One of my previous posts, How To Survive As a Foreigner in China, has taken on a life of its own, popping up on several other China blogs and garnering The Otherside a slew of new readers, and while I’m flattered and excited to get the exposure, it hasn’t come without a few drawbacks  A lot of expats have taken what I wrote the wrong way, citing it as ethnocentric and a bit lazy of me.  I want to remind my readers that the title of the piece was How to Survive…, not how to make the most of one’s experience.  I also want to point out the main intention of my post was to poke fun at many of the typical complaints that foreigners have while living in China, the lack of good coffee, the general unseemliness of public bathrooms, the constant blaring car horns, etc., while at the same time encouraging a different outlook on right and wrong, rude and polite, clean and dirty.  I was admittedly in a pretty crummy mood when I wrote this post, and as a result I suppose that I tended to be a bit heavy on the more negative stuff, which is why I’ve posted this follow-up, How to Make the Most of Your Time in China.

Drink lots of tea.  Bring a good pair of shoes.  Bring a pair of quick dry underwear, drying machines are few and far between and a clean set of underwear is always a good thing to have.  Read Confucius.  Read Mao Zedong.  Read the Economist.  Visit the Mao-zelium and try to guess whether it’s really him or just a wax doll.  Learn to play badminton.  Do your best to drink baiju, and if you can’t drink it straight, mix it with your beer like the locals do.  Do your best to fight the urge to eat something sweet after every meal, that’s the MSG talking.

Carry your own tissue paper with you wherever you go. Carry a notebook.  Carry Imodium; it may come in handy.  Eat everything in sight; your stomach will get used to it eventually.  Play basketball.  Don’t call home every day.  Call home once a month.  Avoid other foreigners, the conversation will most likely turn to the inconveniences of life in China.  Remind yourself every day that the culture you are submersed in is more than twice as old as Christ himself.  Avoid stray dogs at all costs.  They are not friendly.

Do your best to learn a little Chinese; it’s easier than you think.  Ask your friends for a cool Chinese name. Something involving tiger, dragon, or yellow-hair is preferred.  Don’t wear a watch.  Don’t worry about missing out on Facebook, your friends will be twice as happy to hear from you when you get back home.  Ask questions.  Ask lots of questions.  Practice using chopsticks, this will impress the locals.  Talk to the old people.  They have seen more than you can imagine.  Talk to the young people. They will see more than you can imagine.  Get used to eating noodles for breakfast and eggs for dinner.

Buy a pair of knockoff Nikes, but inspect the quality with a keen eye beforehand.  Bargain your ass off.  It’s a good deal of fun for both parties involved, as well as a good way to practice your Chinese.  Keep a journal.  Get sleep when you can because there will be plenty of sleepless nights, especially when you travel.  Don’t use your own cultural beliefs as a yardstick.  Question the values you were brought up with and do your best to come down on one side or another, knowing that it may be impossible.  Do your best to look past the pollution, the human rights violations, the mistreatment of animals, and try to find the root of these issues instead of simply assuming it’s because Chinese people don’t know any better.  Meditate.  Go into a pharmacy and try a traditional remedy for that nasty rash.  Go fly a kite.

Get up early one day and visit the park.  Learn a little Tai Chi.  Make a list of every thing you want to buy and wait until the last week to buy it all.  Get on a bus to nowhere and get off when you get there.  Don’t be offended by people telling you you’re fat.  Wrap your arms around a friend of the same-sex and find comfort when they do the same to you.  Get a massage, as often as you would like.  Avoid massage parlors with a red light out in front.  When you’re feeling lonely, go and find a massage parlor with a red light out in front.

Learn how to cook traditional Chinese food.  Buy a bike (most important.)  Keep a list of all the weird foods you’ve eaten; it makes for amazing dinner conversation.  Sit in one public place for at least three hours and write down everything you see.  Try and set up a homestay, your hosts will be more generous than you can imagine.  Fight, literally, over paying for the bill at a restaurant.

Reserve one day a week for doing nothing.  Reserve one day for waking up, hopping on your bike, and riding off into the distance with no particular plan or destination.  Drink plenty of water, but not from the tap.  Don’t be afraid to accept any and all dinner invitations.  Have a list of go-to excuses to get out of situations that make you uncomfortable.  Try not to use them.  Make mistakes and learn from them.  Get dirty.  Get lost.  Get confused, angry, homesick, broken-hearted, brave.  Push yourself to the very limit and then beyond it.  Remember that in China, tomorrow is never the same as today.  Eat dog meat; you’ll be all the wiser and more experienced for it.

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