Our readers share nuggets of wisdom learned the hard way
"How to speak Chinese! Yiiikes."
"If English isn't your native language, your English will probably improve faster than your Chinese does. If it is your native language, your English will probably erode faster than your Chinese improves."
"You don't have to get a prescription for many medications here (or Hong Kong). Most pharmacies will give you what you need."
"Bicycle locks and padlocks from OS should be able to foil even the best of Chinese thieves. Chinese-made ones won't."
"If you're larger than the average local, don't even try to go shopping for clothes. It's totally humiliating and traumatic, especially if you don't speak Chinese and shopkeepers resort to body language to indicate that you're too fat, your feet are too big, etc."
"You need a proxy sever on your computer to read many blogs and use Youtube and Facebook!"
"You should never step on manhole covers; they are potentially very dangerous—a friend's mother broke her ankle in one."
"Watch your phone, wallet, etc. like a hawk—even where you wouldn't imagine they could be stolen, like at work or waiting at intersections to cross the street."
"Avoid domestic travel during the holidays. You'll end up more stressed than when you started. If you have to get out of Chengdu, go abroad."
"Before you travel to other parts of the country, top up your phone! Phone cards purchased in other areas don't work, so bring refill cards from Chengdu with you. If you're stuck, you can e-mail a friend in Chengdu (or text before you run out) and get them to add money to your phone. You might be able to go to a China Mobile shop and get them to add money to your account or if you're staying in one place long enough just buy a local SIM card. If you've bought a card, and it doesn't work, go to a local China Mobile straight away ... don't wait until you get back to Chengdu because they will tell you that it's not their problem."
"Do not get a pet cat from off the street ... ouch, ringworm!"
"One word: engineering."
"Construction sounds are unavoidable at all hours of day and night. Get a family-pack of earplugs."
"Don't wear flip flops in the rain. You will break your neck."
"Splurge and get the liquid laundry detergent. Your clothes will last a lot longer than if you use the powder, and since you might not be able to replace them any time soon, you'll be grateful."
"How broken up so many roads are ... if you're doing serious biking, it better be on a mountain bike, not a road bike."
"Learn how to put your bicycle chain back onto the gear by yourself. You never know when it's going to fall off, and there might not be a repair guy nearby to help you."
"Understand the basic mechanics of a gas water heater so that when your shower suddenly goes cold you know what to do."
"When it comes to telecommunications (mobile, Internet, etc.), stick to the company with the monopoly. The service will be cheaper and better than the underdogs'."
"Sometimes China can be a lonely place. Try to make friends with your neighbors, bao'an and shop owners in your community."
"You will never be accepted as a local no matter how many years you live here."
"Make regular trips to the countryside outside your city for that nature fix and some peace and quiet."
"Learn to read a map yourself because asking others often results in vague or wrong directions!"
"Don't try ordering the dishes from your favorite Chinese restaurant in your home country here. You'll just cause confusion and/or disappointment. Actually, the same goes for the Western restaurants—they're not serving the same stuff, either."
"Just because the beer's so cheap, doesn't mean you should drink it all the time."
"Learn to be patient and tolerant. Don't expect to get anywhere or do anything in a hurry—man man zou!"
"There are lots of substitutes for things you can't get here—baking soda for deodorant, oranges and a blender for fresh-squeezed juice, etc. You just need to be a little creative or good at using Google."
"China is more expensive than the west if you want to maintain the same lifestyle as you did there."
"It might be cheaper to start a company in China than in the west, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's any easier to make money."
"Learn to love the numbing-ness of Sichuan pepper."
"Fresh (and even dried) herbs are pretty pricey here. Best to bring seeds from home and grow your own."
"For vegetarians, it's very difficult to find plain iron supplements—most are only in multivitamins."
"Ohmigosh ... no ovens! How am I gonna bake my brownies?!"
"Even though China is the land of tea, it's darn expensive to get some nice Earl Grey or any other British-style teas."
Thanks to input from Jessie Brett, Bobbi Fisher, Mike Turner, and the anonymous folks who contributed to this list. This list was compiled from lines sent in by our readers and the information contained herein has neither been verified by nor is necessarily endorsed by CHENGDOO Magazine. This Q&A was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine issue 26 ("how to 3.0")
Previous article: Beyond the Supermarket: Chengdu's specialty markets
Next article: Panda Electronic music festival update: schedule, tickets and directions