Study Abroad in China: Preparing for Culture Shock - Glchinese Blog
When you go to study abroad in China, you may have spent all your time before the course starts preparing for your lessons and the academic work you are going to do. Whilst this is obviously important, there is another aspect of preparation that needs to be taken into account. For many people, moving to China can be a shock to the system at first, because it is after all a different cultural environment than you might be used to in Europe or North America. Preparing for culture shock doesn’t mean you won’t find some things strange, but it does mean that you can reduce the adjustment period. Here are some hints and tips on how to prepare yourself for the inevitable culture shock, and some of the things that you might encounter.

Whether you decide to study in Beijing or a much smaller city, you may find the first shock you experience is the food. It is very likely you have eaten Chinese food before, but much of the Chinese food in China is pretty different to what you might be used to. Bones are generally left in most meat dishes, and a wider variety of meats and offal are eaten. There are also flavours that you might not have come across before, including bitter melons, preserved bamboo, and mouth-numbing majiao pepper. Although there will be things you don’t want to eat, if you take the time to try new foods and perhaps spend some time in Asian supermarkets before you leave to see what is available, you will be more familiar with the food. You will soon find some great new foods to eat, and will wonder how you did without these great Chinese dishes all your life!

Personal hygiene standards and practices in China can be quite different to what you might be used to, and this is often something you don’t really get taught in your Chinese language lessons. The first time you use a squat toilet will probably be as daunting as the first few Mandarin lessons you have, but you will soon get used to it. Also, even though there are efforts to stop it, spitting on the street is still very common, even in big cities. If you are particularly fastidious about germs and hygiene, then you might want to take a hand sanitizer with you when you are out.

If you are studying in Shanghai or one of the other big cities, then you may be shocked at the crowds that fill the city, particularly in rush hour. Add to this the fact that queuing in an orderly fashion isn’t a cultural norm in most parts of China, and these crowds can be very difficult to navigate. The best way to prepare here is just to practice being patient, and try going with the flow.

Culture shock can be an issue when you study abroad in China, but as long as you take the time to know what you are going to face, then you will quickly adapt and start really enjoying your time studying in China.

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