What to Know About Traveling to China

I’ve been back in the US for almost 2 weeks. I became so exhausted with traveling in China, that I couldn’t get myself to look at a photo or even start a blog post on my 2 1/2 weeks there. I do have so much to share, which I will start to do now that I’ve soaked it all in. 10 years ago was my first time to China with a first stop in Beijing and absolutely loathed it. I thought it was because of the cold weather and timing. I knew I couldn’t stand how claustrophobic it was with the overpopulation & pollution. After my annoyances and exhaustion, I’d like to share what to know about traveling to China so you can mentally prepare for your trip there.


After my second trip to China, I thought that I was more mentally prepared as I had several friends who had moved to Shanghai for work. They seemed to love their life there. So I assumed that China had become a lot more modernized. On the one hand, yes it has, technology, wages, education and wealth has increased, though many of their mannerisms remain. Which can be a huge conflict with, well, just about everywhere else in the world. I started to get frustrated and annoyed day from day 1 of our trip. I kept trying to turn my negative, agitated thoughts around by countering it with positive ones. I’m usually pretty good at this. After a week & a half, I allowed myself to embrace all the discomforts as what life’s about and found humor in it.

I was really looking forward to this trip, I really truly wanted to come back loving China as it is motherland. I have no regrets going, it was a very educational trip, as if I studied abroad for 2 weeks. Indeed, I got a lot of memorable experiences from this trip, a very educational one. But majority of the time, I was very irritated & couldn’t wait to come home. In this post, I will share my experiences (good & bad) and why I felt that way. As you know, this is very rare for me on my travels. I usually wish to extend my trips for as long as I could in the exotic dreamy place that’s anything but home. And as much as I want to write only the good, I think it’s beneficial for when you travel there to share my honest thoughts.

Currently in my living room, Piers Morgan is interviewing Arianna Huffington on CNN, and I quote Piers:

“When I visited Shanghai, as well as the rest of China, it’s obvious that in the next 5 years there will be an abundance of people on their way to becoming millionaires. They’re not interested in Military power or other things that America has been focused on. But solely on becoming a superpower in Business and making money. I’m not sure the US is ready for that.”


That was what I noticed most on my visit in all the capital cities. It was what I was most impressed by. As a ‘communist government’ since Mao Ze Dong‘s takeover 70 years ago, the government has kept the ‘communist’ traditions in the poor areas. And Capitalism in effect for the uber rich and the growing middle class. This is a double whammy for the Chinese Government.

During my recent trip, I visited Shanghai, Fu-zhou, Chengdu and Kunming. I was very impressed at how fast some small businesses had grown over night into multi-million (and even billion) dollar enterprises. My dad has a few friends who have succeeded under those circumstances. China is what America was 50 years ago. If you have an innovative idea, you learn how to work their system. You learn how to network and about “Gwan-Shi” (which translates to “Relationships”), and you too can possibly build a successful business overnight. When friends have asked if I’d ever move to China, I answer, “Only if my focus is to make money.”


Most friends who have moved to China are there for the money. For the experience of getting a job and having the potential to move faster in their company than would happen in America. We have a common saying in American Business culture, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I have definitely seen that upon graduating college and getting a marketing/sales job. I’d say it’s approximately 65% what you know, 35% who you know in America. If you work hard, get a B.A., maybe a Master’s, you can and will work your way up without having to kiss too much ass (compared to China).

In China, it seems like it’s 85% of who you know. And how well you know how to massage relationships. This means a lot of time spent in the evenings. Dinners, a plethora of drinks and time to build trust. Throughout all of Asian business culture, it’s all about relationships. Built through heavy entertainment after work hours. And in case you didn’t know, it’s rude to not drink the host pours you.. despite your tolerance level. Entertainment includes thousands of dollars on each dinner setting, followed by a karaoke bar, with female escorts included for each guy. Some are more than hosts, some not.

Business topics are not discussed in the first few meetings. It’s considered rude. It may come out a little after intoxication. But after gaining the trust through inebriated bonding, business dealings may begin. It’s hard to tell who the big shots are. Although the Chinese can be flashy with their personal drivers in their fancy cars and LV man-bags, you will often find the wealthiest in modest clothing. It’s knowing that anybody here can be somebody. And always staying on your ‘A’ game to network. I thought to myself, I’d die 20 years earlier of stress/heart attack/liver failure if I was to move here for Business.


I grew up learning the most important values in Chinese Culture. They are over-achievers. Now I don’t want to go off sounding like Amy Chua in her controversial book, Tiger Mom. But I am stating this to make a point on potentially why China is where they are today. And I think that was more of her point as well, than to say how the Chinese are superior. Many Chinese values are worth boasting about. The fundamental of family values, always respecting the elders (taught by Confucius) of ‘Filiel piety‘. Therefore, they keep a lot of Business transactions within the family &  relatives.

Education is highly valued. A Bachelors degree is what many Americans see as a high school degree, a bare minimum. Getting an ‘A’ is not an accomplishment. You should have received an A+ and now graduate to the next grade. Credit cards and debt in general are not common even today in China. And I think they should keep it that way (debt-free). They like to pay things all cash. Whether it be a $1000 meal or for a house.  The Chinese are all about saving money. That’s why the government is able to lend the US billions of dollars now. I know this very well doing business with Chinese people here in LA. They work hard, they know the value of a dollar and they know how to live well while being thrifty. The Chinese will typically save and not spend unless they really have the money.

