Beginners guide to survival in Shantou

    Please add your own tips as you feel suitable.  Survival in Shantou for the complete beginner:

    1) Never get angry.  If possible, don’t even get visibly annoyed.  (I’m crap at this.)  [WHY- To get angry here makes you look stupid and embarresses anyone nearby.]

    2) When crossing the road, never change speed or direction, never stop.  You’ll see what I mean.  [WHY- This way, the traffic knows where you’re headed and can plan where they’re headed without crashing into you.]

    3) Food is fresh which means it’s alive when you order.  This is a good thing.  [WHY- Food quality is extremely important, this way you know your food isn’t off.]

    4) Never touch food with your hands, unless you have large stack of tissues to clean hands immediately afterwards.  [WHY- Because your hands are dirty and dirt shouldn’t go in your mouth.]

    5) Many people find foreigners who look foreign (ie not Chinese) a great novelty.  Think back to when your country was monoethnically populated with only a few exceptions, and be patient.  It’s natural.  [WHY- ‘Helloooo!’  ‘I love you!’  ‘Can we be friends so I can practice my English?’  *astonished stares*  *bemused stares*]

    6) Always get a vocal agreement (grunt and nod is ok) on price from taxi, salinger and motorbike drivers BEFORE you get on their vehicle.  If you want to give a generous price, agree a generous price, don’t tip.  Then they expect it off the rest of us.  If they ask for more when you leave, don’t give in at any cost.  Never give them money until you see the change in their hand.  [WHY- If you don’t look Chinese, you tend to get ripped off more often than average.  A sad fact but unfortunately true.  It pays to be polite but cautious, and stand up to cheaters so that they learn.]

    5) Toilets are usually a hole in the ground (much more hygenic in a public situation don’t you think?), take your own loo roll and if you can’t find a button, flush by pouring water from near bucket down toilet.  [WHY- That’s just how toilets are usually built round here.]

    8) Apparent lack of emotion is neither coldness nor lack of emotion.  It is probably courtesy, or officialdom.  Occasionally both.  [WHY- Different cultural assumptions about what is polite/warm behaviour, and when it is necessary.] 

    9) Hold your own in a queue.  If other people aren’t queueing, don’t try.  [WHY- I haven’t worked out why people don’t like queueing here.]

    10) When drinking, never drink alone - always cheers with someone first, gan bei if you can.  It’s a really sociable way to drink.  [WHY- That’s just how drinking is done here.  It feels more sociable.]

    11) The best food is in the most unexpected and inconspicuous places!  Trust where your friends take you! 

    Really these are probably valid in all of China.  I can’t believe how many foreigners, particularly Westerners, come here and don’t know anything basic about local culture.

    Maggie Ad