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Confucius slept here…

Confucius Slept here

I happily recovered another older post and will revive an idea I started to develop about a a year ago:

This is the re-start of an ongoing, intermittent series about the daunting task of adapting to China and the Chinese ways of culture and business. The working title: Confucius Slept Here: Meditations on China for Western Newcomers is a series that will look at individual and business norms, mindsets, cross-cultural paradigms, language, and customs in the context of my circuitous path to acceptance in the Middle Kingdom. This will be old hat for many of you. and no doubt it will like the SEO series I have started: Some of you have travelled far beyond the material presented. For you, I hope to solicit feedback on how to better present the material that could one day, with much work, become a primer for visitors to China. It is for the neophite or would-be expat.

Long ago one of my Tae Kwon Do instructors was infamous for teaching three to four hour long classes to to black belted students. I was one of the charges that found myself doing “simple” front punching or blocking for an entire period of training. My master felt that without constant re-examination and practice of the basics that had been essential to development we could not be good teachers nor could we be good citizens in a global community of TKD practitioners at various levels of the art. We had a responsibility to keep revisiting what had brought us to the sport and we were mandated to pass on what we could to those following behind us.

It is no different for me in SEO or in life adjustment is Asia. If you can learn one thing from my stumbling or my limited success then I am happy. I am, after all, a teacher by job, vocation and calling.

I am no expert on China, but now having lived 17 years in Asia, I realize how different China is even other Asian cultures. My time as an expat has given me some sense of what is needed to survive personally and professionally.

As I said the musings will be random though I hope to pull them together at some point as a real book with a more linear structure. Note: This will concern life in the mainland and not Hong Kong and Taiwan though will include unavoidable/salient issues relating to both.

First Things First:


These are things that you may want to consider bringing and items that you do not want to carry along regardless of what your mother, or neighbor stuck in the cold war, says:

1. A camera. But, unless you are the next Ansel Adams or have a need for a fancy rig, leave the big bucks at home. Bring a digital or film camera (there are tons of places that will put your pic’s on disk for little of nothing) that will take decent pictures. Use one that you are not afraid to lose or have lifted at a train station.
2. Bring an extra battery for any of your cameras. And pop for a a 220V charger while you are here. Anything you have that is 110V is liable to fry like an egg.
3. Medical Travel and Baggage Loss Insurance. Pay the few extra bucks! I have lost my luggage three times enroute to China (the U.S. carrier lost them all) and, even with insurance, only recovered about half of my losses. Medical insurance will ensure your evacuation to the U.S. shoud it be needed.
4. No-Doz if you are a coffee addict. Coffee is incredibly expensive and often not available in restaurants. Except fot the Thai restaurants the stuff you buy in the Jiffy Marts here is not very strong. You WILL get a case of Mao’s Revenge and it will be because of withdrawal, not the water.
5. I guess that #4 means bring some anti-diarrheal medicine as well….
6. Deodorant.
7. Dental Floss. Toothpicks are available at every restaurant.
8. Aspirin, if you prefer it to Tylenol, as it is hard to come by in other than miniscule doses.
9. Yuan/RMB. Two reasons: The dollar is free-falling against the Yuan and you will wait until retirement age in line to change money at most banks.
10. English Novels, Magazines or anything you want to read to pass the time. Hong Kong is about the only place with anything. Most stuff in China that looks English will really be Chinglish or government approved news and commentary–get over it: we have spin too.
11. The phone numbers for the English speaking/Western Medicine Doctors residing in the towns you will visit. You do not have time to be hand-signaling a Chinese physician no matter how good he is. The U.S. Consulate in those areas can provide these numbers. There are plenty of them but, they charge Western rates so:
12. Bring your credit card. China is 85% a cash economy but, the physicians do take plastic.
13. The numbers for your Embassy or Consulate. If you strangle a street vendor and get arrested the U.S. State Department can pretty much only come visit you (they are worse than useless) but, you will at least get a visitor. Keep the number in case you need a document notarized or need your friends interrogated by Homeland Security, prior to a visa, if you invite them to come visit you in the U.S..
14. It is better to bring the contact email and phone numbers of your government representives. Your Embassy may act more on your behalf if you call home first. Diplomats hate extra paperwork.
15. A couple of pens. The pens here are not the ones they export.
16. A muzzle on your need to spread the word for any religious or political views. It is against the law. And you SHOULD be spending your time learning about the culture you want them to replace before you preach about yours. The climate is changing but, don’t push the river.

