Ever since the country opened its door to the rest of the world way back in the late seventies, China has experienced rapid economic growth and even faster cultural change. During the last decade, even more tourists started flocking to the country in order to experience its culture, and explore its rich history.

the busy streets of Beijing

While it is true that the west has deeply influenced the modern Chinese culture, and that the country has modernized in recent years, there are some things that still might surprise an unsuspected visitor. Therefore, if you’re planning to visit the country in the next couple of months, here are eight things you should definitely know about China.

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Reading time: 4 min

“Let’s just chill for a little bit,” I’d say to my ever patient wife. We’d lean back, sip on the local brew, be it coffee or tea or beer or coconut, then the people-watch marathon would start without a predefined end.

From one cafe to the next (if possible), meeting and talking to whomever might be around us: that’s how I like to travel. Throw in a few sights here and there and that’s the perfect recipe for a  great trip.

I tend to infuriate traveling friends whose mission is to check off as many things from the “list” as possible. Some of them have an acute fear of missing out. For me, I fear moving too fast and not having the time to feel the energy of the environment, to hear the music in the air, to see the human interactions of those who live there, and to understand more about the culture I’m in. This is important to me because I’m constantly looking for myself, for an evolved form, one that understands a little more about the world than the previous self. It’s a learning process.

I’ve intently watched a mother doting on her son in Peru, a boisterous family having dinner in Dubrovnik, a group of good samaritans giving leftovers to an old homeless man in Shanghai, partiers dancing the night away New York, sport fans cheering on their hometown team in Seattle, outdoors enthusiasts marveling the vast landscapes at Banff National Park in Canada, businessmen and women hustling to work in Tokyo, locals enjoying a slow Sunday morning in Mexico, an elderly lady paddling her simple boat back home from the Floating Market in Thailand, and so many more such instances.

These examples offer nothing dramatic. Nobody did anything extraordinary. At least, nothing to write home about. But these simple moments provide a common thread for which we can all attach our string to create the web of the human experience. I’ve concluded, after years of idly sitting and watching other humans go about their lives, that the vast majority of people (if not all people) share common bonds irrespectively of their environmental makeup such as religion, ethnicity, political leaning, and etc.

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Reading time: 5 min

Like clockwork, my body wakes itself at 6:55 AM every morning, 5 minutes before the 7 AM alarm goes off and the subsequent “In My Memory” tune plays to welcome the day. I’ve learned to cherish those 5 minutes like the blood that flows through my veins. Somehow, it always feels like that “extra” time would last forever and the dreaded morning drive to work would never come.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy what I do. At 31, I’m finally hitting my stride at work. At the end of the day, I feel personally responsible for bringing every person who takes to the sky home safely. Isn’t the feeling of making a real difference a hallmark of a “good” job? I suppose it is, but 9 years into my career, I’m at a fork in the road with what seems like 20 paths I could take, and each one drastically different than the other.

The easiest and safest path to follow would be the one most taken: stay the course and retire 25 years from now as one of those career old timers. I could further my skills in engineering or even try my hands at management, sales, or join the corporate ranks. But there’s something about that morning drive to work that seems to deflate my enthusiasm before I get to the door, slowly chipping away at the stone of motivation, as do waves on a rocky shore.

Should I quit to live out my days watching palm trees on a hammock somewhere in the Caribbean? This pervasive thought always seems to find its way with the second cup of coffee after lunch. Perhaps the nagging feeling would be remedied if company-sanctioned naps were implemented, or perhaps it’s the finality and certainty of the career life that frightens me the most. Life would certainly throw its curveballs here and there, but this is it. This is what I’ll be doing for the next 25 years. The thought is truly scary.

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Reading time: 7 min
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