasta questions, the Chengdu community is here to help!. Beware of pissing off Annette Thompson (Chengdu based) the group admin/Führer, known to remove people from certain groups for no apparent reason.
Groups you should get in: UK Ppl in Sichuan, Americans In Chengdu, Because China, Chengdu Food Finders, GGI Chengdu (For girls only), Currency Exchange Chengdu, Chengdu Housing Services, EXPAT HOUSING CHENGDU, CD-Expat Housing and Real Estate, JOB OPPS 2 Chengdu, Chengdu sports and activities, THE ASS CLASS
5 | Noise Pollution
Major pre-warning here. When moving into the apartment of your dreams, triple check there will be no construction being planned or in the process. The apartment of you dreams could soon become an inescapable, year long nightmare from 7am-9pm of insufferable, incoherent and consistent drilling, hammering and dull pounding. There would be times where I’d leap out of the shower naked and wet, in the fear that they were seconds away from swan diving through my ceiling. It was THAT loud (seeing as we’re in China, this isn’t me being dramatic, it’s something that could potentially happen).
The ‘official’ rule is 9-9 with a break between 12-2. Bob the builders don’t give a flying f**k though, 6am start if they can get away with it. Naturally, we never let them get away with it. Rules are rules. If this happens, you can call your property management or simply go to the offending builders and launch eggs at them. Just kidding, but someone did do this on one ‘wit’s end’ occasion after multiple requests for the builders to stop hammering. Screaming profuse swearwords off the balcony and imitating the sounds back does not help. I repeat, does not help.
In all seriousness though, feel free to go and express your extreme angst and outrage to them in a game of charades where you have to act out, ‘You’ve started construction 3 hours early, I have to be up in an hour, I got zero sleep last night, I have a banging hangover and a headache, I want to American History X your jaw into a curb and murder your entire family’.
They may stop, or in a more realistic case be brazen enough to be silent for 2 minutes and then start the nerve-wracking ordeal again. I have one unlucky friend who simply can’t escape noise, it follows him wherever he lives, I don’t think he’s had a full night’s rest going on 2 years now. DO NOT move into an apartment next to a large square area of open space or any type of school.
6 | Fake Alcohol
As foreigners in China we are somewhat treated as royalty at times. Clubs will invite you to ball out on VIP tables with an endless supply of spirits or beer, at zero cost. The reason for this, clubs are more appealing to the Chinese if foreigners are partying there. They can potentially make some foreign friends which in turn will higher their social status amongst their buddies and giving them good face.
It’s all fun and games drinking from the free booze fountain until you wake up dead. I know that makes no sense but that’s how it feels after you’ve spent a night sipping from the Devil’s Cup. I don’t know what they put in the alcohol, or if it is even alcohol but be warned, you may projectile vomit and be bed bound for an entire day or two afterwards. It’s not just the spirits they fake, it’s also the beer. A few places do free beer between 5-7. FREE BEER. Why would anyone give away beer for 2 hours? Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out, however…it doesn’t stop the stupid white monkeys playing their part and drinking the free booze.
7 | The Cinema
Only 34 foreign films per year can be imported to China. So if you’re wondering why you can’t watch the latest blockbuster it’s because they operate a strict quota. A lot of movies are missing scenes as they cut out parts with too much blood, violence and sex.
Going to the cinema in China can go one of two ways. 1. You go VIP because you’re not a peasant and it costs hardly anything in comparison to back home. You get your very own huge recliner seat, can take in your own food/booze and perhaps even a pillow and blanket if you fancy it. There’s only about 12-16 chairs in VIP so it’s very home cinema vibe (Raffles City has a great VIP cinema, top floor). OR 2. You can be a peasant and go to the bog standard cinema. I sound like a snob by saying the normal cinema is peasantry but it ain’t the cinema that’s the problem, it’s the people in it.
I was simply flabbergasted when I had my first China cinema experience. Talking through the adverts, fine, I can deal with that, but talking throughout the whole movie = Unforgivable. I mean FULL BLOWN conversations at foghorn level during the whole movie. No one puts their phone on silent and if it rings, which it does. The phone will be answered with a mighty ‘WEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIII’. If you’re unfortunate enough to sit next to an open-mouth popcorn chomping twat, god save your soul. Moral of the story. Go VIP.
