China: It can gross you out or make you smile


Patience is all you need to survive in China for more than an hour. The list below serves as a reminder to prepare those who will be traveling there.

China: The bright side

  • The art of spitting

Men and older women here spit a lot. They also enjoy doing the “flying mucus”, in which they press one finger against one side of the nose and do a rather intense nasal blasting, resulting in a startling mucus dart.

  • Inevitable washroom horrors

The toilets here are literally holes in the ground. Forget about flushing – you’ll find a basket for you to discard your used tissues if you are lucky.

Some of the washrooms at main tourist attractions may look like this.
  • Deafening conversations

People speak at the top of their voices even when seated right next to each other.

This is very common in coffee shops, restaurants and many other places. No, they are not quarrelling. They are merely speaking in a volume they have long been accustomed to.

  • Now you see me, now you don’t

Cutting queues is very common. Queues here are already very long (duh, you are waiting alongside a fraction of 1.357 billion people), but they don’t seem to get any shorter in time. Now you know why.

  • Zero personal space

…And as if waiting in a queue for hours isn’t distressing enough, you also get people sticking their bodies right next to yours the entire time.

This is probably to prevent others from cutting queue, but the experience is exceedingly intolerable. The same situation can take place in restaurants too when you need to share a table.

  • Unpredictable walking pace

They could be bolting down the street. Or they could be walking at the rate of one metre per minute. Science has yet to solve this puzzling phenomenon, so quit guessing and try not to run into anyone.

  • Umbrella community

You can bet your life that here owns an umbrella. Some probably have three – one fixed onto their motorbike/bicycle, one in their bags, and a spare one at home.

Rain or shine, dry or wet, the Chinese have become overly dependent on the use of umbrellas. Some have even been spotted shielding themselves with two umbrellas at the same time.

China: The bright side

The Chinese have many positive aspects that are worth mentioning too, and the following is what will make for an extremely pleasant travel experience in the country.

Be prepared to be called ‘pretty girl’ – it’s only to get your attention to buy something from inside a shop.
  • Zero harassment

There isn’t a need to worry about being harassed here. You might find people shouting “美女! 美女!” (pretty girl) at you but that is only to get your attention so you would buy something from them.

  • Commendable helpfulness

Another surprising trait of the Chinese people is their helpfulness. While this may not apply to everyone, I am lucky enough to have met a few people who had offered their help voluntarily e.g. carrying bags, patting you on the back to let you know that your bag is unzipped etc.

  • Excellent punctuality

Malaysian Chinese are nowhere near the mainlanders when it comes to punctuality. Whether it is public transport or showing up for an appointment, experience shows that they always arrive on the dot.


China is great and it is a bliss being here. The scenery is fantastic, the food is awesome, and the cultures and traditions are exceptional. It really does come down to wishing for more flush toilets and less stained tissue paper in the waste bins.

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Grace Ng is a serial wanderluster, solo female traveler, award-winning recipe developer and travel writer.