Forget About:

1. Toilet paper. They use it here too. BUT, do buy packs of tissue at a local store or you may be, uh, cleansing yourself with currency: most of the toilets in public areas do not have T.P..
2. Antibiotics. They sell them at local pharmacies and besides: unless you are a physician you shouldn’t be self medicating! If you do have medications that you take regularly bring plenty and bring it in the prescription or OTC container or you will need the phone number for #13 above.
3. Stationery. They are literate. And they make 90% of the cutsie stuff they sell at Walmart.
4. Mailing envelopes. And don’t do anything dumb like send valuables. The postal guys in your country will steal it because it is easy to blame on the Chinese.
5. Clothes that need Ironing or lots of clothes. They do not have dryers and you can buy anything you need here at a fraction of the cost in your homeland.
6. Any pre-concieved notions about this country. It will shock, bewilder, and wonderfully amaze you daily.

Asia,China Expats,China Humor,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,Humor,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,Travel in China,中国

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Confucius slept here…”

  1. mom2twoboyson Apr 10th 2007 at 7:46 am

    Hi–comment on clothes–if you are large or tall, you will have a hard time. I am a 5’10” woman, and it is virtually impossible for me to buy clothes in China. In HK (where I live now), I can find some places outside of Marks & Spencer (ugh!) to buy clothes that fit, but if you are a woman with hips or height, forget it!


  2. adminon Apr 10th 2007 at 8:10 am


    I often forget that as I am a munchkin at 5’7″….

  3. Shaunon Apr 10th 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Personal experience goes a long way. I’d trust suggestions from a real-expat over somebody that has never even visited the country. BTW you should probably hook up with Ryan and get this kind of info posted on

  4. Meursaulton Apr 11th 2007 at 5:13 am

    I disagree about not bringing stationary. Good birthday cards are difficult to find in China, especially when buying for men or older people.

  5. Nitaon Apr 13th 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for this infor. we (me, hubby, 2 daughters) are visiting china this summer and have a whirlwind 8 day trip.
    As a tourist, what i would like to know is how much to tip? We are not luxury travelers.
    and you mean dental floss is not available in medical shops? I also wondered about the weather mid may. ofcourse we are going to be in shanghai just for a day. mostly up north.


  6. awon Apr 14th 2007 at 2:04 am

    “A muzzle on your need to spread the word for any religious or political views. It is against the law. And you SHOULD be spending your time learning about the culture you want them to replace before you preach about yours.”

    Very wise words indeed. How would you feel towards a guest who comes into your house and criticizes your child-rearing.. and starts fracking rearranging your furniture??

    Unthinkable, right?? Then please don’t be arrogant, pompous, patronizing, holier-than-thou dicks in other peoples’ countries, please. Or don’t whine when people start hating you and bomb your country, really.

  7. Nickion Apr 24th 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I think it really depends on what part of China you will be in. It’s a big country! Up until about a year and a half ago we couldn’t get dental floss in Hainan, now it is readily available. And coffee is pravalent here too, but I think they grow it on the island, so probably it’s a lot easier to get here than, say, Harbin. Still haven’t seen deodorant besides the flowery scented roll on kind, though., and we NEED it, being a tropical island and all.

  8. earlynnon Mar 8th 2009 at 8:53 pm


  9. jameson Mar 10th 2009 at 3:13 pm

    thank you for the information!!!

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