8 | Zebra Crossings and Queuing
Don’t be fooled by the black and white stripes on the road that we refer to as zebra crossings because they don’t work in China. It’s more ‘roadkill’ than ‘cross safely’. Crossing roads in China is somewhat a belligerent game of chicken/frogger. On that note as well, if you ever see someone injured and you notice people walking past and not helping, there’s a very good reason for such brutal behaviour. Helping an injured person could potentially mean YOU being blamed for the accident and consequently having to pay for any hospital bills or surgery cost. If they’re left injured for life, the ‘injured’ is then your financial responsibly FOR LIFE. You’ll come across heaps of videos of people pretending to be knocked over by a car in the hope they can squeeze some money out of an innocent bystander.
As for queuing, unlike the British people who apologise for getting behind you in a queue. In China, blatant queue jumping with complete disregard of who came first or who’s been waiting the longest is just how the cookie crumbles. If you’re in a queue at the local Wowo and someone needs to buy cigarettes, they automatically push to the front and frantically wave their finger to their death stick of choice. Highly infuriating. You will eventually succumb to pushing, shoving and shoulder barging through life after you’ve realised ‘If you can’t beat em, join em!’ Learning how to throw a stank eye and say – Páiduì (排队) will come in handy.
9 | Watch Out for Dog Faeces & Human Vomit
One of my biggest pet peeves has to be the fact that some people rarely pick up their doggie-doo. Some owners are so lazy they take their dogs down to the parking lot basement to urinate and defecate, so when stumbling home slightly intoxicated beware of the mellow yellow and chocolate truffle IED’s. Sometimes the dog doesn’t even make it outside and it drops a much anticipated bomb in the elevator for people of the community to trample through leaving an almost wizard of Oz brick style road around the apartment building.
The Asian blush is something that will become very apparent very quickly if you make some Chinese drinking buddies. When they drink, you will notice their face go a very distinct shade of strawberry red. The chicks usually have one drink and be white-girl wasted and to be fair, the same goes for the men. They can’t quite drink like us Brits, which in all fairness is nothing to be proud of. If you really want to impress them for some ‘WOW Lǎowài SO Man!’ points, do a gavin and down a bottle of baiju. You’ll be an eternal hero in their eyes. Back to the point, on a night out be prepared to see men and woman projectile barfing against trees and outside bars and clubs.
10 | Keep Your Head Screwed On
China has a lot to offer in terms of a stable job, low cost of living, culture and opportunity for foreign faces. With this being said, some people take the piss. Occasionally you’ll have the misfortune of encountering the self-entitled twats who think they are gods gift to China and live in their superficial foreigner bubble. Unreasonable demands of high salary pay and appreciation for doing a job an actual chimp could complete.
Most of these morons are under-qualified reprobates that had to leave their own country because of their total lack of brain cells and simply just being a useless sack of wine. They’re just fortunate enough to be employed because of the colour of their skin or the luck of being from a “native speaking” nation.
So, don’t let your head get rammed too far up your Lǎowài (老外-foreigner) arse. You wouldn’t turn up to work late, drunk or not at all in your own country so show the same respect in another country. And if you are one of these people, you probably don’t deserve to be alive.
I once met the epitome of one of these atrocious human beings, in actual fact, I worked with him. He came to work stoned, drunk and on a number of occasions, not at all. He was verging on Savile creepy, threatened to take my job even though he couldn’t grammatically string a correct sentence together. Threatened our Chinese staff, threatened to sue the company, was highly aggressive and thick as pig shit. I had to observe his class and witness him teach the students “THIS ARE A PEN” (holding 1 pen) and once he had to ask me if he had spelt January correctly. Yet this man demanded high salary and that we pay his first months rent and deposit or he refused to work…
After he left the company he continued to sexually harass women via WeChat and go to multiple bars and racially abuse the staff like a big brainless bear and leave without paying, to the point where he was blacklisted from most establishments. This is the type of person I refer to that doesn’t deserve to be alive.
China gave me some of the best years of my life and these 10 points just add to the crazy experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I would highly recommend getting out there and seeing it for yourself!
Anyway, on a lighter note check out my best mate Mark Hewitt’s video below for shits and giggles and his youtube channel: factsnthings FOR MORE KNEE SLAPPERS.
Check out my Instagram (keeolim) BecauseChina highlights tab for a closer look at the chaos.