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12 Signs you’ve been in China too long

1. You greet people by saying, “Have you eaten yet?”

A typical Chinese way to say hi is “Chi le mei?” which means, “Have you eaten yet?” Like “How are you?” in English, this is a question not really requiring a literal answer. So often you’ll tell someone you’ve already eaten over the roar of your growling, empty stomach.

2. You consider it a compliment when a Chinese person remarks that you’ve gained weight, and you catch yourself saying the same thing to others.

In traditional Chinese culture, the chubbier a person is, the more prosperous and healthy he or she is deemed to be. So a comment about your weight, especially coming from elderly Chinese, is not meant to tell you to lay off the fatty pork belly.

But in general, people in China can be pretty frank with comments about other people’s physical appearance. You know you’ve been in China too long when the first thing out of your mouth on seeing an old friend is an exclamation about his or her weight.

3. You break out your umbrella on sunny days to avoid getting tan.

People in China consider darker skin a sign of a peasant background, while lighter skin means high status in that you haven’t had to labor outside. As unfair as it is, women with darker skin are considered less attractive. Skin whitening products are a multi-billion-dollar industry in China. The latest trend to hit beachwear is the facekini, which is essentially a big sock you wear over your head with a few slits for your eyes, nose, and mouth.

4. You know how to gracefully drink tea with the leaves floating around in your cup.

For people in China, drinking tea made in teabag form is akin to drinking instant coffee in the US. It just doesn’t cut it once you’ve had the real thing. You’ve learned how to drink tea with loose leaves floating around without choking on them or being forced to chew them down. You know it’s all in the way you use your teeth as a strainer. And you know that yellowed teeth are an unfortunate byproduct of your tea snobbery.

5. You’re no longer color blind.

Red denotes good luck, fortune, and happiness in China. Traditional Chinese wedding outfits are red. Red envelopes are used to give out money during Chinese New Year. You know that people in China don’t shy away from wearing red during holidays or celebrations.

You also know white is the color of mourning and death, and you avoid wearing white in your hair as it means a relative has passed away. You know there are all kinds of exceptions (brides in China now wear Western-style white gowns), but you do your best to be color sensitive, especially when there are elderly Chinese in the mix.

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#MatadorN reader @3cupsoftiffany climbed #Huangshan last week and got this amazing misty shot. These mountains helped inspire the landscape of Avatar. #Travelstoke!

#clouds #landscape #mountains #nature #china #travel

Double tap if THIS is your favorite first look at a new city! #MatadorN reader @meyz snapped this shot of #Guangzhou from his window seat in the sky. Thanks for tagging #travelstoke!

#nightphotography #cityscape #china #windowseat #fromabove #light #travel

Hua Shan (Shaanxi, China)
One of China’s “Five Great Mountains,” Hua Shan holds religious importance, and various temples adorn its slopes and peaks. The hike includes steep stairways, a gondola ride, a wall-hugging walk on narrow wooden planks, a nearly vertical climb up a mountain wall (don’t worry, there are a few footholds cut into the rock), and a final steep pathway. The reward for reaching the top of the southern peak? A teahouse, resting 7,087 feet above sea level.

Méi bànfǎ, rén tàiduō. “There’s nothing you can do, too many people.”

In a country of 1.3 billion people, it only takes a small percentage of them to wreck your trip. When my Chinese husband and I traveled to Beijing during the national holiday in October, we spent half the day slogging through a mob that stretched across Tian’anmen Square just to get into the Forbidden City. I’ve also had to stand on crowded trains because I couldn’t get a seat and, while living in Shanghai, experienced my share of being sandwiched between anonymous butts and groins on rush-hour subway cars.

From: 10 extraordinarily useful Mandarin Chinese phrases

5 challenges you’ll face as an English teacher in China

1. Workplace inequality

China is indeed a communist country, but you’d better believe your private language center is a purely capitalist venture. And you — the unmistakable, foreign-looking face — are their flagship product. You will be pampered with an amazingly modern apartment, a hefty salary, and light hours. It’s pretty awesome, if I’m honest.

This begs the question, though: Can you deal with the fact that your Chinese counterpart is making pennies for working twice as many hours as you? Can you stomach the wine you’re drinking over Christmas dinner, knowing your assistant is stuck at work, covering your half of the lesson? Many schools have the attitude that their Chinese employees are disposable. You’ll have more luck shooting baijiu without cringing than fighting the glaring inequality at your school.

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