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You are considering leaving South Africa and relocating to China? For sure there will be many things to consider, and the last thing you want to worry about is getting accustomed to cultural changes.

Read some quick facts to make sure you’re in the know before you arrive in the world’s most populous country.

Get used to crowds

As you are moving to the most populated country in the world with over 1.3 billion people, you will have to get used to the experience of mad rushing and plenty of crowds. If you think the rush hour on the underground or subway is hectic, it’s nothing compared to what will greet you in the likes of Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai. In major Chinese cities everything works on a first come first serve basis – so don’t expect to be greeted with an orderly queue for anything.

You do not get served cold drinks

While cold drinks are served in western restaurants, in China hot tea is the custom. If you ask for water in a restaurant, the waiter is likely to come back with tea and if you insist on water it’s likely to come back hot. In China warm drinks are supposed to help aid the digestion of food and considered as the all-round healthier option.

Asian eating techniques

You probably do not use them at your local Chinese restaurant, however if you want to dine out in your new city in China or with company, you’ll have to learn the technique of eating with chopsticks. This is a skill that even the youngest children learn and you will not want to be the odd one out – so get practicing before you move.

A different attitude towards smoking

In South Africa and in many western countries we have seen a crackdown on public smoking. In China, this is yet to catch on. Smoking is seen as cool and masculine rather than a health issue. Across the nation there are 350 million Chinese smokers and China produces 42% of the world’s cigarettes – so public smoking shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Minimize eye contact

In most Western countries its custom to maintain eye contact during conversations. In China however, many locals only make minimal eye contact when in conversation. Whilst this may be different to what you are used to, you will have to bear in mind that it doesn’t mean that you are being ignored.

Do not exaggerate with compliments

Compliments are usually expected to be taken graciously in China, because being humble is considered a key cultural trait. When you make a compliment to a female colleague that her new haircut looks good on her, she’s likely to say, “No, I look rather ugly.”

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