Cultural Experience | Beijing

Expectations for a first time trip to China.

Fear and anticipation for my first trip to Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an.

This weekend, I will be embarking on my very first solo trip – and to China, no less! Most people would pick something more tame for their first time travelling all alone, but I tend toward extremes, and so I’m headed to this amazing country.

I fly into Shanghai and then have to take a train straight to Beijing, where I’ll spend 4 nights for a business competition. I’m a bit less alone here, but I’m staying separately from the rest of the attendees. Next I’ll take a sleeper train to Datong and spend a night there! Another sleeper train gives me 12 hours in Xi’an before I take my final sleeper train trip to Shanghai. Two nights in Shanghai rounds out this trip, and I couldn’t be more excited! With that said, there are definitely a few things I’m apprehensive about – or excited about!

China seems to be a place of extremes (just like me), and we thought it would be fun to tell you ten things I’m expecting on my trip to China. When I come back, I can tell you exactly what it’s like – and we’ll see if my assumptions were correct!

Pollution

Antigua beach image

I’ve been lucky to grow up in a province full of nature and with only one city (and Halifax would probably be a small village compared to the metropolises of China), so pollution is something I know almost nothing about!  I’m expecting that the pollution in China will be pretty bad, but certainly bearable. However, I’ve also heard that fall weather tends to bring low pollution levels, which is a good sign.

Feeling like a Westerner.

I’ve read and heard so many stories about Westerners being photographed or asked to pose with Chinese people, which I think is so funny. It’s just crazy to me that we might be such a novelty! I think it’s great.  I’m actually kind of excited to see if this happens to me…is that weird?

Squat toilets

I am SCARED of squat toilets. I’ve been told dozens of times to bring my own toilet paper, which doesn’t bode well. I’ve never used a squat toilet and apparently there’s a very specific art which I will have to quickly master!

Jawdropping sights

There’s no denying that places like the Forbidden City, the Hanging Monastery and the Great Wall of China are absolutely awe-inspiring. I’m still in disbelief that in less than a week I’ll be hiking the Great Wall and wandering the hutongs of Beijing – I can’t wait to have my mind blown and see how far back history can really go!

Terrifying & amazing food

I am a notoriously picky eater, and sadly my favorite ‘Chinese foods’ will not be on offer in China! I’m very nervous to see what I’ll eat on my trip – everyone says it’s amazing, but none of them are as picky as I am! I absolutely hate my pickiness, so I’m hoping this will be the trip that forces me out of my comfort zone. From dim sum to Xiao Long Bao in Shanghai, I’m simultaneously excited and terrified to test out my taste buds.

Crowds everywhere

I was told that New York was beyond crowded, but I never felt uncomfortable in the crowds of my favourite city in the world. I was also told that the crowds in China, especially Beijing and Shanghai, were nothing like I had ever experienced – but I guess we’ll have to see! I’m such a city girl that I tend to enjoy crowds, so I’m not sure what to expect from this. With the largest population of any country in the world, that’s a lot of people.

Getting lost

I am highly directionally challenged, but especially in my hometown! I somehow become more capable when I’m travelling, and I’m crossing my fingers that I can count on my navigational skills in China. I’ve pored over maps and attempted to memorize street names, but I think it’ll be rather challenging to find my way when I can’t even remember the name of the hutong where my hotel is. I’m fully expecting to get lost several times a day, but sometimes getting lost is the best thing you can do on a trip!

Newfoundland fjord image

Scams

Almost everything I’ve read about China has warned me about pickpockets and scams. I tend to think the best of strangers, so my instinct is to discount these stories, which isn’t a good idea! I’m expecting to be ripped off and I’m sure at least one scam artist will target the solo Western girl. Let’s just hope I’ve done enough research to be prepared for the most common scams and to protect myself from theft!

With all of this said, I’m definitely more excited for China than I am nervous. I can’t wait to go on this huge adventure, and look out for tons of posts with stories and tips from my time in Beijing, Datong, Xian, and Shanghai!

Check back with me here on the College Tourist to see how my expectations matched up.

Bethany Dickey

Acadia University | 15 stories

My name is Bethany and I’m an 18 year old university student in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada. I love shopping, travelling, planning imaginary trips, learning languages, making spreadsheets, and challenging myself every day. Follow along on my forays into solo travel with too many pairs of shoes and excessive itineraries!


2 responses to “Expectations for a first time trip to China.”

  1. iputmylifeonashelf says:

    I did my first solo trip to China back in May. It was so wonderful. It proved a lot of myths wrong and a lot of myths right. I can’t wait to read your follow up on what your thoughts were after seeing it!

  2. […] that changed me in so many ways. Before my trip, I wrote here on College Tourist about some of the things I was expecting to encounter, and I’m back today to tell you whether my expectations turned out to be true or […]

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