Chinese people are ridiculously friendly and hospitable. Make Chinese friends. There is no better way to learn about Chinese culture, broaden your mind or learn Chinese than to make Chinese friends. You're in China, appreciate and get to know the people. You won't regret it. We have been richly blessed by having Chinese friends, especially Chinese family friends. We love being apart of whole families here.
Make Friends with the Expat Community
There is so much wisdom to be learned from other foreigners who have lived in China before you. They can help you in so many ways, from where to find that one shop in the whole city that sells BBQ sauce to where not to go because it's unsafe. Also, even if you don't believe it, there will most likely be a time when you want to be with Expats. When we first went to Korea we believed we'd have mostly Korean friends. We weren't really interested in Western friends, because you know, we wanted to immerse ourself in the culture. But guess what, our expat community in Korea are some of our most favorite people and became like our family while we were there. We miss them terribly and our experience in Korea without them would not have been the same or as wonderful. Western holidays, de-stressing & processing all thats going on inside and around you is much, much more enjoyable & easier with people that come from a similar mindset and are in similar situations as you.
Know how to use chopsticks & broaden your taste buds.
If you're going to be living in China in a smaller city & hope to not starve while living here, learn how to use chopsticks! Obviously, you know, they eat with chop sticks here. Most restaurants will not carry a fork and knife so it's important for you to be able to nourish your self while in most Chinese restaurants. :) Also, it's a great way to impress the Chinese. They are very, very gracious with us foreigners. They will undoubtedly complement you on your chopstick skills. Also, broaden your taste buds. This doesn't mean that you have to eat scorpions or pig noses at every meal, but it does mean that finding Western food can be very difficult, and sometimes impossible outside of big cities. Try different foods and find the Chinese dishes you really enjoy. Learn the Chinese for them soon so you can order what you like in other places.
Be Street Smart.
Street smarts look so different in China than in the West. In some ways they're the same, like watch your bag on the bus, hold your bag in front of you in a busy market and watch out for scammers. But in other ways it's still very different. There are complex social & scamming systems here that you have to be Chinese or have good friends that tell you, to really understand. Perhaps I'll do a whole post on street smarts in China. In the mean time, if you're moving to China, get to know Chinese friends quickly. Listen to their advice & ask questions about living in China and interacting with others.
Learning Chinese is almost essential for living in China. You can get by in bigger cities knowing less but no matter where in China, you will need to know some in order to get to one place to another, pay your bills, refill your phone, order food, etc. You don't have to be fluent but you do need to know the basics. Chinese people are also very encouraging when it comes to this. Chinese people will gush over you for just saying 'Ni Hao' in the correct tones. This is so encouraging while learning a new language. You can usually find a Chinese person to tutor you who is eager to make friends with a foreigner or do a language exchange for free. For 30 yuan you can have a University student tutor you without the language exchange and have a more serious class. And for 50 yuan you can have a real Chinese teacher tutor you. These are such small prices to pay when you think about the that heaps of benefits you will gain in your daily life in China.
Be Flexible & Patient.
Everything takes time in China. Things change or come up in the last minute, all the time. People rush to the front of lines, push people out of the way and sardine pile on to buses. When you order food, it can take ages sometimes. Communicating takes time. Listening to a Chinese person communicate takes time. Everything takes time and is very different from home. Be flexible and patient.
Remember this phrase, "This is China."
If your electricity is shut off for a day without notice because they are working on it, freaking out or getting angry will get you no where. In the U.S. you could call someone and complain and get your money back or at least the satisfaction of an, "We're terribly sorry for the inconvenience." Here, you will seldom get that. Unexplainable things happen all the time. People do things that make no sense to our logical Western minds. You must quickly learn the phrase, "This is China" and let go.
Do you live in China? What are your best tips for living here?