FREE PREVIEW OF THE BOOK: “How to be chinese”

You are suddenly planning to go to China and have no idea what will happen there to you? You only have a few hours to prepare yourself for this journey no matter whether you’re going there for studying, business, traveling, or any other reason? Fear no more! Brace yourself for a country filled with selfishness, dirty bathrooms without doors, and awesome drinking and smoking rituals! Describing daily situations which you are going to encounter, this guide will help you prepare for Chinese insanity quickly by waiving sociocultural explanations and history. Get ready for the naked truth and use this guide not only to survive in China, but also to enjoy the madness!

This page is a preview of the book “How to be Chinese – A step by step guide how to survive and enjoy the madness in China” and includes some chapters (there are no pictures in the book though – consider it as a bonus here).

You like what you read?
Well, then you might consider to get it, it  just costs a few Euro 😉

Apple iTunes:

Google Play Store:

Amazon Kindle (Germany):

Amazon (Germany):

If you are in another country than Germany, maybe just use your local Amazon shop 😉
If you are not interested in the book but still want to learn something about China, maybe check out the free “comics” sections?


Chapter 0: An Introduction

Ah, dear Laowai, are you ready for becoming a true Chinese? You have an awesome journey ahead. China is amazingly big and the experiences you will have are mind-blowing. If somebody says he knows China, one of the first questions should be: What China? Northern China? Southern China? Chinese cities or the rural areas? Which minority? From my impression, there is no way that you ever can claim that you really understand this country as a whole.

I have described a lot of real-life situations in this book that you will probably experience pretty quickly after your arrival, no matter which area you’re living in– and even years after staying here, you will still run into them and they will bring a smile on your face. Or make you bang your head against the wall due to frustration. But staying here for some while is totally worth it. From my experience, there are three types of foreigners who come here: The ones who hate this country, which is a very small share. The ones who are somehow ambivalent, this is also a very small share. And the ones who start to love it after their arrival. The ones who say “I just want to stay for a few months or years” but somehow get hooked up and will either not leave or always come back. It is a little bit like trying alcohol the first time: Maybe in the beginning you do not like the taste. But you will drink again and again. And maybe end up an alcoholic.

After staying here for a long time there is something I refer to as the “Asian trance”. When something is happening around you even after years of being here you will have the feeling that you are totally lost in the events and just cannot grasp the situation evolving around you – but you will love it. You will have tears of joy in your eyes and will be so happy that you have had the opportunity to experience this. This is the moment when the trance sets in. There are also lots of dark sides where you have no idea what is happening, but this time you will hate it to an extent that you want to leave the country as quickly as possible while cursing at everybody crossing your way. Situations that will make you think that all of this intercultural experience is too much for you to bear and you want to smash everything around you. Luckily, these kinds of situations are much less frequent than the mind-boggling happy ones.

The most important recommendation I can give you is this: Be patient. Observe, relax, and if something does not work out the way you want it to work out there will be a solution, even if it might take some time. Calming down mostly helps.

One of the reasons to come here is that this country is a ride on a rocket – development compared to other countries is on light-speed which can be seen in construction, politics, but also culture. Some of the information I read in some traveler guides or culture bucks seems to be outdated, at least for the bigger cities. This country consists of long-lived traditions which are confronted with modern influence – you can clearly see that China was literally shot from stone-age to modern age in just a few decades. Sometimes people seem to be lost here on the way but somehow they all cope with the quick change. A change that at least for people who come from more tranquil places might be too much to bear with. But do not give up hope, dear Laowai with a big nose. You also somehow can enter the flow and get used to this firework of everyday-changes and development. And I promise, if you’ll stay here long enough you’ll find your old life in your old country boring.

And last but not least, in my opinion no foreigner can take this country really serious. Most foreigners who come here switch on their party mode, what happens in China stays in China anyway, and when they finally leave the country they switch it off again. This is an amusement park for adults where you can gaze in amazement at a great show somebody delivers on the street, and where you can shout out of horror because something is not going the way you’ve planned it. But still, it is an amusement park with lots and lots of different experiences waiting for you to discover.

