Move in China

I have traveled and lived in several countries. I have studied several languages ​​and languages, in general, as a specialty in linguistics, at the university. Therefore, I have a good understanding of language in general, and I know that language and communication are more than just speaking. When I first arrived in China, four years ago, it was a last minute thing, but I bought some CDs in Chinese language and learned some rudimentary words and phrases. However, what I learned was a bit insignificant, and I couldn't understand that I knew the language, but I managed with other forms of communication. Of course, the biggest challenge is that the written language, consisting of more than 50,000 separate written characters, is very different from the more familiar written languages ​​in the West.

In addition, although, officially, China has one language, Mandarin (Putonghua), there are actually more than 50 separate languages, in use in the country, and many people, especially in small villages and peripheral regions, can only speak in their language. Regional languages ​​Although street signs are also written in larger cities, in Pinyin English, that is not the case, in most of the country and for most things, such as store signs, product labels or menus. Apart from that problem, I have always relied on other forms of communication, in any country, when I did not have the words to express my needs or desires. A smile and a playful attitude, I have discovered, can go quite far.

In addition, simple words and phrases, such as hello (or hao, in Mandarin; lei ho, in Cantonese), goodbye (tsai jian, in Mandarin; goodbye, in Cantonese), please (ching, in Mandarin; mgoi, in Cantonese) ), and thanks (xie xie, in Mandarin; mgoi, in Cantonese), go a long way. In addition, to travel, in China, you can take a small Chinese-English-Chinese dictionary with you and display the words of the people in the dictionary. After that, being fun, charming and attractive are communication actions that transcend spoken language. In addition, each merchant, from the small corner store to the department stores, has a calculator, so that he can show you a price, in numbers.

Language problems aside, the first trick to travel in China is to use a Chinese travel agent (for example, E-long travel or C-trip) to book your flights and hotel rooms because you will get a good discount ( when I'm in Rome … but, you're in China, then …). The prices you can get, through these types of agencies, are actually lower, generally much lower, than you will get when you deal directly. In fact, on a trip we made, we wanted to extend our stay in a hotel, and they told us to call the agent because we would get a better price on the extension. Even if you don't call an agency, in advance, to reserve a room, there are usually agencies around airports, train stations and buses.

You get a double benefit as a foreign traveler in China. First, hotels and restaurants pay their staff and pay for supplies in yuan, not in dollars, so they are priced similar to hotels and western restaurants, but the yuan is cheap in dollars or euros. For example, we rented a small bungalow on our recent trip to Xi Chong, a secluded beach, south of Shenzhen, for ¥ 150 per night. I used to stay in a big hotel, in Guangzhou, before getting an apartment, for ¥ 300 per night; One of my most frugal (cheap) friends always stayed in the smallest room without a river view for ¥ 150 per night.

Therefore, don't be fooled thinking about prices, in China, in terms of the purchasing power of your local currency. Understand the money, local or foreign, in terms of your local purchasing power, not in terms of the purchasing power of the currency of your home country, in the other country. The second benefit you get when traveling in China is that energy costs are subsidized, so trains, planes, buses and taxis are still cheap, in terms of any currency, local or foreign, due to subsidies, not to cause of purchase Yuan power.

For example, a round-trip airfare for a 1,000-mile trip (one way) could cost ¥ 1,000, which is approximately $ US150. Most Chinese take trains and buses, even on long trips. Some of my foreign friends have also made two-day train trips to the north, and they say it is a good way to meet people and see the country (personally, I think they are only being cheap). A one-hour train ride (two hours by bus) costs around ¥ 70. I pay a private driver to take me to the university where I teach, which is about an hour's drive, mainly on roads, ¥ 115.

Although tips are not part of the culture or the expectations of the staff, in some western hotels and restaurants, they are expected, and I always leave money in a hotel room and in the western restaurants we frequent. When it comes to the price of anything other than restaurants, always negotiate prices. All Chinese think that foreigners are rich. They know that ¥ 70 is only $ 10 for an American, but what they don't realize is that $ 10 doesn't invite us to dinner in the United States, while ¥ 10 can buy them (and me) dinner. , in China. As a result of his misunderstanding of the relativity of money (see "You are missing the point" and other analyzes on our Analysis page in the country of the website), I have had people trying to charge me up to 10 times the actual price in Yuan. Remember: a Yuan should buy you as much as a dollar or a euro buys you at home.

I am a "natural place", which means that the way I like to travel is to act as if I had just moved to the area instead of being a tourist (although it is difficult to convince people that I am a local), but some still believe me). I have already lived in more than a dozen places, this century. My method is to tell the local people that I am moving there (what I am doing, although it may be as short as a week or a month), and ask them what there is to do in the area. You learn much more about a place, that way.

People love to help you discover the inner secrets of their people. I am also very kind and say "hello" to everyone on the street (here, "hello" is "ni hao" or, in some parts of Guangdong province, "lei ho"). That always gives you a good barometer of the city's sympathy: the more people smile at you and greet you, it's a good measure of sympathy. For example, in New York City, most people will look at you like you're crazy and speed up, while about 85 percent of people in Philadelphia will greet you, and some will even answer you. the first to say "hello". Montreal accounts for about 75 percent, and Quebec City is even friendlier, even if its "Bon jour" proves that it is not a native French speaker.

In most cities, in China, even in small towns, people are so upset that you can speak Chinese and that you have taken a little time to pay attention that they will smile and say "ni hao" ("lei ho" ) come back to you and can even give you a thumbs up (Xi & # 39; be a real exception to that general rule). Try these simple methods, yourself, when traveling, especially if you are trying to move around, in China.

I have been coming and going without much difficulty since I came to China four years ago, from the beginning. Sure, it has been scary, sometimes, when I felt isolated and I was having trouble trying to figure out how to get what I want or where I want to go. But, I just breathed and decided to relax and have fun with everything. I have never been someone who has placed much importance on words, in the first place.

I am a physicist who has been able to speak and think in a much more precise mathematical language, and I studied linguistics because I was interested in the interaction of language and thought. I always ask a lot of questions and teach my students and assistants to do the same because words have different meanings for different people, in the first place. However, language is also much more than words. Don't fear language barriers, be creative and have fun.

PS: When you receive a call in your hotel room, late at night, asking if you want a massage, it is not really a massage what they are offering.