Top 10 challenges for Laoweis (Westerners) when landing in China

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1. Chinese language is of course not known for its simplicity. In order to understand your Chinese friends and being understood you need to stress accentuation perfectly. This doesn’t only help in daily conversations, but especially when taking a taxi make sure to always have your address in Chinese characters with you. After being successful to convince a driver to take you on his karaoke-tuktuk or cab in the buzz of the city, you will be easily loosing patience if he doesn’t understand your address even after your 15th trial of pronouncing “Renmin Lu”. If you are not yet familiar with the Chinese numbers it’s even more exciting, since Chinese people don’t count on their hands like we do. If you show two fingers they can understand eight, so pay attention to your gestures when ordering your beloved “chao fan” to not end up with eight rice bowls instead of two.

2. The Great Firewall is real and your VPN is the Huns! So in case you don’t want to miss your daily dose of Snapchat, better download your VPN in advance and download WeChat my friend, networking starts now. WeChat is probably the most useful App in China: you can chat by messaging and video-calling friends, have conference chats and more importantly pay your electricity charges or the nightly McDonalds delivery guy online. In some restaurants you can even only order through this amazing device. Therefore create your WeChat profile and catch up with the digital Chinese revolution.

3. It’s early in the morning, you open the curtains and no – you didn’t get blind, the pollution just got a little too real. Sometimes you won’t see the skyscrapers on your way to ESSCA, they seem to being swallowed by the fog. The positive thing is: 1. It’s a great excuse to stay some days during the weekend at home and watch study-related “Mulan” movies without any feeling of guilt and 2. According to the weather app, in Beijing it’s even worse.

4. Rock, Paper, Scissor: be ready to experience new food. You will order meals at the restaurants out of a list of Chinese characters and after receiving the food you’re still not sure of what they actually present on apparently YOUR plate. But in a game of trial and error, it’s fun to try new tastes. Lotus or red beans will look after a while exactly like good chocolate chunks and chicken feet.. we are still searching for an adequate comparison. For our sensitive readers, “Bu la” are two words to remember if you don’t want to start crying in the restaurant and feel your face turning in all shades of red, because of the spicy food!

5. Get fit to cross the street. Start to run and keep your eyes wide open when crossing the street. Shanghai’s streets apply the “survival of the fittest” principle, so get on those sneakers and start running like Sonic! Same story for catching a taxi by the way.

6. Wear your biggest smile, you’re a star from now on! Chinese people love taking pictures with and of Laowei’s so if a local girl puts on her flashing selfie lights in front of you while you’re talking to a friend on the subway, better have trained your red carpet smile at home.

7. It seems that we caught your attention with that superstar-career path didn’t we? Shanghai’s bar scene is well established and there are plenty of possibilities to release the stress after a long day on the streets. Chances are therefore high, that you’ll end up in one of the Chinese clubs sooner or later, which is quite an awesome experience. Firstly as a Laowei there are every night promotion codes to enjoy your night for free at selected clubs (again, make sure to have access to the right WeChat groups!). Secondly Chinese don’t party like we are used to: being all dressed up while you’re in your casual outfit, you can find Pikachu and Angry Birds dancing next to you while the young Chinese elite is ordering food menus, facetiming with their friends at home or taking perfectly trained selfies with the most expensive bottles of champagne.

8. Shanghai offers a lot of possibilities to practice your cross-cultural negotiation and Chinese language skills. There’s no better place to experience the Chinese business mentality than to negotiate the price at the well-known fake-markets in order to get a great deal “for almost the brand”.

9. The metro is the jungle my friend! If you’re agoraphobic, Shanghai will be challenging you. Especially during the rush hour in the subway or the bus when you are squeezed liked a fish and basically get out by miracle thanks to the pushing crowd, you will be testing your survival skills -I swear one time my feet didn’t touch the ground as I got out of the subway.

10. You’re 6 months in China, so use the available time to travel to destinations all around Asia. Just make sure to take some sweets with you for the frightening medical test for foreigners in a Chinese Institute, that you will experience during the long way towards the Shanghai Residence Card. You will be getting fancy clothes and being send like a laboratory mouse from one test to another. It may happen that some of your fellow classmates are even more worried about the blood test than you are and pass out, so better be prepared to catch them if they fall.

Your correspondents in Shanghai,

– Paulina Tegtmeyer and Alice Verguin –

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