The 2008 Olympics® in Beijing are less than a year away, but many Americans will want to start preparing now for travel to the quadrennial contests and sightseeing in exotic China. Another reason to prepare for the journey in advance: the U.S. dollar is pretty much worthless paper.
I outlined some Olympics® side trips earlier, but I can’t send you on your way without a few travel tips:
If you travel by bus, try to avoid vehicles where other passengers are transporting fireworks.
Bottled water may be counterfeit. Check labels for the stamp of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. Of course that may be counterfeit, too.
Bring your own toothpaste.
Do not rely on your GPS when you drive in Shanghai, as many GPS maps are counterfeit. Counterfeit GPS maps are so prevalent that massive urban-renewal projects were undertaken just to make some neighborhoods and roads correspond to the counterfeits.
Despite excellent guides, many American visitors find Chinese etiquette puzzling. Here are some pointers:
Chinese people spit in the street. You get fined for that in Beijing so they don’t do it near cops, just everywhere else. When someone hawks up a big green gob near your foot, he’s just trying to clear his sinuses. Try to fit in. See if you can honk up a bigger one. Given the horrendous air pollution of China’s cities you should have lots of sinus gunk to work with.
The number four is considered unlucky in China, so don’t think cashiers are just short-changing you. They short-change everybody.
Don’t get upset because Chinese people talk so loud. Just think of them as a big family gathering of black folks, you be awright.
Chinese people often exchange business cards when they first meet, even in social situations. Here’s how: Grasp the proffered card in both hands, with your knees slightly bent and your feet a comfortable distance apart and pointed forward at a slight outward angle. Pretend you are able to read the card and make a big fuss before throwing it away.
Before leaving on your trip, you might want to gather all those old unwanted business cards sitting in the bottom of your desk drawer to give to people in China. Sure they have other people’s names and addresses on them, but who’s gonna know?
A noisy meal is a happy meal. If it gets quiet enough to hear all the slurping and chomping at the table, help out the host by reciting some nasty frat house toasts.
In China, good friends make critical personal remarks to each other. This is not rudeness but a sign of trust. Got that through your big American skull?
If you’re invited to a private home, bring a present. As a foreigner, you’re expected to bring a cultural tradition of your country, something not made or counterfeited in China. Um, yeah, I’m pretty stumped, too . . . . Maybe Red Man Chewing Tobacco, Moon Pies or Copenhagen Snuff.
To sum up, if you assume an attitude of relaxed hyper-vigilant polite rudeness, you will enjoy your trip and fit right into modern Chinese society. Except for that big nose of yours (see what good friends we are?).
Image by Mike Licht; not to be confused with registered trademarks or copyrighted images, even those originating in places that don’t believe in copyrights and trademarks.