Now blow this up into a global perspective. They’ve also applied a lot of these values in their own government and as people immigrate abroad. It’s an impressive way to live. But the disparity between the rich and the poor in China are so extreme.


By suppressing the common people in China’s income (over 80% of the population), they have been able to save tons of money in the government. When people ask if China is still communist, I say yes and no. They are communist to the poor. There is still communist propaganda EVERYWHERE. On billboards and walls and churches off the freeway, all subliminally saying the same things in red writing “The government is here for the People.” That brainwashing was what brought Mao to power 70 years ago when he persuaded them that Communism was going to bring them a better life. In some cases, he did fulfill those promises. He also massacred a lot of people. This is the same type of propaganda that brings revolutions and Communism in general for many other governments in history.

I saw this side of China when traveling through the countryside. And even in my encounters with regular workers in the big cities. On the other hand, when the sun set, and I met my dad’s friends and expat friends for dinner and drinks, all I could see was Capitalism for the rich.

The most income has come from import/export. Yearly, millions of outsiders fly into Guangzhou, Southern China to check out products with potential to sell. The World Expo was held in China 2 years ago for the same interests. Sweatshops & factories exist all over China to provide outsourced products. Real Estate is a great investment there. Properties have doubled their values just within 3 years. Although if you’re thinking of investing, you should be careful to know that the government can take your property or money if they wanted. It’s not exactly like Title Insurance in America.


Human rights conditions are extremely harsh in China which is what many skeptics mention when foreshadowing whether or not China can become the next Superpower. If China will take the time, effort, money to improve their Human right standards and living quality, I believe they can become the next hyper power. But they are so far from it. And it honestly doesn’t seem like they give a crap to, except to appease global audiences who are watching. They’d rather hide their flaws by blocking it from news outlets & internet than to fix it. I met a taxi driver in Han-zhou who said “US treats their people well but the outside like crap, while China treats their people like crap and the outside world well.That line stuck with me.

Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion? Not quite there yet. How can their citizens become savvy if they don’t have full access to the internet, outside news, or allow journalists to not be censored? I couldn’t even sign on the internet at internet cafe’s in the big cities unless I had a China Government ID. A passport wouldn’t work! Why do they need it? So the government could have an eye on every website their citizens visit.


When I went 10 years ago, people weren’t waiting in lines. I thought it’d be better now, but no. I set Shanghai as the most sophisticated place in China. Even there, people are still not waiting in lines. In public/restaurant bathrooms, at banks, train stations, there may be a line formed, but half the people will easily go and cut in front. No one says anything. So as a foreigner, you allow these people to cut until you realize you’ll never get to the potty unless you become them. And then you get proud of yourself for a second for winning at the bathroom line until you realize how petty it is to try to win at a silly game like this. Your polite, diplomatic way of life has now gone backwards to Darwinism: Survival of the fittest. The name of the game in China. China got me and a lot of friends I talked to, built in negative energy.

Another example is when I had to go pull out money and exchange currency at the bank. There is literally 3 banks in every block. For whatever reason, at any given time of day in Shanghai, it takes at least an hour or 2 before you can see the teller. I guess there are just too many people. And too much business/money in China. I went one weekday afternoon and got a waiting ticket. Approaching the bank, 3-4 hustlers (from neighboring An-Hui province) asked me if I wanted to exchange money, as they flaunted stacks of bills. I learned not to deal with them as there could be counterfeit. I rushed through them to the door, into the bank.

Even in the bank, they wandered around hissing at you every 10 minutes asking why you don’t exchange money with them. I asked the security guards in the bank if they were affiliated with them. They replied ‘no’. I asked ‘why do you allow them in then?’ They reply that there is nothing they can do to control them.

Getting on trains and buses is a whole topic of its own. People are rushing to get in the train before they even allow passengers to get off. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, people are aggressively elbowing their way in. These matters which seem trivial reveals the bigger picture in this country. A true Dog-eat-Dog world. I don’t want to sit here and scold the people for how they are. People are the way they are by their nurture. For survival, that’s what they’ve learned to do. So be it.


Every time I had encountered one of these “TIC” (this is China) moments, I really missed the freedom and values America is founded upon. My friend Victoria made a good point, “If China’s government isn’t the way they are, and the people don’t act the way they do, this country wouldn’t be where it’s at today.” I get it.

I hadn’t developed this much American pride until now. And essentially, that’s what travel is about right? It’s putting your life into perspective. Whether you go away to a beautiful place to relax on the beach and forget all your stress, or go away to a place like Denmark to learn that their healthcare is way savvier and for the people (not corporations and drug companies) than your own government’s. Traveling is enlightenment at it’s finest. In the case of China, I learned that it’s where to go to make money. And was thoroughly impressed by their ancient history/traditions.

I don’t want to discourage you from visiting China. Many people who go have phenomenal experiences. And I do too from holding Panda bears to hiking national forests to historical Buddhist temples. Visiting China made me really appreciate America. A place that values the pursuit of a fundamental, ‘individual’ lifestyle and space. I really really value my space. Happy to be home.


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