How to Immerse Yourself in Chinese Culture
Chinese culture can be described as unique, different and quite extraordinary in comparison to what you might be used to, making it daunting to visit. With that in mind, you question how might someone visiting China fully immerse themselves within the culture? It’s simple really, you just need a willingness to experience new and wonderful things. Push yourself and enjoy every single second of it!
We have put together three ultimate top tips on how exactly to do this.
Eat like a local
First of all, it would be wrong to visit China and not attempt to try any traditional culinary delights. Initial impressions of Chinese food are perhaps amazing, especially if you're basing them on your local Chinese Takeaway, but there is so much more. Chinese food has an enormous scope and variety of tastes to satisfy your culinary needs. Most Chinese food joints in central China make their noodles completely from scratch, and one noodle special, popular amongst many, includes spinach noodles. Quite self-explanatory, these noodles are made from spinach, topped with ingredients of your choice.
Another favoured chinese dish is dumplings, often filled with either beef, pork or vegetables. These are probably not completely new to your food palette, but how Chinese locals eat them might be. Many locals submerge their dumplings in black vinegar with a chilli sauce for a bitter, sweet and spicy flavour. Maybe your thing, maybe not.
One last, and quite daring dish you might be willing to give a go is cold mixed tofu and pineapple aloe vera. Weird combination right? It is likely that you’ll be confronted with a brick of tofu flooded in a mix of oil, chilli and sesame, topped with green vegetables and followed by a side of sludgy cubes of aloe vera and sweet pineapple.
Where do you even begin?
Dress like a local
Unlike places like Japan and Korea, China doesn’t have one single national attire. This is because traditional clothing in China is completely diverse and differs from area to area.
A popular type of male clothing is called the Tang Zhuang, this is a single jacket, which is essentially the same as most mens jackets, just with additional Chinese elements. Walking through the streets of China, you're bound to see the Tang Zhuang.
A traditional piece of womenswear is the Han Fu, it comes from the original clothing of the Han Chinese, China’s most predominant ethnic group. The Han Fu consists of a yi, which is a narrow-cuffed, knee-length tunic with a sash and a narrow, ankle-length known as a chang. This is then worn with bixi, a long length of fabric that reaches the knees. Pretty complex right? The complexity of the Han Fu makes it difficult to wear casually, therefore, many of the youth of China have began integrating traditional elements into modern designs. Check out the local shops and perhaps treat yourself to a Han Fu inspired dress.
Live like a local
What constitutes living like a local? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, as there is no right or wrong way of visiting somewhere like China. The trick to living like a local is to almost pretend that you live there permanently, as though you are exploring your hometown. Live in the culture! This doesn't necessarily mean avoid tourist activities and sightseeing, but it might mean doing more ordinary things - try out the boho cafe round the street corner, make a visit to the funky jewellery shops down the lane, go for a hike or chat with the locals themselves. You might find yourself in a small kitchen of a ramsackle hutong learning how to cook spicy sichuan beans and noodles from scratch. Or you might be wandering through the 798 art district, packed with creative spaces exhibiting vibrant art. Or even hiking with a Chinese local.
Simply experience the local environment and make the most out of it.
You will be a local in no time!