Hey readers, first of all: 你们国庆节玩得好吗？All this October travelling reminds me of how one year ago, I was a clueless Indian guy struggling my way through the unintelligible plains of China. It’s even crazier that I was armed with such a nascent knowledge of Mandarin back then. Luckily, over the year, while my Chinese has also improved greatly, I learned that many of best travelling tips are more about being responsible and mature rather than your ability to quote 孔子.
Here Are My Tips For Travel In China:
1. Be confident, focused and do your research
Maybe, you do not know that many characters. At least take the time to learn the destination, write it down in 汉字, and approach people confidently with the little bit of Mandarin that you do know. Do not be distracted when they ask many questions, or if you do not understand something. Keep your focus on your destination, and use your Mandarin confidently. Being impressed by your ability to try, people will be more willing to help you.
1) Hello, Where is _______?
nǐ hǎo ，______ zài nǎ lǐ ？
2) Thank you.
xiè xie nǐ.
2. Ask for Recommendations about food/places to visit
The greatest lesson that comes from operating in another culture is humility. Approach people extremely humbly. Asking people for recommendations based on what you want is a wonderful way to connect, build relationships, learn and practice Chinese. I often simply ask what I yearn for rather than waste valuable travel time endlessly forcing myself through oceans of 汉字 that I can’t always understand. Again, the goal here is to leverage what you know and practice it confidently. You can ask for recommendations of food in restaurants and if you stay in a hostel/hotel, you can ask the staff about places they recommend for you to visit.
1）I like spicy things, and beef. What can I eat?
wǒ xǐ huān chī là de , yě xǐ huān niú ròu .kě yǐ chī shí me ？
2) In your opinion, which place is the most fun?
nǐ jué dé ，nǎ gè dì fāng shì zuì hǎo wán de ？
3) In your opinion, which place is interesting？
nǐ jué dé ，nǎ gè dì fāng yǒu yì si？
3. Use all your resources and stick to basics
C’mon, it’s not that hard to travel in this modern age. Not only do you have smartphones, laptops and all kinds of crazy technology to help you but also within your body, you have hands, fingers, and the ability to look absolutely desperate. Pull out your hand-phone that already has many Chinese dictionary apps. Often, the most basic Chinese will be your greatest rescuer. Just point confidently to the picture of the food you want on the menu. Shout “here” when you need the bus driver to stop based on Google Maps.
4. Be courteous, polite, and see it as a learning opportunity
When travelling, remember all the manners your mother taught you. Just because you are a foreigner that is outside of their home country does not mean it is ok to be impolite. When travelling, you are representing your family, your country and most importantly yourself. Learn humility from things that fail to meet your expectations. Learn more Mandarin whenever you get a chance. Try things you never thought you would try before. Make sure you learn and have fun. After all, why would we travel otherwise?
5. Admit defeat and flash a smile
Lastly, when everything else fails, just swallow that pride and admit defeat. Accept that you are a foreigner in a different country, and smile and let the other person know that you are lost and confused. Adding what I call a “defeated smile” also helps draw out the humanity within people. Of course, do not do this in a forced or calculated way but my point is that you cannot bulldoze and force your way through everything. Be prepared to lose. Be prepared to ask for help. You can even use your humor to make fun of yourself being a clueless foreigner.
1) Sorry, I don’t understand. Please help me.
bù qǐ , wǒ tīng bù dǒng. qǐng bang zhù wǒ.
2) Sorry, I’m lost. Please help me.
duì bù qǐ ，wǒ mí lù le. qǐng bāng zhù wǒ.
Extra Dramatically with humor:
3) I’m a foreigner. I don’t understand. What do I do??
wǒ shì wài guó de , wǒ tīng bù dǒng !!!! zěn me bàn ？
So there you have my five simple tips for travelling in China. Whether you are searching for a large adventure or just some time to relax, I hope you find exactly what you are looking for.