1. The saying “It’s okay because you speak English” is not always true: In Hefei, other than my Chinese colleagues I can only recall speaking English to a handful of locals, and it has never been more than a few broken sentences. There is a real language barrier. Not even taxi drivers can say the usual English chat because us foreigners are so rare here. I’m at a stage now where I can baby talk in Chinese to order something and be polite.
2. White people are an absolute rareity: I think while I have been out in the city (apart from being at the expat bar) I have seen less than 5 other white people going about their daily business. It’s common for Chinese people to be intrigued and for younger generations to shout out the English words they know. A friendly “Hello!” in reply is always warmly welcomed.
3. Public transport is so cheap and easily accessible: There are thousands of taxis in the city. It takes me approximately 15 minutes to get from my flat to my work. Back home I wouldn’t dream of taking a cab for a 10 min journey. Here I either take the bus costing 1 Kuai (10p) or take a taxi which costs 8 Kuai (80p). The most I’ve paid for a taxi has been 20 Kuai, and that was about a 40 minute journey.
4. Chinese people aren’t actually always on their phones or tablets: I thought coming here I would see local people with their head looking down at their phone all the time. But it’s the opposite. They actually seem so social. Every night on the way home I seen hundreds of people dancing or practicing Thai Chi together in groups. Wifi is actually quite poor.
5. Chinese people want to make friends with foreigners: They want to learn from different types of people. They want to speak English and find out what we do in our culture. I had 4 traffic policemen come up to me and they were absolutely intrigued when I showed them my driving licence. When we go to bars they love to introduce themselves and share a drink or two!
6. China is a BIG place: The city I’m living in seems absolutely massive. But compared to the other cities in China it’s relatively small! 7 million people live here yet it’s considered small!
7. Teenagers don’t exist outside of school: Because Chinese students have so much pressure to succeed and do well in school once they have finished studying at their schools they are straight home to revise and do their ridiculous amount of homework. You would never see teenagers hanging out in the park in the evening for instance.
8. There are absolutely no rules regarding traffic: Anything goes. Absolutely anything. Red lights mean relatively little. Mopeds are everywhere. It doesn’t matter if your making a call while driving your moped. Getting a bus is quite an experience as the driver is constantly swerving or braking to avoid a crazy moped rider. Taxis 3-point turn on highways. People walk where they want. It goes on…