So, I went to China last summer (the summer of 2012), before I went to Morocco for study abroad. In my rush to pack and organize for my semester of journalism, I never got to update my Chinese moments. Let's start with this list of TOP 10 standouts.
1. Chinese traffic is crazy. Trying to drive is like playing Mario Cart, except that there are constantly cars/trucks/bikes coming towards you, squeezing in front of you, etc. And that friggin' blue turtle shell? Yeah, it's ALWAYS THERE. Trying to cross the street is like playing Frogger. On expert. In double-time. (And public transportation isn't any better...)
2. People are just as likely to believe that everyone in the States lives in a mansion (which, given apartment costs in China, might as well be true), has had plastic surgery, and has a wardrobe full of designer items as they are to believe that the government has ... issues. If you don't believe me, check out weibo.com, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
3. When you go to a shopping center, please do not provoke the vendors. Please, for your safety, please. I witnessed three fights in the span of one hour. Mostly, it had to do with the vendor throwing punches (or items) at a disgruntled customer who had haggled over the price and then left. Seriously, if you do decide to buy and haggle on the price, you better be prepared to pay for it.
4. If you do not speak your mind or stand your ground, you run the risk of being scammed. I say this as an observation: anyone who is a tourist knows that their best chance of escaping harassment is looking like s/he knows what's going down. Otherwise, you run the risk of being scammed. So, please, please, please, be aware of your surroundings.
5. Chinese food rocks. Hard. All night long. There's so much to try, and if you know where to go, it's fresh, cheap and DELICIOUS. I had the privilege of experiencing authentic Taiwan egg custard tarts, rose pastries, fresh dumplings, and sixteen types of minority food, in the span of a day.
6. There are always fun things to do. Case in point: I went to a concert in Hangzhou (yay for Coca-Cola sponsorship), sang karaoke in Shanghai (even though Anthony Bourdain would have screamed "NO" as soon as someone said "Kara-"), went to the Fire Torch Festival in Kunming (which is basically a pyromaniac's wet dream. Seriously, over three tons of flammable materials), and went hiking in Chengde.
7. There is a fear of rabies. A legitimate, widespread, massive fear of rabies. I went to the hospital a few times (yay for family members and such... :/) and every time, even on Sunday, the rabies office was open. The hospital had so many cases of people being scratched or nipped by dogs and then coming in for a rabies shot, that they opened a office to deal with it. And the office was open 7 days a week, from 9am-5pm. There was always a wait.
8. If you think people in the US of A have a fear of immigrants, you need to meet some of the people I ran into. There is a FIERCE territorial desire to protect their city (or in some extreme situations, their neighborhood) from "outsiders." I learned that they define "outsiders" as anyone from a different province or city. This territorial thinking probably comes from a very traditional belief: that the family is the center of your world, and anyone who threatens the family will be dealt with accordingly.
9. As much as people may believe there is an ignorance and arrogance in Chinese society (which, honestly, every society has), there is also a ruthlessness in all aspects of business. I saw two beggars/panhandlers going at it, because one stated that the other had stolen his spot. I heard a lady talk about watching a pickpocket threaten someone who wanted to go to the police. My cousin came home badly shaken up because a female panhandler cornered her on the subway and threatened her with a pot.
10. The fast food culture is as integral to Chinese society as it is to the States. While I really don't like Chinese KFC, or McDonald's, I'm very hooked on Starbucks. Their desserts? Delicious.
As an aside: While staying in my hostel in Shanghai, I met two guys from Chicago, IL. We got to talking. Interestingly, I introduced myself as Canadian, and they decided to disabuse all of my notions of the states. Their biggest point: "It's bulls**t that people say there's hunger in America! There's a f**king dollar menu. There's no way in hell anyone's going hungry." They were there because their uncle had bought them a three month vacation. Draw your own conclusions.