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Travel Advice for China – Part 2

IMAG0136This post is a continuation of the March 2015 post: Travel Advice for China: Part 1. Both posts were written by our General Manager, James Jergens, who has not only traveled extensively in China but lived there for two years.

Food and Drink

The food is delicious… if your host picks the right kind of food. Personally, I love Chinese food and that is why I have gained 40-pounds since my first trip to China. If you travel with GSM, our Chinese staff understands what western people prefer in Chinese food and will order for you.

If you are not accustomed to Chinese food, I recommend a big breakfast in the morning and take snack food with you. I still carry snacks with me because you never really know what type of meal you are going to get.

Expect to see your food prepared as naturally as possible. This means your meat will have bones – lots of bones. Shrimp will still have the head, calamari is the whole octopus.

China has many vegetables and fruits we do not eat in North America. For health reasons, do not eat raw vegetables or salad. The water used to clean the food may not agree with your system. This is from experience which has provided me with some interesting stories.

Speaking of water: Don’t drink the tap water! The tap water is clean and treated but most Westerners will get sick if they drink it. One instance people often overlook is brushing their teeth. Be sure to use bottled water for that as well.

Tea is always safe to drink because the water was boiled. Cola products are usually available. If you like beer, I recommend Tsingtao which is like Bud Light but better. I don’t drink the hard liquor but I have heard that the dark stuff can make you mean. I suggest you use caution since you are in a foreign country – especially if you are at the hotel bar.

When asked if you like spicy food – NEVER say yes. Spicy food in China is at a different level than in North America. I have seen travelers who ate the spicy food who regretted it half way through the meal and others at 4am when it made them feel like they were going to meet Jesus.

Chopsticks are used for most meals. I recommend you watch a YouTube video on how to use them and practice. It always impresses the locals when you can use chopsticks.

Food is served family style which I think is great. The tables are generally round and have a turn table in the center for the food to be passed around. The plate on the table in front of you is not for you to put your food on. This plate is the trash plate. Put your bones and waste on this plate. If it gets full, they will give you a new plate. When serving yourself, put your food in the bowl.

There are Western restaurants in China but they not always available. Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, KFC, and my favorite, Starbucks, are in the larger populated areas. When you are at the factories in the less populated areas, these places are not convenient to get to – which brings back the suggestion of carrying snacks.

Health, Hygiene and Safety

Getting sick overseas is not fun. To make matters worse, you will not find the medicines that we have in North America. When I lived in China, we had our normal medicine shipped over. I recommend bringing Pepto, pain medication, cold/allergy medicine, and a first aid kit.

I also suggest taking hand sanitizer and using it wherever you go. Sometimes there is soap and sometimes there isn’t. Same with toilet paper – bring your own tissue packets.

Western toilets are becoming more popular, but don’t be surprised if you happen to only have squat potties. Again, YouTube has some instructional videos.

Most hotels will do laundry. I highly recommend this as a way to travel lighter. Everyone knows that the Chinese laundry is always the best choice.

In general, China is very safe. However, you are in a foreign country. I suggest you tell someone where you are going to be at all times. Provide your family and boss with your detailed travel information including your accommodations and places you will visit. You should call back to North America and check in daily.

Communication to North America

Most business travelers will use their cell phone while in China but this can be expensive. When traveling with GSM, we will provide a Chinese smart phone to call North America at a discounted rate. The phone can also be used to slave your smart phone rather than using your expensive international data plan.

Another option for calling home is Skype or other instant messaging services.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks will not work. Sometimes company e-mail will not work. I recommend using a VPN service to insure you still can communicate via e-mail and keep in contact with friends and family. This will help relieve some of the culture shock.

Final Words

Traveling in China is not bad if you take preventive steps to reduce the stress of travel. The Chinese people are very generous and kind when you get to know them on a personal level. Their culture is built upon relationships and they want to build long-term relationships. However, business is business and they are some of the most shrewd business people in the world. As a group, they are the most entrepreneurial people I have had the privilege to meet. Everyone has a second business or has something going on in the background. The management and staff at GSM are experts in business with China. Our business objective is to limit our liability and risk in doing business in China. GSM has developed a trusted network of vendors who are world-class in the way they do business. I have personal relationships with the ownership and top managers. When there are problems, I am able to represent my customer’s interest directly with the decision makers.

I hope that someday you have the privilege to visit China with GSM.

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