During my very first visit to China, there were a couple of things that took me by surprise:
Massive malls absolutely everywhere
I’ve heard that Chinese food is so much better in China than what you get in other countries, but that’s is a massive understatement. There is so much diversity in food options, all of it is amazingly delicious and very reasonably priced. I could not get enough of it, and I can’t wait for my next visit so I can stuff my face with all that deliciousness again!
I didn’t expect to have that much trouble finding restaurants or shops that accept foreign bank cards. Some locations only allow Alipay. Also, apps like Didi are not available to foreigners as you need a Chinese number to sign up, and hailing a taxi is not always easy.
I saw very few tags or graffiti on buildings in big Chinese cities. Those are a major issue in pretty much every European city, as even historical buildings get smeared in tags, so this was a welcome surprise.
Excellent public transportation – so cheap and easy to use!
All the people I’ve met were absolutely lovely and extremely helpful. Also, there are so many older people in the parks, exercising or dancing, which is refreshing to see.
There is never any paper in bathrooms, so you have to carry a roll with you
The only thing that slightly threw me off during my very first visit was that people in China often take pictures of foreigners without asking. I’m very visibly a foreigner, so I always get quite a bit of attention when I’m travelling in Asia. I’m used to that, and I never decline a picture with some curious locals, as I find it a sweet experience. However, in China, while many approached and asked for a photo, there were many more who just tried to ‘’sneakily’’ take it, which made me feel a little bit uncomfortable at times.
As a tiny woman travelling alone I felt quite safe, even at night in less populated areas.
(Source Quora, by Jo Sosna)