I love it. At some point I might hate it. But until then I will enjoy every day here and be happy that I have the chance to spend a share of my life in this amazing country. And I hope you will too.


Chapter 1: Become Selfish – You and Your Social Group Come First

First things first: You should forget everything you have ever learned about being polite or considerate in your childhood. This is a treat you will not really see here very often with people you do not know. Maybe the local amazing citizens will be a bit more considerate to you since you do not have a Chinese face, but otherwise you should not expect too much politeness over here. But since this guide is designed to be a very practical one I guess it is the best to show you real-life-situations of how it is done.

Is there a better way to find out how selfish somebody is than having a look at a situation with many people wanting something – and to find out who is waiting to get it and who is not? You think standing in a line while waiting your turn is fun?

Well, here in China there are no queues – even if you think there is one it is more a ball of chaotic madness where people always try to be the first. When in Rome do as the Romans do: Extend your elbows and push everybody is threatening your position in line back. Jumping the queue is sports here. You can start to imagine that the queue is more a big crowd where everybody pushes. It gets especially interesting while entering and exiting the subway: Nobody lets the people from the inside get out first, everybody pushes inside the carriage while the people from the inside are trying to push themselves out. So put your “pushing”-face on, pretend you do not see the pain you might cause to others, and push as hard as you can. This game can also be played at a much smaller scale in an elevator: Push in, push out. And most importantly do not forget to push the “close the door”-button even if you see somebody running to catch the elevator. He might take away the personal space that you really need while he has “just” to wait for 5 minutes again. And since you should not put too much trust in the buttons anyway be sure to press the button as many times as possible until the door is really closed. Letting other people not get into the elevator is especially fun in one of the 30-stories high living buildings with only 3 elevators.

And not only in an actual queue is it an interesting experience to push others: Did you ever wonder why traffic is so chaotic here? If you look around some drivers just park their cars in the middle of the street while other drivers block each other because nobody wants to give way to anybody else. Basically there is one rule about driving a car here: The one who is least scared about getting a scratch in his car wins. Thus, a crucial recommendation if you do not always want to lose the battle on the street: Get a rental car. If it’s a rental, don’t be gentle.

Of course if an accident actually happens you will have a lot of bystanders – but nobody will help. It does not matter if somebody is brutally beaten up in a restaurant, if somebody gets hit in the traffic lying on the street without anybody calling emergency services. There will be lots of people standing around and watching with big interest but nobody will move a finger to help. Why is that? Well, some people say that this is the result of a weird court ruling: a person who was not involved in an accident and wanted to help was sentenced to pay compensation. There is absolutely no reason to help if you are guilt free. Other opinions include that there is never enough for everybody anyway, so by this “first come first serve, and do not care about anybody else”-rule this is again a self-organizing chaos with poor victims left behind.

Even a phenomenon that might seem cute for uninitiated foreigners can become a battle of selfishness. Did you ever hear about the dancing grannies? If not just go visit public places. If you checked enough places you will surely come across some grandmothers dancing to music originating from portable speakers. Cute you say? That is as long as you’re not living next to them. Since these grannies also congregate next to residences their music and dancing can be a public nuisance. What begins with a one-hour-dancing session can quickly become a 12-hours-disco next to your living room, which can also massively influence the market value of the residence you’ve bought. Since these grannies are not really the kindest type any protest by people living next to their public music club is kindly or not so kindly discarded – and quickly this peaceful activity evolves into a war between residents and old people. The residents become creative in their way of fighting back, methods known hitherto include throwing feces at the dancers or investing an awful lot of money in special speakers intended for crowd control at demonstrations to shout back.

Anyway – just remember the rule: Be selfish, you come first.

Even though people here are selfish there is one other thing they are: They are group-oriented. Thus, selfishness can quickly develop into “groupishness” – but this is only true if you really know the other people well or you have a deep connection with them. Or want to have a deep connection with them. Or you have a lot of respect for them. Or there is some other reason.

