In no particular order:
- It’s expected that you bring personal tissue with you everywhere you go. For example, the cafeterias have no napkins. On the daily, I have a backpack with: wet wipes, TP, tissues, and “handkerchiefs,” which are basically paper napkins. To figure out which to get in the grocery store, I stood in the tissue aisle until a Chinese person came by and picked one off the shelves, and then I immediately bought two.
- Grocery bags are 0.10RMB each. If you don’t understand what the check out lady is asking you when she’s asking if you want to pay for a bag, people behind you will get a little antsy.
- Actually, if you don’t understand any question, it’s really just best to make a non-commital “hrnn” noise until the person just decides for you. (Please note this is not a foolproof method for getting what you want).
- Chinese elevator doors close very quickly.
- In class, we learned the word for “guess” (as a verb). This is very useful for when you don’t know how to reply to someone’s question. If a cab driver asks you where you want to go, just say ni cai cai! (You guess!) (Also not guaranteed to get you what you want.)
- Tsinghua is an extraordinarily good school. Hu Jintao went here. No joke! Hu Jintao! There are around 14,000 undergrad and 14,000 grad students. Most students here are taking 20-30 credits a semester. I didn’t see an open seat in the library when we went today. They were studying before classes started this Monday. We were talking to one of our Chinese “buddies” (a program run through the Foreign Student office), who’s getting his doctorate studying renewable energy through agricultural waste.
- Chocolate milk tea is AMAZING. Milk tea is pretty good… basically sweet milk with some tea flavoring. But chocolate milk tea? Just so good. It’s hot chocolate, but with a cozy, warm, spicy thing going on. Also one of the few things I’ve ordered on the first try without pointing to anything!
- As someone with a catastrophic sense of direction, I actually have a really good handle on which way is North at almost all times. A lot of street signs have an arrow designating 北 , and I guess when I’m on campus I’ve stared at the map so often that I can kind of orient myself. My map is in Chinese though (and inexplicably from 2006), so this internal compass does not necessarily mean I find my destination.
- Many times, when you get change under 1RMB, they come in bills. If you try to pay using a 5 cent bill instead of a 5RMB bill, nobody will be amused. Although coins are definitely still in use here, it’s kind of nice to have to cary less of them.
- When crossing streets, find someone holding a baby, or an elderly couple. Stick to them like glue, because when they go, drivers might give a vague thought about slowing down, possibly. Look to your right, then left, then right again, while keeping an eye to your left. Holding your breath is acceptable. When you’re across, it’s encouraged to feel proud of your survival skills.
PS. I figured out how to allow comments that don’t require a UMW email address… so feel free to comment!