10 things that I learned whilst living in China that surprised the shit out of me

I moved to China.

One way ticket Stockholm Shanghai

Zero friends there.


Their honesty

“You look extremely tired today” or “You’ve got a new spot in your face”. Thanks, I’m taking notes.

If I would rock up at the office one day.. and look a tad tired, I could count on hearing it. Another fact I learned was that you’ll know if a pregnant woman will give birth to a boy or a girl. According to some of the Chinese people I got to know, a pregnant woman automatically gets uglier if she’s about to give birth to a boy rather than a girl.


Well, the honesty doesn’t go down well when it comes to business

Cab drivers will make you pay up to 3x if they realise that this is your first time in the country(ofc this happened to me on my very first day) and there is a video showing how a fruit seller makes a man buy old fruit. The list continues. These things simply made me think twice when it comes to trusting people I don’t know.


The technology is far ahead the western world but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Google are still blocked and you can’t access it without an illegal VPN service which you need to pay for

China, one of the most highly technical developed countries in the world still has the slowest internet connection due to all of the blockings. That surprised me for real.

I shot this one from the bar at the Financial Tower in Pudong

The Contrasts

One of the most famous nightclubs in Shanghai has a shark aquarium. It’s on the 74th floor in a skyscraper. I”ll let that speak for itself.

Dinner could cost you £1 or, have the most expensive restaurant experience of your life.

Be surrounded by some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world and just a few blocks away, walk among the oldest houses in Shanghai with the richest history.

Walk on the street and get 1000 new impressions.


The cab drivers do not speak english. Not a single world.

Therefore you need to have the address on a piece of paper or on your phone. Otherwise you’re screwed. Just like I was once when my phone was dead.

One happy chap in Shanghai 2015

New Years Eve in China = Cash flow

Every new year, Chinese people get red envelopes with money from their family members. The red color symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount, such as in 40, 400 and 444, as the pronunciation of the word four is homophonous to the word death. I think this red envelope thing is something we should adopt in the western world.

I’ve never felt more safe in my life

Penalties and punishments for committing a crime in China are so brutal that less crimes are committed than in other countries. That’s what someone told me. Anyhow, I was never scared whilst living in China. Which is weird, because it’s so very far away from home.


Never wear a green hat in meetings

In Mandarin, the words for “green hat” sound remarkably similar to the Mandarin word for “cuckold”. The reason the Chinese — men in particular — don’t wear green hats is because it’s a symbol that your wife is unfaithful to you. If you wear a green hat, rest assured that you will be mocked (well, maybe not to your face, but there will certainly be snickers behind your back). In fact, hundreds of years ago family members of prostitutes were required to wear green hats — a stigma on their family reputation then, and an enduring cultural norm today. It surprised me how this still applies to today’s business meetings in China.

The Great Wall

Losing a pitch in China, that’s nothing you would wanna talk about

I was interning at an agency in Shanghai and one day I asked if we had won the Nespresso pitch. The Art Director said that she didn’t know and she wasn't willing ask our Creative Director but she assumed we had lost the pitch since the CD had not said anything about it. She told me that this was a bit of an unspoken rule, if you lose a pitch. Don’t brag about it. Don’t mention it.

The Yellow Mountains

Unless you get the four tones right, it’s impossible to learn Mandarin

As soon as I moved to China, I tried to learn the language. I realised, that even though I practiced some words a hundred times, that wouldn’t take me anywhere. The language uses four tones to clarify the meanings of words. Since many characters have the same sound, tones are used to differentiate words from each other.


China forever changed my perspective and way of seeing things. I became humble(maybe because of that time I lived without electricity for a weekend and it was winter), broadened my understanding for how cultures work and why people do certain things in certain ways.

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