We’ve been travelling through China for just over three weeks now and we’ve discovered some interesting observations about the people, their culture and the wider customs of this huge and foreign place. Read on to find out 6 things you might not know about China...
1. Snap, Snap, Snap!
The Chinese have gone photograph crazy! When we last visited in 2011 not a camera nor mobile phone could be found. Now, everybody has a smart phone and the locals are taking photos of everything. For some more professional snappers the smart phone isn’t enough, cue armies of tourists marching through attractions with gigantic DSLRs loaded with huge zoom lenses reaching to the floor. The rest steady their aim with selfie sticks, tripods, even iPad tripods (Tripads?). We must admit to watching many photo faux pars; Nikon’s shooting sunsets with the flashes going off! Family photos taken in dark tunnels and some where even professional cameras have been used to photograph drab fencing in the rain. Still, one must admire the enthusiasm.
2. The Great Wall Isn’t Visible From Space
When we first stepped foot on the Great Wall we were surprised at how nimble the top pass was. Just about wide enough for a horse to stride on. So how, we thought, could this path that is barely wider than a canal tow path be visible from space? Low and behold a Chinese astronaut observed in 2003 that the wall wasn’t visible from the international space station. Myth busted, a simple story based on a lie from the 1930s later used to sell the legendary experience to tourists, it was even in Chinese school books until the naughties. Although there is something from China that is visible from space.... the awful air pollution that covers huge swathes of the country!
3. The First Emperor Of China Was A Bit Vain
Discovered in a farmers field in the Xi’an countryside was perhaps the greatest tomb since the pyramids. The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, prepared an almighty army to guard him in the afterlife. He demanded almost 9,000 fully armed soldiers, battle horses and chariots to be created and aligned in underground chambers to protect the Emperor when he passed away. You may know this force as the Terracotta Army. The strangest part is that upon his death the tomb was buried, hidden and erased from record, lying dormant until the 1970s. The greatest discovery that was almost never found. Silly old Emperor! He definitely thought himself a bit special.
4. Interesting Chinese Habits
For those of you that have travelled in China you may be accustomed to the locals more interesting habits. Men and women fart at ease in busy tourist areas, it’s difficult not to laugh! Elbows, you might find yourself up a mountain but be careful as the biggest risks are not the precipice but swarms of tourists pushing past. Fighting with fire is the only way. Food is a huge part of the culture and many eat out for all their meals. Don’t expect the niceties of home. Diners order as they sit down, slurp, crunch, burp and devour their food at lightening speed and leave in unison only 30 mins later. It’s quite a thing to watch. No tipping, elbows on tables and many restaurants bring out the wrong food. The Chinese are a loud bunch too, not a day passes without the sound of locals hocking, spitting and spraying snot out of their noses as they wonder the streets, Ali’s least favourite Chinese habit. Public squat toilets are widespread and there very few doors, expect to head in to do your business and find a row of men and women taking a dump. Eye and nose opening indeed!
5. Internal Tourism
China has been a one nation party for 70 years and unlike western governments they have total autonomy to make things happen. China has built a culture of tourism that means residents will never need to leave China! Every attraction is ridiculously well organised so that thousands can attend safely, even on mountains that are 2k above sea level. The engineering that makes these huge tourist attractions tourist friendly are... incredible. What’s more, the state run media all exclusively advertise the attractions on the TV, internet, tube etc. You can’t miss it, even as a foreigner. What's more, the growing middle classes are passionate about visit China's delights! The real clever part is that the Chinese government own all the attractions, all local hotels and transport in and out of the sites. Not sure it’s socialist but it’s very clever money making systems that keeps all the Chinese Yuan flowing through the country. If a local wanted to holiday abroad and leave China? They would need to have 20k in the bank, the average wage is 9k a year, so only the richest Chinese holiday abroad. Remember that when you see Chinese tour groups in Europe because that is a very special holiday for those families!
6. One App, One Nation
One of the strangest discoveries was finding that the Chinese use only one app to control all of the messaging, video calls, payments, banking etc. WeChat does everything we do in separate apps at home making mobile phones a huge business in China, with industry just a couple of years young. Every shop has a QR code near the till which are used for almost all payments. We thought wireless payments were kicking off at home but the Chinese are years ahead. Let’s not forget the Great Firewall of China; an electronic system that stops all external news and media. It doesn’t stop everything though, VPNs are widespread here with many young Chinese using them to connect with the outside world. We met a girl on a mountain who loved English culture. We asked what her favourite English TV show was.... “Black Mirror” she replied. Wow, the techie youth of China are getting progressive.
Any other funny facts that you know about China? If so let us know in the below comments box!
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