I’ve spent the past 8 days in Beijing and have had time to settle in, adjust and meet like-minded people. Behind the strangeness of the place lies a culture like no other, where people work ten times harder to achieve just basic living. In a world where it is so hard to make a buck, you are going to find people who are going to scam you and until you are in their position I guess you can’t really judge them. People have attempted to scam me numerous times, however, after telling them I knew exactly what they were doing, they change into a completely different person explaining what they’ve been through, how they live and what they have to deal with on a daily basis. I personally feel that I’m a good judge of character and most of these people are genuine, just trying to live.
Should you go here?: Absolutely! However…… I wouldn’t recommend coming with children and don’t come here if you don’t deal well with extreme change.
1) Pollution can sometimes be as high as 500 on the air pollution index which affects the respiratory system, especially in young children.
2) It involves A LOT of walking, and to appreciate the history and architecture of the place is harder at a younger age. If I would have come here at 14, I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
3) Culture shock! Squat toilets can really get to you especially when you first use them. Public toilets have no privacy whatsoever, no doors and so yes you can see everyone naked when you walk in.
4) Food is very different here as you can imagine. No sandwiches, no salt & vinigar flavoured crips, no pizza, no chocolate. You get the gist. For breakfast it’s oily bread, dumplings, rice and tea eggs. However, if you are staying in a 4 star hotel you will most likely to be able to get a full English breakfast etc, obviously at a extortionate high price, but if you want to have that then you really have to ask yourself why you want to come here. Food is also normally spicy.
Talking to locals in the shops or in the restaurants, again with my limited Mandarin, I asked them whereabouts in China they were from and then they in turn asked me “Ni shi na guoren” (Where are you from/What is your nationality) and replying with “Wo shi yingguo ren” (I am from the UK). Most are genuinely interested in your nationality and want to know what you’re doing here, however, social etiquette is different in China to say the least. Pointing, spitting and staring are common day practices.
In China, a white person is classed as wealthy and superior, and so the darker your skin, the less respected you are. If you have darker skin, you may find people pointing and laughing. This is not necessarily them being racist but more their ignorance to the world and society. Just bear this in mind when you come to China.
Final note: Personally, I love Beijing, but only after having stayed there a few days. If you would have offered me a flight home on the first day, I’m not going to lie…. I would have taken it. I don’t know if that’s because I’m 19…. on my own…. in China or because of the culture. Most likely a bit of both. If you’ve find China interesting, then come by all means! If you go on you’re own stay in a hostel! I would suggest staying in Beijing approx. 7 days which allows enough time to see most places, settle in and also just enjoy it.