I had always wanted to go to China. It’s literally the other side of the world for me; you know, it’s the place you tried to dig to in the sandbox when you were three. During my freshman year of college, I was taking steps to study abroad in China. However, in the second semester of my freshman year my amazing boyfriend, Andy, dropped out of nowhere and I began dating an international student from China. My plans or studying abroad in China were halted because I did not want to study abroad in China while my Chinese boyfriend was studying abroad in America. Therefore, I put my traveling dreams on hold.
After a year of dating he decided it was time for him to show me around his country, so for our anniversary he surprised me with tickets to China. I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to go on an amazing adventure. I was also a little nervous though, because the tickets he got were month long round-trip tickets. That is a month in China. It might not seem like a lot to some people, but for me at the time, it was insane. It was well worth all the insanity. I realized that as soon as the plane landed, and I spent the rest of the trip delving into as many cultural experiences as time permitted. A month in China changed me. The following is a list of things a month in China gave me, and I am so confident that if you spend a month in China you, too, would get each of these things out of it!
A higher tolerance for spicy food
People have varying tolerances when it comes to consuming spicy food. Prior to going to China, I thought that I had a relatively high tolerance. After all, Buffalo Chicken Dip is my favorite food group. But as it turned out, Chinese food was much spicier than I expected. They use incredible seasonings in China, and they have amazing food. But that food is spicy. It took me a while to get used to it, but I eventually did develop a higher tolerance. If you already have a high tolerance for spicy food, you should love Chinese food. If you do not have a tolerance, start practicing now before you go.
A Desire to Start a Business
Small businesses are everywhere in China. Walking down the street you will see: fruit stands, food stands, beverage stands, clothes stands, ice cream stands etc. There are so many stands, stores, restaurants, and small businesses in China. I don’t understand how all of them can be open, but they are. Going to China will get you into the entrepreneurial spirit. The proof of that is this blog. If you are looking for a push to start a business, a ticket to China, may be your ticket to success.
A Love for Karaoke
One of the best experiences I had in China was going to a karaoke club. It was amazing! Andy and I met with some of our other college friends in Beijing to go out for karaoke. You rent a room for two hours by ordering 50 USD worth of food. In the room there are microphones, dice games, a tv, and a karaoke machine. You can get together with a small group of friends and have a great time. By the way, I am a terrible singer, and I usually hate karaoke because of that. But if the US had a karaoke establishment like that, I can guarantee you that my friends and I would be hitting it up on the weekly. If you go to China, please do yourself a favor and go do karaoke with some friends!
An Addiction to Mango/Pineapple Popsicles
Depending on what time of the year you go to China, this may or may not be true for you. I traveled to China in July, which is the hottest time of the year. This was unknown to me beforehand. Every day it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Walking outside was a miserable activity. The only way I was able to function was through the consumption of these amazing pineapple/mango popsicles I discovered there. If I ever find them in America I will hoard them. If you go to China, plenty of people will be trying to sell you ice cream. Give the mango/pineapple popsicles a try.
Empathy for Poor People
This one is a little bit more emotional. I saw a lot more, poor people in China than I expected to. I saw a lot more, wealthy people than I expected to, as well. But it seemed like everywhere I went, there were poor people begging for money and begging me to buy their ice cream or water, or balloons. I wanted to keep giving everybody money. My boyfriend warned me that some people begging have a lot more money than I do. But it’s so hard for me to turn away someone asking for help. If I lived in China I would probably be broke from giving all my things away. If you go to China, the need to help others is surreal. Be prepared to have people begging you for money, and if you have it in your heart, be prepared to give a little to those who really need it.
A Healthier, Nicer Body
In China you will have to walk a lot. You may end up bicycling a lot. You will most likely be eating a lot more fruits and veggies than normal. These are all especially true if you are hanging out with the locals. The Chinese tend to eat a lot more veggies and tofu, and a lot less meat. That does not make their food any less delicious. When you do eat meat, you will be eating it with rice, noodles, and other stuff that take up the main portion of the meal. Also, it is customary that after you eat a meal, especially dinner, you take a walk. It’s very opposite of the US where people take a nap after they eat. But I think walking is a healthier option that you and your body can happily get used to.
Improved Chopstick Skills
My first week in China, my boyfriend took me to a restaurant in Shenzhen. After ordering the food my boyfriend asked the waiter for cha zi (a fork) for me. The waiter came back moments later to inform me that the restaurant did not have forks, so they went out to buy me a fork. That is the sweetest thing, but it made me realize I was going to have to learn how to use chopsticks. After a month in China, a restaurant not having a for was not a problem. My chopstick skills are not perfect, but they are a heck of a lot better than they were before. If you go to China for a month, your chopstick skills will definitely increase too.
Healing from Claustrophobia
1.4 billion people live in China. It is hard to appreciate what 1.4 billion really means. According to theatlantic.com, there are as many people in China as there are in both Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Western Europe put together. After spending a month in China, you’ll be used to being around a ton of people all the time. Bumping into someone, standing super close to someone on the subway, and always having people chase you down to sell you stuff will get normal.
Appreciation for Tea
I love coffee, especially white chocolate mochas. I never understood people who drink tea over coffee. That is, unless the tea is iced and sweet. In China, the tea is neither iced, nor sweet. Nonetheless, tea is a lot more common than coffee. Chinese tea was surprisingly very pleasant. It felt good to drink it. I can’t say that I would pick it over a white chocolate mocha, but I can say I will chose it in the future. Even if you don’t like tea now, after spending a month in China you will appreciate its flavor and the ritual of drinking it. You might even start to like it.
A Burning Desire to Travel More
This may sound a little cliché, but once you start to explore the world it’s hard to stop. China is a beautiful country full of so many precious people. After spending a month in China, I was glad to return to the US. But I am definitely planning on going back. I want to explore all of the places I didn’t get to the first time. I want to explore other countries; I just want to travel. If you go to China for a month, or any length of time, be prepared for the desire to travel latching onto your heart and never going away.