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  • Writer's pictureSimon Shaw

Coming to China? 10 Top Tips

Updated: Feb 15

1. Have your destinations written down in Chinese

Outside the business environment, English is not widely spoken. Taxi drivers speak no English at all.

So make sure you have your hotel address written down in Chinese before you arrive. If you don't have it, send us the English and we will translate it for you.

We will send you your research venue addresses in English and Chinese. Don't forget to bring them with you.

2. Ignore fake taxi drivers at the airport

After you’ve passed through arrivals, you will be approached by men offering you a taxi. Ignore them. They will charge you double the price of a real taxi.

If they tell you that the taxi rank is far away, that waiting times are long, or that there are no taxis, ignore them again. The taxi rank is just outside the terminal, the queue moves quickly, and unless you arrive in the dead of night there are always plenty of taxis.

3. Many of your favourite websites will be blocked

China’s Great Firewall, impressive and frustrating in equal measure, will stop you accessing Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Google – including Google Maps. WhatsApp might be blocked too, depending on which way the political winds are blowing at the time.

If you absolutely can't live without them for a few days, think about purchasing a VPN before you go. It allows you to circumvent the Great Firewall – but again, expect slower-than-usual download speeds.

4. Don’t rely on your credit card

Credit Cards are accepted at International Hotels, but that’s about all. Most shops and restaurants, and all forms of public transport including taxis, will not accept credit cards.

Cash is still accepted, but is becoming increasingly passé. Its appearance may elicit the occasional tut.

5. Sign up to Wechat or Alipay

Apple Pay is not used in China. Smartphone apps WeChat an Alipay dominate cashless transactions. Happily, both apps allow foreigners to upload their credit card details and swipe away as if they were locals.

New overseas users are required to be invited by an existing user, and of course we are always happy to oblige when necessary.

6. Be direct when giving instructions

In a business context, Chinese people view their clients through the prism of a Master-Servant relationship. You are the Master. They are the Servant. There is no expectation of equality.

So if you have a request, be direct about it. No offence will be taken. If you beat about the bush, your message might be missed.

This especially applies to the British. Far too polite.

7. Modify your speech

While your direct research team will speak excellent English, they may not be familiar with colloquial, idiomatic or informal turns of phrase, especially when spoken quickly.

So use simple, clear, functional English, and deliver it slowly and clearly.

8. Take care crossing the road

Do not assume that a green light means it’s safe to cross road. Cars can still turn right, while bikes and motorbikes ignore red lights completely.

The safest place is the pavement. But don't make any sudden sideways moves. There might be a scooter approaching fast from behind. Or did you think pavements were just for people?

9. Dress for the season

Winters are cold and buildings may be draughty or poorly heated. So wrap up warm.

Summers are stultifyingly hot. But air-conditioning can make indoor environments surprisingly cold. So always carry an extra layer.

10. Take tissues to the toilet

Public Toilets do not have toilet paper (I’ll leave it for others to debate why this is). So bring your own and carry it with you at all times.

Most offices and viewing facilities now have sit-down toilets. But many don't, especially outside Shanghai & Beijing. So, if squatting is not your thing, prepare accordingly.



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