Chinese culture and its influences can be found practically all over the world thanks to the large number of migrants, though many travelers are still amazed by the differences between what they're used to and the real thing.
While it might seem easier to simply stick to the more popular attractions in China, breaking free of the tourist bubble and immersing yourself in the local culture is a must if you're looking for truly authentic Chinese experiences.
On that note, there's no better way to experience Chinese culture than to get stuck in and engage with the locals. Here are five local activities to help you experience Chinese culture.
Visit a local school
Due to the differences between Chinese and Western culture, national conditions, and development levels, education in China is significantly different from that in the West. Those of you still studying might especially be interested in learning how Chinese students live and study.
You might be wondering about things such as what time Chinese students get up in the morning, what time does school start/end and what do Chinese schoolchildren eat for lunch. Visiting a Chinese school is a great way to meet some of the local students and catch a glimpse of what it's like to study under the Chinese system.
Visits to local kindergartens, primary, secondary, and vocational schools can be easily organized by China Highlights and make for a great family day out. If you're a teacher, you can even try your hand at giving the children a foreign language lesson or teaching them games played in schools back home.
Alternatively, you might want to take a seat and see for yourself how Chinese students learn a foreign language. It's a great opportunity for any school-age children to interact with local students, pick up some of the language, and perhaps even make a Chinese friend!
Visit a hospital
The novel coronavirus in late 2019 (COVID-19) has increased global awareness of the Chinese healthcare system and medical insurance. It's even raised many questions among travelers including: What are Chinese hospitals like? How do doctors see their patients? What should we do when we get to the hospital? What's the hospital protocol?
Hospitals in China are organized based on a three-tier system depending on a hospital's ability to provide medical care, medical education, and conduct research. The three tiers are then further divided into grades A, B, or C, according to factors including the level of service provided, the size of the hospital, and the medical equipment available.
Like in many other countries, Chinese hospitals are either state-owned or privately owned and specialty hospitals, such as those specializing in maternity, children, or Chinese medicine, are also common. Visitors to China tend to be particularly interested in hospitals specializing in traditional Chinese medicine.
It's amazing how much about a country's culture you can learn through its healthcare system, and a visit to a traditional Chinese medicine hospital is highly recommended for those looking for a unique cultural experience. You'll learn more about how illnesses in China are diagnosed, as well as the healing benefits of traditional techniques like scraping, cupping, acupuncture, and massage therapy and how they play a key role in Chinese culture.
Learn to cook Chinese dishes
Chinese food and the differences between Chinese and Western diets are both things that spark the curiosity of most who visit China. You might even be surprised to learn that some of the Chinese dishes you may be familiar with were specifically created to suit Western tastes, such as the beloved General Tso's Chicken - a dish that's practically unknown in China!
Moreover, when traveling through China you'll most likely pick up on a few differences in the way food is eaten. For example, soup in the West is generally eaten as an appetizer at the start of a meal, while the Chinese prefer to enjoy their soup at the end.
You might also notice some distinct differences in meal preparation and cooking techniques, things that might not have been so apparent when dining out in or ordering takeout from Chinese restaurants back home.
Cooking classes are becoming an increasingly popular activity among those interested in learning more about China's culture through its cuisine. If you're looking to take it a step further, keep an eye out cooking classes held by residents in their own homes, you can't get more authentic than that!
Learn to play traditional Chinese games
The Chinese have always been sociable people. Despite the country's unrivaled technological advancement and the increasing popularity of personal electronic devices, the majority of Chinese would rather spend time socializing with others than sitting alone at home. As a result, many of the country's ancient pastimes have been preserved and are still enjoyed to this very day.
From popular board games like Go and Chinese chess to kids' games like Chinese jump rope and Zhuā Guǎi, or Jacks, China offers plenty of options to keep people busy. Most locals are more than happy to share their traditions with foreign visitors, so don't be shy to ask the next time you take a stroll through the park!
Stay in a local home
Staying with a local family or in a homestay is a must if you're after the ultimate local experience. Ditch the boring chain hotels in the busy city centers and experience life in a typical Chinese household.
Most homestays in China are representative of middle-class Chinese living in local residential areas and offer a unique insight into the daily life of the average Chinese citizen. Join in on family activities like grocery shopping in the local fresh markets, participate in traditional morning exercises, help out with dinner, or simply have a chat over a steaming cup of tea. The choice is yours!
If you prefer a bit more privacy, renting out a traditional house in a residential neighborhood or rural village is also an option worth considering. Whatever you choose to do, it'll undoubtedly offer a better representation of what living in China is like than any hotel.
Experience the Real China
Our fully customizable tours offer you the best chance of experiencing Chinese culture and taking part in the local activities mentioned above. Don't settle for a typical tourist experience, immerse yourself in the culture and experience China as a local.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about adding these activities to your next vacation in China. Many of our tours feature local experiences and can be fully customized to suit your individual needs.
Some of our popular tours featuring local activities include: