Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Things That People Never Told You About Living In China  

Nathan Gibson
12 items

Moving to another country can involve a period of unfamiliarity as you adjust to the local traditions and strange foreign customs. The biggest cultural changes can often come between the West and Asia, as the two spheres have developed their own societal rules and conventions that can seem completely alien to any visitors. Arguably, the biggest departure in lifestyle from the West is China, the communist nation with the world's largest population.

The best documentaries about China depict various aspects of the country's history, though few cover what everyday life is like. Thinking of moving to China? Maybe read on to discover what it's really like to live there.

Everyone Spits All Over The Place
Everyone Spits All Over ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Things That People Never Told You About Living In China
Photo:  Bert Peers/Wikimedia Commons

Although spitting is something that many might expect to see while on a sports field or on the street, anyone living in China will be accustomed to seeing people spit almost everywhere. Like in several other Asian countries, members of the public have no problem spitting on public transport or even in buildings. The government has attempted to control this issue due to concerns for health, believing that spitting spreads disease but it turns out that belief is completely overblown with no real evidence to support it. 

The real (though much less objective) reason for objecting to public spitting is just that it seems, well, gross. It's also posed a major problem for tourism in the country, as visitors have been put off from traveling in public knowing that many Chinese residents have no problem spitting in the direction of others or even at their feet. 

To be clear, this isn't about disrespect or marking one's territory or anything like that. It's simply part of the culture and the people who live there don't seem to have a problem with it in general. Spit happens.

Traffic Jams Can Last For Days At A Time
Traffic Jams Can Last Fo... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Things That People Never Told You About Living In China
Photo: Pexels/CC0 1.0

No one likes traffic jams, even if they're a part of everyday life that can't be avoided. Being in Los Angeles means you anticipate long, four-hour blocks of bad traffic twice a day and being in New York means you just don't own a car, ever. 

But spare a thought for those driving in China. The rapid increase in the number of people owning cars and the lack of modernization of the road network has meant that it isn’t unusual to see lines that stretch back for dozens of miles with hardly any movement.

In 2010, one massive traffic jam near Beijing was reported to be more than 62 miles long. It was so big that it lasted for almost nine days, trapping the drivers on stretches of road where they had to pay hiked up prices for food and water.

Like a lot of older cities across the world, cities in China weren't built with a lot of cars in mind. Urbanization will always (always) lead to traffic problems in any city, and those issues become even more pronounced in places like China. It's simple math. There were two million cars in China in 2000, and in 2010 there were five million. That's a lot more cars and the cities can't handle that kind of growth without massive and comprehensive road development and upkeep.

Finally, China's version of Driver's Ed isn't great, leading to a lot of new, inexperienced drivers clogging up the already-too-small roadways. 

Public Transportation Is Cheap And Affordable
Public Transportation Is... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Things That People Never Told You About Living In China
Photo:  Ali Williams

As a result of the terrible traffic situation, China has done everything it could to build up its public transportation system. Not only does China have the largest highway system in the world, it is also responsible for creating the first commercial high-speed magnetic levitation train service in the world. Their rail system includes trams, subways, and lightrails with over a thousand different stations. If you're traveling across the country, you can even buy a ticket for a bunk to sleep in. 

All Your Favorite Music Is Available To Download For Free
All Your Favorite Music ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Things That People Never Told You About Living In China
Photo:  QQ

China is notorious for its internet piracy, with millions of people choosing simply to download the content rather than pay for it. This has led to record companies taking a novel approach to monetizing their music in the country. Instead of selling CDs in the traditional manner, record companies offer songs on sites like Baidu and Google for free. At least this way, they gain some revenue from advertising as users get their music from the official source instead of a torrent site. 

Lots of albums to listen to you while you sit in traffic for nine days, covered in spit!