Paul Wakelin's First Trip to China: A First-Person Account
"The first city I visited was Beijing, which is the capital and very traditional, with many people not speaking or understanding English outside of the main hotels. The city is densely populated, with some 400,000 cars on the roads, which you can believe with the traffic and smog.
The second city I visited was Shanghai. I took a night train there from Beijing. Sharing a small confined cabin with four Chinese guys and making conversation in broken English and sign language throughout the night was quite unforgettable. Cabin lights are never turned off, though, and that made getting to sleep even more challenging.
Shanghai is more Westernized and quite amazing. Gambling, smoking, and social drinking are now all very popular in China. Just eating food at a street vendor can be totally entertaining, watching what goes on while enjoying a large bowl of delicious noodles on the street at a cost of just eighty cents.
China is also one of the safest places I have ever been. There is a large police presence and I felt very comfortable wandering around late at night—not that I often do that sort of thing!
Anyone traveling to China for business should take a lot of business cards. I ran out in the first couple of days as I underestimated the volume of people I would be introduced to. And by the way, the etiquette of how you present your card is very important: Present your business card with two hands to your counterparts.
Finally, if you don’t take a business card with the name of your hotel printed on it in Chinese, then you can pretty much forget about finding your way back to your hotel again! I made this fatal mistake and got in and out of three taxis trying to communicate the way home. In the end, I had to Google my hotel on my phone, ring the reception, and hand the phone to the taxi driver to take directions back to the hotel. Thank goodness for smartphones!"