China Survival Guide

After living in China for almost 10 years, I have found many things we as foreigners should carry with us if we come here for a visit.  Below is a list of things to be aware of and to have with you at all times.

Squat toilets.  A squat toilet is basically a porcelain hole in the ground where you squat over it to do your business.  Most major hotel chains will have regular toilets in their restrooms in the lobby.  Chinese call the restroom the WC.  If your ever in need, repeating WC to many people should find you a restroom. Of course all hotel rooms will have sit down toilets. If you are in Shanghai or Beijing you have a good chance the major malls will have a regular sit down toilet.

If you are in other cities in China, plan on finding only squat toilets in the same malls.  Restaurants and bars mainly have squat toilets and some restaurants will have no bathroom at all.  Major bars and clubs that cater to foreigners should have sit down toilets.  If you go through the airports and into the other cities malls, the sit down toilets have signs on them that say they are for the week or handicapped.

If you have never used a squat toilet, it’s something we as foreigners have a hard time doing.  For this reason I suggest you carry a change of underwear with you. It might not be a bad idea to carry an extra pair of pants as well.

 Of course as with any place you go it is always a good idea to carry tissue or toilet paper with you.  Sometimes you can buy toilet paper for 1 RMB. Sometimes they don’t have a vending machine on the wall that sells tissue. And sometimes it’s sold out.  Besides, if you don’t read Chinese you might not be able to know what it says.

Restaurants:  Having tissue handy is not only good for the rest room, it is also good for the restaurants.  There are no napkins or paper towels in China.  Most restaurants don’t have free tissue but they do have a packet for you to purchase. Likewise the grocery store’s will charge you for each bag. The packet of tissue is not very expensive but not all restaurants offer this so be safe and carry your own with you.

If you can’t use chopsticks, please bring your own fork and spoon.  Restaurants don’t have forks although they will have knives and spoons.  Salt is another commodity that restaurants in China don’t have.  If you must have salt on your food, as most Americans do, bring it with you.

Also be aware that you are not going to find a restaurant, other than western restaurants, that serve ice with their drinks. Chinese don’t drink many cold drinks and I have never seen any put ice in any liquids.  They love to drink hot water, which is very good for your health. They also don’t mind warm soda or warm beer.  Many restaurants will have refrigeration of drinks in the summer so you can get get something cold.  However in the winter, even some of the convenience stores turn off the refrigeration, leaving only warm drinks to be had.

Enjoy your stay in China as it is one of the most amazing places on earth.  Just remember to bring some of your favorite items to make it more enjoyable for you.


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