You are a Chinese Indonesian, aren’t you? Why can’t you speak Chinese?
Well, when I was a kid, my mom used to forced me to have a Chinese lesson. I did actually. But I stopped without even mastering the language at the end. I used to hate learning to speak Chinese. I mean, it’s so hard to be pronounced, to be written, and to be read. Everything about it just seems so difficult to me… Who’s with me? Raise your hand!
Luckily – or unluckily, I supposed, depending on the perspective, I grew up in a Chinese family without even being able to speak Chinese fluently. I mean, I know only the basic words. Of course I know how to say “hi, how are you?” or “Thank you” or “I want that one please” or “Why are you so stupid?”. But I guess everybody also knows that, so it won’t help at all. It never mattered too much to me, not until I had a chance to actually live in a country where Mandarin is the language of the country.
What really surprised me is… most Chinese there can’t speak English. Even the receptionists in the hotel we were staying can’t understand me. I never thought it would be that bad! I mean, Beijing is a big city so I assumed most of them can speak English very well. Turned out I was totally wrong.
And you might also wanna know that most of the food menu in the restaurant is also written in Chinese, without the English translation (and some of them don’t even provide the food picture also!). Not to mention the street sign. So, the first day I came, I was like : “Fine. I’m gonna die.”
After a week of living there without a tour guide, I was finally able to adapt the culture a little bit. I mean, I began to enjoy living there. I was able to order my food & buy some stuffs. I can understand (a little bit) what others are saying. Way to go, Sharon!
So here’s the facts I found & the tips I’d like to share to you. I hope this will help anyone who’s been planning to visit China.
1. Most people here can not speak English. Even Thai people speak English better than Chinese do. So don’t be surprised or angry or… Okay, just don’t do anything stupid. So make sure you learned the basic Chinese words before you went here, especially Mandarin. There are a lot of amazing website out there which can teach you how to speak Chinese. At least, make the attempt to learn the basic words.
2. The toilets here are sooo dirty. You should really bring your own tissue and hand sanitizer/soap.
3. It’s so hard to find a coffee shop here. Even the restaurant which sells food for breakfast I went didn’t sell coffee. It’ll be great if you bring your own coffee.
4. There will be no even-a-tiny-drop of chili sauce in the McDonald here (and in most of other restaurant). So it’ll be nice if you can bring your own chili sauce if you prefer some.
5. Most restaurants have the food menu written in Chinese Mandarin without the English translation. And the worse part is, many of the local restaurant don’t provide the food picture in the menu. So those who don’t understand Chinese will have no idea of what foods are available there. Bring your dictionary (the digital one is better). Or if you have a translator, it will be even better.
I myself use Pleco. It’s free & available for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone. Pleco is suuuuch a great offline dictionary! I can translate the English words into Mandarin and Mandarin into English. And you know, you can even write the Chinese letter you found written somewhere (on the food menu, or on the street sign, or anywhere you can find!) & Pleco will find the closest word & immediately translate that word into English. It is that great.
6. People here eat a lot. I mean it. It’s like 3 times or 4 times more than Indonesian portion, you know. We once ordered the foods that the waitress recommended for 6 of us. Turned out, we can’t finish our foods because it’s just too much for us. So, check the food portion before ordering.
7. Don’t buy things with a big amount of money. And don’t even try to purchase things with your dollar. You better change it at the money changer first. You know, they might give you the fake money as the changes. It could be that bad.
8. A map here won’t help if you don’t now how to read Chinese word since it’s all written in Chinese. Maybe you should make friends with foreigners who speak Chinese so that they can help you out.
9. Don’t tip. I mean, you could but it’s not a common thing to do in China. Sure you can tip them and some of them will love it. But they don’t necessarily expect you to do so. So there are actually no hard feelings even if you don’t.
Sooo, are you really for a trip? 😀 Don’t be hesitate to ask me anything if you need some. I’ll be pleased to help you.