You Know You're in China When...

You Know You're in China When...

By Amanda Barrows

We all have moments abroad when we look around and find random or surprising things in our surroundings. China is no different in this regard. Especially as a newcomer to China, there are some things which particularly caught my attention from the get-go or had me chuckling in spite of myself.Today, I’m here to share with you some amusing moments when I was caught off guard or saw something that surprised me in the most unexpected of ways. I’m sure that everyone will have a lot different experiences during their time in China, but I hope that everyone can take the time to embrace the cultural differences and simply laugh about it once and a while.

This article is written in the spirit of laughter. So, without further ado: You know you’re in China, when…

You Know You're in China When...1. The chart for visual acuity looks like this. Upon my initial mandatory medical examination, I was floored by this chart.  “Doctor, what am I looking at? all I see is E!!?!”  Well, apparently, all that needs to be said is “left, right, up, and down” according to the direction the E is pointing.

2. When baby’s pants are split down the middle, making it easy for them to do their business, and men roll up their shirts when they are hot (aka: Beijing bikini). Don’t be surprised to see baby bums and plenty of belly shirts in the summer! It’s going to happen.

3. When you find that a traditional water town, with traditional Chinese Opera music and ancient canals has some dance clubs bouncing in the background. Glancing inside such establishments, I saw kids, grandmas and parent alike all dancing and having a good time. After seeing those canals, the first thing everyone wants to do is boogie in celebration of what they’ve seen. Who can blame them? 

4. When you see a cart carrying over 3x its size in materials. (Look at the first cart for a size reference) Just another day in the life. Haha, never say never. Nothing to see here, folks. ;) Two ambitious grandmas were making this trip worth their while.

Teach English in China

5. When you see signs like this when boarding the metro: Sorry, folks. Looks like no frolicking here. Best go find a field of flowers or nearby sidewalk and frolick there. Seriously. ;)

China Translation Signs
6. When young guys have more “swag swag” than you will ever have.

7. When the sign designers decide to be creative and think of as many ways to say NO in the English language, “NO smoking, PROHIBIT entertainer, BAN begging, no lie down, prohibit eating, prohibit spitting, prohibit urinating…

Ambassador - Amanda Barrows - China Train Signs

Amanda Barrows - Ambassador - China Signs…And, last but not least… it is 100% strictly prohibited to throw benches! So, before y’all decide to throw your benches at people on the metro, or on the floor, best think long and hard about this decision.

8. When you’ve waited long enough for your food and decide to perch your grandson in the prime food acquiring position. Locked, loaded and ready for KFC!

9. When you are walking through a forested park and hear the rustling of leaves. What are you most likely to find?

A. a wild boar
B. a bear
C. a bride taking her wedding photos in the forest.

9 times out of 10 it’s:  C. a bride taking her wedding photos in the forest.

Ambassador - Amanda Barrows - China Bride

10. When you had all but forgotten about the classic hit “Apple Pen”…  Grandpa may not be aware of how legendary the English on his cap is, but somehow, you’ve got “Apple Pen” on loop in your head all. day. long.  #throwback #swag

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These have been my top 10 LOL moments in China. I believe that finding opportunities to laugh can help with cultural adjustment, and it has certainly added a bit of flair to my experience here. Every day and every new city visited brings new surprises and opens my mind to new ways of thinking. It’s therapeutic to laugh; to acknowledge differences and to learn. Such has enabled me to appreciate and to better understand the culture here.


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Amanda BarrowsA Northeastern girl from Camden, Maine, Amanda never imagined her passion for languages and diplomacy would coalesce in a global journey of discovery. This ITA Alumni Ambassador is now embarking on her fourth year teaching ESL, and has found that the ESL classroom is a place to ultimately build a more peaceful and connected world.

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