Cultural Notes from Two Weeks in China

While in China, I took notes on cultural quirks I found interesting. This is a pretty limited outsider’s understanding, so take everything with a grain of salt.

Nighttime in Dalian, China


  • Mobile payment via WeChat is extremely prevalent (think Venmo, but you can scan a QR code to get the payment address); all stores accept WeChat, many of which don’t accept card
Scan here to pay your restaurant bill
  • WeChat also functions as social media and chat, cab hailing, and more.
  • QR in general is used on everything, usually linking to websites of app download links. There are mobile apps for EVERYTHING.
Don’t forget to download KFC’s app
  • Most stores and restaurants have free WiFi that can be connected to if you have either WeChat or a phone numberAs a result of the above, mobile is super important in China and mobile adoption is much stronger than in the US


  • People almost exclusively drink whole milk, reduced fat milk is seen as being cheated of the best part. Milk either comes in plastic bags or cardboard cartons, almost never plastic jugs
  • People eat all sorts of salty foods for breakfast including stir fried vegetables, wonton soup, noodles, for a few examples. There are some food items that are generally only eaten for breakfast, but there isn’t much of a strict idea of “breakfast foods” like there is in the US (eggs, bacon/sausage, toast, pancakes etc.)
Had this dish as part of my breakfast a few times
  • There are food and snack vendors EVERYWHERE, literally entire streets of just restaurants and quick vendors
  • You can get a decent priced meal for under $2USD to ~$6USD depending on location, above that is usually more formal sitdown stuff
6RMB (~$1 USD) KFC breakfast porridge
  • Moped-based food delivery is huge in the cities
  • Restaurants will usually only give one menu for a table
  • Restaurants will usually serve hot water, not chilled and pretty much never iced
  • People very frequently have beverages with their meals (both at home and eating out), whereas “just water” is very common in US
Soy sauce aisle (one of two) at supermarket


  • Adidas and New Balance are probably the most popular clothing and shoes brands
  • Vans Old Skools shoes are everywhere
  • Tons of knock-off brand name products (fake Gucci shirts, Adidas NMD and Yeezy 350 v2, Balenciaga trainers are most common)
Magenta Yeezy with NMD sole, nice
  • A lot of off-brand clothes with stolen design elements (especially random shoes with fake Adidas Boost soles)
  • Streetwear style is popular with younger population, most popular brands are: Adidas, Bape, Yohji Yamamoto
  • Black/white and camo items are common
  • A lot of people have their hair dyed brown or bleached blond


  • Subway and bus systems are very important and quite cheap
  • Taxis are common, typically at a flat rate of 10RMB (~$1.50 USD) for 3km or under and then metered after 3km
  • You can easily hail a taxi on the side of the road, but Didi (acquired Uber China) is commonly called from phone as well
  • Bike sharing services (Ofo, Mobike, Bluegogo) are everywhere (in Beijing at least) and super cheap (0.5–1RMB per ride/~8–16c USD)
Aforementioned bikes
  • Private car ownership is very common now as well. In more residential areas, some roads that used to be two-way are now one-way to accommodate lack of parking infrastructure
  • Tons of people seem to own/lease expensive cars (Audi, Benz, BMW, Volkswagen seem to be the favorites in that order). I have no idea where all of these people get the money, as the cars are significantly more expensive than in the US


  • Tips don’t exist and tax is always already included
  • Most adult men smoke cigarettes (close to or greater than 50%), very few women smoke
  • People don’t leash their dogs when they walk them; people generally like small cute dogs
  • Most of the time interaction with strangers are transactional and lack hello/how are you/please/thank you
  • After you buy something/are leaving a restaurant, people tell you “慢走” — lit. “walk slowly” ~ take it easy
  • Average haircuts are about $5–7 USD (not sure if more for women); mid-upscale salons run $11–17 USD; barbers use primarily scissors and only clippers for sideburns; you get your hair shampooed and massaged/washed as part of the price
  • People tend to talk really loudly
  • Children tend to be kind of wild in public, especially boys
  • Not uncommon to see people of all ages squatting (“Asian squat”) to rest, wait, or have a cigarette
This is pretty normal