Shotgun Guide to Getting Around in China

Friend of mine is going to China for the first time. I wrote him some tips and I figured I’d share.

Take your guidebook to learn things like “Hello” “Goodbye” “Thank you” and other simple stuff. They’ll do a better job teaching that than I would. But you won’t learn some essential things there. Like:
-Bu Yao – don’t want; use this when getting harassed by street vendors. A good quick “Bu Yao. Bu Yao.” will send them scurrying. If not, be more forceful with the words.
-May Yo – none left, we’re all out; you’ll hear this in restaurants or other shops when they don’t have any of something you’re looking for.
-Fu Yuan – waiter/waitress; you have to call them over
-My Don – check, please
-Everybody knows basic 1-5, most know 1-10, please, thank you, etc in English.

-Whenever you get a first price from a street vendor, drop off a zero and counter with that. That usually gets closer to the real price. Don’t worry about insulting them, instead it makes you seem like you don’t care. Most of the stuff isn’t worth 1/10 of what they’re asking anyway.
-If you can, watch what the locals pay. Get used to the currencies and watch what is handed over and what is given as change. That’s your price. If you don’t see the locals buying it, you probably don’t need it anyway. If you think you do then ask how much for the thing the local bought and see what price the vendor gives you. You now know the ratio from real price to the tourist price and can gauge your purchase
-Never be afraid to walk away. There’s a dozen more little shops around the corner. Odds are the guy will call you back and give you whatever your last price was.
-Know how to tell genuine from imitation. Nearly everything is fake there. But many times the legit vendors will have the real stuff too. For example, jade supposedly never shatters, but glass does very easily. Ask if you can test the “jade” by hitting it lightly. If the guy says no, walk away. But more often than not he’ll smile, say no
and pull out something different from under the counter which he will let you test. Now he knows you’re not a sucker and you’ll get a better price as well as the real stuff of whatever you ask for.

-Many people will treat you like a visitor in their home. Often people will go out of their way to help you or to at least make sure you get where you’re going. Smile and be friendly to everyone and they’ll likely reciprocate.
-You’re not very likely to get ripped off, though there are some scam artists out there. Each locality seems to have their own scams and there are some well known nationwide ones (like the art student scam). Look these up and be wary. Women are especially vulnerable to scammers and pickpockets.
-If you look different than they do, expect to be the star of many photographs. You’re the freak show come to town, get used to it. They’re just being friendly.
-Don’t drink the water unless you’ve sterilized it. And even then be wary.
-Watch out for medications. Many that look the same may behave much differently. Case in point I took a cold medication there that made me vomit all night.

About Beau Woods

Beau Woods is a cyber safety innovation fellow with the Atlantic Council, a leader with the I Am The Cavalry grassroots initiative, and founder/CEO of Stratigos Security. His focus is the intersection of cybersecurity and the human condition, primarily around cyber safety, ensuring connected technology that can impact life and safety is worthy of our trust. Over the past several years in this capacity, he has consulted with automakers, medical device manufacturers, healthcare providers, cybersecurity researchers, US federal agencies and legislative staff, and the White House.

Posted on August 30, 2010, in China. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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