Anyway, while selfishness is mostly the biggest driving factor here people can still suddenly become very protective and caring if you somehow belong to their social group. Which also means: If you do not belong to their social group you might get serious problems. Sometimes not only single people try to cut the line in front of you but a whole bunch of people pushes their way through. And I would certainly not recommend getting into a fight with locals here as a foreigner: Even bystanders who have nothing to do with a fight might join in – and as a non-Chinese person you should certainly not expect them to support you. You are more likely to feel a bottle break on your head. Crucial recommendation: Be peaceful. And while you can complain a lot here you should pretty much know where the limit is and stop there before somebody becomes a furious beast.


Chapter 2: Love Chinese Food

If you have never been to the kingdom of the middle then you probably misunderstand the crap sold in Chinese restaurants in your country as “Chinese food”. You are totally mistaken. Ignore the superstitions that all Chinese people are eating dog meat – dog meat is considered a specialty merely in some regions of China so there is lots of other food to choose from. While the people in southern China (around Guangdong) will probably eat everything with four legs except a table and everything with wings except an airplane, people from other regions sometimes do not really enjoy that kind of food. Either way, if you are looking for fried bees, scorpions, snakes, or any other weird things, you will find them if you look hard enough. But beware: this can be a hard task for you.

Since the country is having a hard time with lots of food scandals you will even eat things that you did not want to eat – and which are not really the healthiest. Some of the more recent scandals include mixing milk powder with unhealthy substances, selling rat meat instead of mutton, tweaking pig meat with chemicals for so long that it looked like beef, or my personal favorite, the so called “gutter oil”. Some really smart people had the great idea that fat swims above water, so they went to the closest sewers and went fishing for some fat swimming there above the feces. After cooking it for a little while it was sold again as cheap oil, especially for the small street shops.

Let us stop looking at the partly true superstitions and focus more on the good Chinese food: Rice and Noodles are the basics here. You would think. Actually, while these components can be part of a simple meal in middle-class restaurants and upwards they are merely served in the end to fill the reminding free space you might have in your tummy. Even while the Chinese government is appealing to the people to reduce waste of food there is still a tendency of ordering too much food to be polite or even impress the people who are around you.

So much for the description of food. But since you are reading a guide on how to become Chinese you should consider these hints:

Learn how to eat with chopsticks. D’uh. This is too obvious I guess, but while some things seem to wrap themselves around the chopsticks and become really easy to eat other types of food might be really challenging, especially slim noodles in a soup. If you are not in one of the most plain restaurants ever the food will be in the middle of the table and everybody will pick what he or she wants with their own chopsticks. Try everything. If there are still bones mixed with the meat do not be afraid. This is common in many dishes. Ignore or appreciate the mode of presentation, e.g. the baked rabbit head smiling at you next to the remains of his baked body. Be happy that you get fresh food and don’t forget that – especially in upper class restaurants – this poor animal in front of you may have been jumping or swimming around in front of your nose merely half an hour ago. Simply do not ask what you are eating. If somebody tells you that this food is “good for men” eat more of it to increase your sexual potency. Mostly it is simply some kind of vegetable, meat, or fruit that somehow resembles a stick.

When you come back from a trip and friends of you ask you how the trip went tell them that the food was really good. With this most Chinese people will be satisfied as an outline of your trip. And while eating, tell the others how good it tastes – and ask others, how good the food is. You can even let the people who are not with you right now enjoy what you are eating – looking at the pictures in social media according to my impression at least twenty percent of the postings are pictures of food somebody is eating somewhere.

Get used to eating spicy food. It is amazing and your mouth will get adapted to it. Maybe not your tummy, and you might spend a long time in the bathroom the next day. But your mouth will.

Do not bother to make no sounds while eating. If you are eating noodles in a soup and your mouth is pumping out a vacuum cleaner like sucking noise you have become truly local. And of course while chewing there is no need to close your mouth – let others enjoy the view of the food being squashed between your teeth.

Never ever let anything collide with your eating plans: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are the most important appointments on your entire day. If you have to skip one it is totally acceptable to be close to a panic attack. If it is two feel like Armageddon is coming fast.


