So, what is China really like?

So what is China really like as an American……. very different.


I know that it is not a good answer but it’s the best way I can describe my week and half experience in China. The way I describe my experience is divided into 3 sections.


  1. Cultural the people

  2. The environment, what’s the place like

  3. The food, shoppin


As an American whose somewhat well traveled I had a lot of misconceptions about China. My misconceptions were based on what the media portrayed and what I briefly researched online. Regardless, of what I expected China to be like, it was a completely different experience than I expected. From the social and food culture, and the environment in China was far more beautiful than I could've ever expected. But before, I recommend others to visit here are some of my thoughts on the different experiences I had while visiting China for a week.


The food is not like your American Chinese food…….. So in the States, the fraudulent meals that we get in Chinese restaurants are not your average meals that people eat in China on a daily basis. Most of the food we eat in America that we consider Chinese food is watered-down with American elements. For example, fried chicken, lo-mein, and fried rice is not something Chinese people eat. What I noticed, at least in the city if Wu-hu were I spent most of my time in China, their main dishes consisted of soups, white rice, meats, dumplings, etc. When we were not eating these main dishes we were eating an assortment of seafood and meat medleys. When I questioned a lot of the food dishes it was hard to translate in English. 


 Every night we ate in China there was a new dish I had never seen or eaten before. I pride myself in being very open to trying new things especially food wise, but it was very hard in China. At times I can be very sensitive to food textures and its looks. If it doesn’t look or feel appealing I often divert from eating it. In China, I had numerous moments, where I passed on certain dishes or meals. Although I passed on certain foods I fell in love with others. I fell in love with Baozi. Baozi is also known simply as Bao is the traditional Chinese dumpling that is filled with either meat, soup, or bean paste. I loved the taste and texture of Bao, it’s so soft on the outside but rich with flavor on the inside. When I visited Hong Kong I loved Dim Sum, which is an assortment of dumplings that Chinese people normally eat for breakfast. Dim Sum is a meal that I will happily indulge all the time from now on. Oh and don’t get me started on their boba tea. In China, they have a variety of different types of boba tea from you regular milk tea with boba to milk tea with sweet potato and boba mixed together. Sounds weird but it was definitely an amazing combination. Overall, my food experience in China was a culture shock for me but I advise future travelers to China to be open and explore the different options.


Shopping…..Things such as clothing, jewelry, food items in China are relatively cheap compared to American prices unless you in a very touristic city such as Shanghai. Shanghai Century Park, Pudong reminds me of a scene out of Crazy Rich Asians. The wealth just exudes off the people and the stores. I’m talking about all you see people driving on the streets is Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes. The stores are mostly high end such as Vera Wang, Chanel, Apple, etc. But it wasn’t the stores that got me but the fashion of the people shopping. The people shopping at these stores- mainly Chinese- were dripped from head to toe in designer. The only place in the States that I have been too where people looked so richly dressed was on Rodeo Drive in California,  and even then their fashion drip couldn’t compare to Chinese swag that I saw in Shanghai. Not only in Shanghai are the people extremely fashionable but in the city of Wu-Hu, where I mentored, the students looked like they all walked out of an Urban Outfitters trend sheets. All the students had a similar aesthetic and style but they are were well put together. Most of the students dressed way more stylish than American students and no one dared to look “bummy”. Honestly, I need to go back when my pockets are stacked with cash to shop and take notes from the locals.


Chinese people are humble and can be rude... Ok, let me explain. So I had the opportunity to go to China to mentor students from Anhui University in China who are coming to my school, Brenau University, in the fall. My students were absurdly sweet, caring, attentive, and giving. They helped us with maneuvering through China because none of the mentees -including myself- from Brenau spoke Chinese. They took us shopping, bought us stuff, boasted our ego by calling us beautiful and smart. Honestly, the students were starstruck with us because many of them had never met foreigners. But outside of our students, the Chinese people were very different. In the small city of Wu-hu which is three hours by plane ride- west of Shanghai, the people don’t meet a lot of foreigners. What I mean by foreigners is white people, hispanic people, and black people. Our mentor group consisted of all of the following ethnicities. The people of the city were very interested in us foreigners. They rather stared and we were constantly haggled for photos from people the University campus and on the streets. Some people were sweet about asking us foreigners for pictures, others would just come up to us with a phone and not even ask permission for a photo. I then realized that Chinese people have a very self-entitled attitude in their culture. They always think they need to be first and don’t necessarily care about others around them. You can tell in the way they don’t ask foreigners to take their pictures, push aggressively past each other in crowded environments, and even the way they over-talk each other in conversation. To an American, it seems rude but in their culture it’s normal. To me, this was a big cultural shock, and I found it hard to understand while being in China but upon returning home it made sense. Their culture isn’t built on pleasing everyone but being very blunt and efficient. Bumping somebody in China you don’t say sorry, you simply keep it moving. You don’t say thank you for everything in China but on a very rare occasion. It almost kind of simpler and easier way of living than here in America. But one part of the culture that I envy that I wish American people would embody is respect for their traditions and history. Chinese cultural historically has a rich traditional past. Elements from their traditional past are still implemented in Chinese people’s daily lives. From their tea ceremonies, preservation of imperial temples, and maintaining the Confucian ideology of filial piety ( respecting your elders). It makes me envy that as American we don't have beautiful traditions because the majority of our history is solely based on genocide and racism.


Smog is real but so is the greenery…. I feel like in media all you hear about how polluted China is and how their smog rate is at an all-time high. The media also portrays China to be this large concrete jungle with not an abundance of nature in sight. In between the major cities of China, there are miles and miles of beautiful grass, trees, mountains, and pretty clean air. When I saw the amount of nature I experienced going to Wu-Hu I was extremely surprised. I literally thought to myself  “I didn’t know China had a lot of trees”. Not realizing how green China is was one of the biggest misconceptions I had. Even in the major cities like Shanghai, there was still a lot of trees scattered throughout the city. So while you can see the smog in China in a thick cloud flying down into the city you can also see the large expansion of greenery that covers a large part of China and its cities.


Wherever you go in China there will be a different cultural experience. I love the experience I had in China. It debunked a lot of my misconceptions of what China was like. Honestly, China is a country that you can't experience any other way than visiting it.