What is China really like? Many ask this question to those expats who are teaching in China seeking fun, adventure and opportunity. Behind this question are ideas and stereotypes that we're looking to have confirmed. We want to hear some of the answers that we think are true. But wait, not everything we've heard is true, and this list is going to debunk those myths that we've learnt in our lessons from Teaching in China.
Rice is a staple food in China. Contrary to popular belief, rice isn't consumed with every meal. Potatoes, noodles and different types of bread are also staples that you'll see eaten on a daily basis, and this is one of the lessons from teaching in China that I learned pretty quickly much to my delight.
Head to ten of your favourite Chinese restaurants and you'll see almost identical menus. In China, there's a wealth of regional cuisines and dishes to try, way more than you could ever imagine. There is something for everyone. Although there may not be a General Tsao's, you will find some familiar favourites as well.
In some parts of South East Asia, dogs and cats are a delicacy. In some remote areas of China, there's no denying that they're also on the menu. However, this is the minority. Cats and dogs are kept as pets by the vast majority of people. For a lot of families, you'll see that dogs are part of the family, they'll be dressed from head to toe in the finest garments from the doggy fashion world. Generally, this topic is sensitive for locals and best discussed with friends.
China is transitioning from the “factory of the world” to a mixed economy. In the past, if you could dream it, China would make it and fake it. In recent years, the government has cracked down on fakes. Does this mean that China is no longer the go-to place for cheap shopping? Not at all. Inexpensive hand tailor markets can still be found in every city, alongside growing tech brands like Xiaomi and Oppo who are giving Apple and Samsung a run for their money.
For years, the bicycle was the primary form of transportation in China. In many cases China is famous for the bicycle, so much so Katy Melua wrote a song about it (well almost). It is true; a lot of people still ride bikes in China. But most of these are now electric. Car ownership is on the rise, and public transport is efficient in the larger cities. In fact, today Shanghai has the second largest subway network in the world.
In the early ESL days, English teachers would sacrifice home comforts. They'd leave behind deodorant, modern appliances, and the Fresh Prince of Belair to live in a more modest developing China. Fast forward a few decades and you'll arrive in modern day China. Modern China is faster and more high-tech. You'll find shopping malls, all kinds of cosmetics, western brands and affordable technology. Yes, plenty of cities are reminiscent of a bygone era, but Modern China is here. If you find this hard to believe, visit the online store Taobao and you'll see money really can buy anything.
When many people think of China, Kung Fu, Panda's and Chinese hats (Conical Hats) spring to mind. Disney also shares these beliefs and has rolled all three stereotypes into a movie franchise. In China, not that many people practice Kung Fu. Pandas are predominantly found in zoos, and the hats are mainly worn by the street cleaners.
This isn't the definitive list or the definitive guide to China. The best thing to do is experience China for yourself. There are so many great things to see here. So much history, culture, food and the list goes on. If you're worried that China is too far behind, then don't, the future is here. If you're worried that you've missed the "old China", then don't it's still here. Just take the plunge and see for yourself. If you're feeling really brave, you can apply now and join EF in China.