Chapter 3: Consume Alcohol and Cigarettes

Since we have thus far only covered the amazing Chinese food there is one other thing that usually goes hand in hand: Alcohol and cigarettes. Both are considered to be bad for women but as a true guy you have to show off your drinking skills. Especially as a foreigner you are expected to be a great drinker. There is no better way of showing off how masculine you are than demonstrating your skill in putting lots and lots of Baijiu in you. Baijiu is like the Chinese Vodka, it just tastes much worse.

If there is no Baijiu available that is not a problem – you can do “bottoms up” with every kind of drink: Beer, Wine, Red wine mixed with sprite, or Whiskey mixed with ice tea. There is no limit to creativity as long as there is alcohol included. If you want to show off how rich you are try to estimate how many of the most expensive drinks your group could drink within three days. Then order double the amount. If you have no space left on your table because it is full of bottles you did the right thing.

In a restaurant it is easy to recognize if people were having a good time: If the toilets are still completely clean at the end of an evening (or at the end of lunch time) and there is no vomit at all it must have been a boring restaurant or party.

The time of the day is also not an issue: If you are on your way to a business lunch, especially with officials or high ranking people, expect that you will come back drunk afterwards.

Drinking alcohol is a ritual which is not only considered as a fun activity but also as the primary mode of celebrating or bonding with people. Just a small warning: You should know your limits. And by limits I am not talking about the point of suffering from minor alcohol poisoning leading to vomiting since this can be seen as an indicator for having fun. I’m talking about the major alcohol poisoning that a government official suffered from after he got his new job and drank himself to death at the celebration party. But almost every good party I have been to lately included somebody throwing up with somebody else patting their back in order to comfort them.

Very important: Bring your own cigarettes. And smoke. But to make it socially acceptable offer somebody else a cigarette first. And since you do not want to look cheap to them you shouldn’t buy the cheapest cigarettes available: For a middle-class smoker it is acceptable to have cigarettes which cost around 3 times as much as the cheapest ones while as a government official it should be at least 10-15 times as expensive as the cheapest ones.

If somebody offers you a cigarette you should help them to light up theirs – and as soon as you finished smoking the free cigarette please do not forget to return the favor of offering one of yours to the other person. You can imagine how easy you will change from being an occasional smoker to a chain smoker during a meal.

Smoking is acceptable almost everywhere – save for special locations such as airports, subways, and big shopping malls. But in a restaurant, on the elevator, in a small store, or inside the taxi you can (mostly) light up directly next to the non-smoking sign. Only during the Olympic Games in 2008 and a few months afterwards the rule of non-smoking was enforced, yet after that everybody stopped caring again.

Since you cannot always eat something if you want to get hammered there are other great excuses you can use: Go to a bar, but be aware that bars are not considered “traditional” and you should never tell your parents that you went there. Going to Karaoke or KTV is totally acceptable on any time of the day. For everybody who has never seen a KTV: It is basically a bar with walls around each table (so that you cannot get in touch with somebody you don’t know), a microphone, and a TV to select songs to sing. It is simply far more “traditional” and totally acceptable to go there.

If a lunch or dinner takes around 2 hours be prepared to be drunk afterwards and having smoked so many cigarettes that your lungs are burning.

Good news for girls in the end as a surprise: Do not participate in this. This is a guy´s game. No smoking, no drinking. This is just not traditional and girls should be traditional. Period.


You like what you read?

This page is a preview of the book “How to be Chinese – A step by step guide how to survive and enjoy the madness in China” and includes some chapters (there are no pictures in the book though – consider it as a bonus here).
You like what you read?
Well, then you might consider to get it. It is just a few Euro and definitely worth it.

Well, then you might consider to get it:

Apple iTunes:

Google Play Store:

Amazon Kindle (Germany):

Amazon (Germany):

If you are in another country than Germany, maybe just use your local Amazon shop 😉

If you are not interested in the book but still want to learn something about China, maybe check out the free “comics” sections?