Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why go to China?

Why not? Friends and coworkers keep telling me that I'm brave to go to China, especially on my own. I don't feel any great sense of bravery, I go for the adventure and adventure is wherever I find it. Is language a problem? Chinese is a tough language and at my age I realize that I'll never write the great Chinese novel and I'll never master Putongua. But as an English speaker I encounter more English in China than I ever saw in France and more than I've seen in some American cities.

Worried about getting lost? Don't. You'll be able to read most street signs, subway stops and even some billboard advertising thanks to pinyin. That's the Chinese system of Romanization of written Chinese characters.

Food: Don't let the lack of chopstick training hold you back, get hungry and go to your nearest Chinese restaurant to work out with the sticks. While everyone outside of the showcase Chinese cities will most likely notice that you're a foreigner (and maybe even point and tell their friends) it's the rare restaurant in China that will automatically offer you a fork. I stayed out of hole in the wall restaurants due to health concerns and the realization that I could never communicate with the staff. I was always nervous about appearing ignorant but usually the staff would try to meet me halfway. English is taught in most Chinese schools and there is usually someone around who can show off what little English they remember.

Expect cultural food differences though. When I told someone at dinner that I didn't eat beef but that chicken was OK she summoned the waitress and ordered something in Chinese. What arrived is in the picture on the right. No, that's not chocolate. It's chicken blood.

Water: The water supply in China is not up to snuff when compared to the water supply in North America. One waterborne pathogen that takes root could result in several days of wasted vacation at the very least so why risk it? Bottled water in the US is marketed and priced as a fashion accessory but in China it's available everywhere and it's cheap too. 500 ml of pure water for the People can be had for 1¥, sometimes less. That's about .12 US. Even the fleabag hotels that I complained about usually spotted me a bottle or 2 of purified water daily.

1 comment:

Gregory said...

I think the exchange rate is about 8¥ to the US$, so 1¥ = 12.5 cents. Pricey!