Before I start describing my trips to China, I will offer some general tips.
(I found the store and souvenir photos by googling, they are not mine)
A typical touristic shop in China looks like this:
Most of them have the same stuff. In most of them you need to bargain, but not all of them. To save myself from embarrassment (I didn’t want to start bargaining in a shop where they did not bargain), I developed a “bargaining algorithm”.
These items cost (in 2010) 10 yuan (about 1 euro):
These items are:
the chinese paper fan
the 10 pairs of chopsticks in colorful cloth cases
the 2 pairs of chopsticks in a wooden box.
Also I think the metal chinese mirror costs 10 yuan but I am not sure anymore.
So whenever I was in a souvenir shop, I asked how much one of these items costs. If the answer was 10 yuan, I did not bargain. If it was more (usually 25) I bargained in the product I actually wanted (I have too many chopsticks and fans!).
The “trick” to bargain:
It is not an actual trick, it is common sense. You ask the price, they respond. You say no. They give you a calculator to write your offer. Then they write a lower value and so on. If you try to leave, they will give it to you in the price you ask. If not, it means they can’t go that low.
Note: They ALWAYS win. But they need the 1-2 euros more than you. And you get the thing you want cheap anyway.
I still remember when I bought the cutest cabin luggage suitcase ever for 30 euros and all the chinese people in the store were shocked with my stupidness 🙂 But it was a department store, I didn’t think I could bargain there! (generally there is no bargaining in department stores, but that one was like an inside market. But I bought the suitcase from a store. Anyway!). But guess what, I still have that mini-suitcase 7 years later and whenever I use it people stop me to tell me how cute it is!
<— Right??? Super cute!
2. Street food
People in general are skeptical about street food in many countries.
I have eaten street food many times in China, it is super cheap, tasty and nothing happened to me.
And it is such a nice and authentic experience! In general China is not a touristic country, their lives don’t revolve around tourism. Street food is made for the locals. Just point to what seems good to you, they will fry/bbq it and maybe they will even have small tables where you can eat.
And vegetarian-friendly! 🙂
I don’t have many photos of locals from my first 2 trips, because I was trying to be respectful 🙂 Then I realized chinese people LOVE having their photos taken. If you want to take a photo of an adorable chinese child, they will very happily let you do it.
Adults also like having their photo taken. But I always try to ask of course.
But that is not why I made this section. I wanted to “warn” you.
They will ask you all the time to take photos with them.
Especially if you are a girl or blond or tall.
They think we are so exotic and beautiful 🙂
When I was traveling with my two friends (3 girls, one blonde) we felt like celebrities. But when I traveled with my boyfriend or my dad, the requests were almost non-existent. I did get some personal requests for photos though, without the men that accompanied me 🙂
I wonder in how many photos of strangers I am in…
my friend posing with a chinese family
They don’t speak english and don’t try to speak mandarin.
Ok you can try, but they will not understand you, we’ve been doing lessons for years and they could not understand our accent. And chinese have totally different body language, so gesturing won’t help.
Example: I bought street food once, I asked how much did it cost, he showed me 6 the way chinese do (thumb and little finger up, the rest closed) and said “liu” (6 in mandarin). But he did all that very fast and I didn’t get it at once.
Instead of showing me 6 fingers (pretty universal, right?), he started looking for a calculator to type 6. My brain finally worked and I understood what he meant, but that little story has been my example every time I try to explain to people that chinese people will not get your gestures.
Try to write down everything you need (I mean, print it or show it in your travel guide, don’t try to write the characters 🙂 ), e.g. where you want to go, “train station”, “chicken”, “meat”, “water”, “vegetarian” etc.
Luckily almost all the places to eat have photo-menu, you can just point to what looks more tasty.
I guess these are enough general tips for now. If I think about more, I will make another post.