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  • Culture Tips For China

    We adore oriental designs at OKA and where better to find them than in China, one of the oldest civilisations not only of the East, but the world. If you’re planning a trip, have a read of our tips for travel, to spare yourself becoming utterly lost in translation.



    Money & Documents

    • Be sure to arrange your visa well in advance of your trip as they are not offered on arrival.
    • In northern and western China, market vendors often reject coins outright. They only like paper money, no matter how small the denomination.
    • Some larger establishments will accept Visa and MasterCard but the most common way to pay in China is UnionPay. Because of this, it’s best just to carry cash.
    • There’s no need to tip. The Chinese don’t, and neither should you.




    • Do not drink the tap water. Not anywhere. Not ever. Bottled water is cheap and available everywhere.
    • Public restroom etiquette in China could very well fill up its own ‘cultural tips’ post but for starters, just be sure to carry your own supplies, such as tissue and hand wash.
    • Beijing and Shanghai are some of the biggest cities in the world, filled with people from every corner of the earth. This makes the spread of infection much more likely and so whilst no vaccines are required when coming from the UK, it’s worth getting the few that are recommended.




    • In China, it’s not unusual to overhear conversations that seem on the brink of becoming full blown arguments. However, this is rarely the case and is actually just the conversation style which is very loud and very animated.
    • Be cautious of anybody who approaches you claiming they want to practice their English. Most Chinese people are shy with foreigners and won’t speak to you unless you speak to them first. Scams are rife in busy tourist areas so make sure you never follow a stranger anywhere.
    • You will notice that you’re often the subject of photographs when you’re out and about in China. Many people will ask, but there’s also plenty who try to take a sneaky picture.
    • Dining in China is an other-worldly experience where you will have to raise your hand (and voice) and call out to the waiter, ‘fuyian’, for service. If you order your starter, main and dessert at the start, expect it to arrive either all at once or in no particular order at all.




    • There are plenty of taxis to be hailed and since the road rules are almost non-existent, we recommend you take one. Prices are set by a meter and if at all possible, have the name of the place you’re trying to reach written in Mandarin to show the driver.
    • China has far better public transport than most cities, including a high-speed G-Train that will hurl you from one end of the country to the other in no time at all.
    • Chinese New Year is the largest annual human migration during which 3 billion trips are made. This understandably causes utter mayhem on the transport systems, so be sure to check that your trip doesn’t coincide with any Chinese holidays. China-briefing is a helpful source.
    • Because of the huge number of people in China, personal space is often non-existent. Getting bumped and jostled is all part of the experience.




    • To overcome The Great Firewall of China you’ll need a VPN which will allow you to access Facebook, Google, Instagram and many other sites. There are plenty of free versions such as TunnelBear whilst Express VPN is inexpensive and reliable.
    • Whilst many menus have pictures, even these can be hard to decipher. We recommend Pleco, the basic dictionary is free with options to buy the translator function: point the iPhone at a Chinese menu and get an instant translation.
    • China’s premier messaging app is WeChat and everybody you meet, expats and locals alike, will have it. It is a mix of WhatsApp, Facebook, Apple Pay and Google Maps all rolled into one.