Eating Chinese food in China is not for the faint-hearted. Do not be afraid. With a sense of adventureand a sense of humour, you can have all the fun in the world. A job in China can be the start of a love affair with some of the most exquisite food from an ancient cuisine
Adventurous choices are rewarded: ordering a whole steamed fish with friends or colleagues does not mean that you have to suck the eyeballs out of the head, although it will win you points with the locals. Snag yourself some succulent moist meat from the body. And avoid the bones.
Vegetarians beware: vegetables like steamed broccoli or braised cabbage often come with a sprinkling of shredded ham or dried shrimp.
Tofu is delicious and comes in many forms and flavours. Tofu spaghetti with garlic and chili oil; cold cubes of tofu with spinach and ginger; deep-fried tofu with soy sauce. Or for the intrepid, tofu with flakes of dried fish or morsels of stewed pork.
Try the street food. While the locals may wrinkle their noses and pretend they never eat it, these shops are always brimming with customers - who do not keel over and die from food poisoning. Pancakes, buns, dumplings, fruit salads - do it.
That incredibly pungent smell that hits you when you enter the supermarket? The fruit called durian, lovingly prepared and packaged by a shop assistant at the entrance to the market. And when you finally encounter durian during a meal, tucked away inside a little sweet pancake for dessert, it is surprisingly delicious.
That incredibly pungent smell that hits you when you exit the shopping mall? A street vendor offering fried stinky tofu. Once you know what the smell is, it is almost bearable. Almost.
Meals are mostly accompanied by tea or hot water. Cold water is frowned upon. Or splurge and order a tea or soda jam-packed with fresh fruit.
Patisserie is not a Chinese word. All those beautiful cakes may look technically perfect, but the taste and texture often disappoint. Not enough sugar? Missing a pinch of salt? Or just old and tired?
Make your own. The markets have a stunning variety of fresh produce and it is a joy to buy your own stuff. Local and seasonal produce is remarkably abundant and cheap. Beware of expensive imported fruit: cherries in the middle of winter are imported from Canada when you scrutinise the label.
Try to limit buying imported Western food. It is good to know that we can find Italian pasta and French coffee beans and Swiss chocolate, but it is mostly overpriced. House brands from international supermarkets like Carrefour and Dia for these same items can be surprisingly affordable.