It’s no secret that China has gotten a bad rep. Western media constantly reminds us of the evils of its authoritarian government and the severe environmental degradation plaguing the country. While I don’t deny the importance of these serious issues, I believe that the attributes of this extraordinary country also deserve to be highlighted. During the 6 months I spent in China, I fell in love with its people, their culture, and the beautiful diverse land they call home.
I was lucky enough to see China at its best. Here are some tips on how you too can get the authentic Chinese experience:
 Leave your inhibitions at home
Culture shock is inevitable in China, so prepare yourself–especially if you want to go outside of the tourist bubble. Hygiene, cleanliness, personal space, and comfort are four things that you may have to sacrifice on. It’s best to keep reminding yourself that it’s all just part of the adventure!
 Do your homework
China has a long, rich history, and it really pays off to at least read the cliff notes–it’s sure to enrich your Chinese experience. At the very least, try to have a general understanding of Imperial China and the Cultural Revolution. You may also want to read a bit about Confucius, if you’re interested in going to his hometown of Qufu, which I loved visiting (see photos below) and will discuss more in later posts.
 Pick up some Mandarin
Even if you just learn a few words, it’ll be worth it when you see the faces of the locals light up–trust me. In my experience, Chinese people–especially those living outside of the main tourist centres–love to hear foreigners speak their language. Besides, if you’re planning to venture off the beaten track, you’ll need to pick up the basics just to get around. Hardly anyone speaks English, and it shows in some of the pretty hilarious ‘Chinglish’ signs you’ll see around you.
 Free your taste buds
Real Chinese food may not be what you expect. A lot of it is very different from what you may be used to eating out of take-out containers in the West. However, don’t be afraid to try new things. You’ll probably be surprised by how delicious authentic Chinese food really is.
 Go where the locals go
Not only is this true when it comes to restaurants, but travel destinations in China, as well. Some places that are immensely popular with Chinese tourists are practically overlooked by foreigners. I think it’s a shame because those were some of the most amazing places I visited in China. My favourites were Qufu, Zoucheng, Tai’an, and Tai Shan in Shandong province. I will write more about these places in future posts, but for now, I leave you below with a gallery of some of the photographs I took there.
As always, happy travels!