Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Five things you might not know about…China

Picture source: Wikimedia

In this blog post we take a look at some of the interesting facts which make China, ranked 11th in our 2012 Expat Explorer league tables, such a culturally fascinating country. These little-known facts contribute to many of the country’s cultural references and sense of community.

As an expat it is important to show your interest in the cultural idiosyncrasies and differentiate yourself by knowing a little more than the average tourist. If nothing else, they may even prove to be great conversation starters. 

1. One time zone

Picture source: Wikimedia

China is the third largest country in the world and Chinese people now account for about one in every five people in the world. Despite its size, those travelling cross-country needn’t worry about jetlag as the entire place is located in the same time zone. This means that expats living there benefit from being able to travel around the diverse regions without spending weeks catching up on sleep afterwards. Expats in China also noticed they travelled more since relocating. According to the findings of last year’s Expat Explorer survey, 78% of expats say they are travelling more compared with the global average of 61%.

2. Red is the new green

Colours carry different associations in different cultures and it is always good to have a grasp whether they have any symbolic significance in your new country. Although many Westerners view green as a lucky colour given its association with four leaf clovers, nature and life, the Chinese see red as the colour of luck signaling happiness, joy and celebrations. It is also tradition to wear red during Chinese New Year and to give lucky red packets (and indeed receive) for birthdays and weddings.

3. The sky is the limit

The Chinese are famous for their innovative spirit, and they have invented some real treasures over time. These include paper, gunpowder, the compass and - one that is especially close to our hearts - the kite.

Picture source: Flickr

While we might all associate kites with windy days on the beach as a child, they were not invented with such innocent intent. When they were first created more than 3,000 years ago, they were used to scare off opponents in battle. Marco Polo also tells us that kites were used among the Chinese to predict the success of a voyage.

4. Toilet paper
Did you know that the Chinese are also responsible for giving us toilet paper?

Picture source: wikimedia

Toilet paper was first invented in China in the 14th century but at this point, it was only used by emperors. Although we’re not all of imperial descent, that is one invention that certainly caught on!

5. Good fortunes?

Picture source: Flickr

Despite the common misconception, one of the things the Chinese did not invent is the fortune cookie. The first fortune cookies appeared in America and while they are often served as a dessert in restaurants in the US, they are not commonplace in China. Make sure you don’t fall for this misconception and you should be stood in good stead.

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