During the summer of 2016 I decided I wanted to travel around China but I really wanted to experience the culture and learn the language so I opted for a 16 day organised tour travelling from Hong Kong to Beijing where I had the chance to immerse myself in the Chinese culture rather than simply view the sights.
Firstly my parents visited China on their honeymoon so I’ve always heard stories about the country and wanted to experience it myself. Secondly I really wanted to test myself to begin to learn a new language. Having already learnt French and Spanish I wanted a challenge, which Mandarin definitely turned out to be. Thirdly I had never visited Asia so wanted to check that off my bucket list and finally China has a very diverse and interesting history and culture that I was desperate to learn more about
Having already travelled independently a couple of times I wasn’t too worried before setting off however not knowing any of the language did concern me. Normally I can get by with the little language I know, however this time I knew there would be a very strong language barrier so I bought a Mandarin book and started learning some basic phrases. Another worry was the food, I’m a vegetarian and my family and friends had plenty of horror stories of ordering food in China and getting something they weren’t expecting, so the first mandarin phrase I learnt was how to explain I don’t eat meat. Finally I was concerned about the cultural differences and how to avoid being accidentally disrespectful when visiting places of worship etc. however there are lots of websites and blogs online that explain what is culturally appropriate and inappropriate in difference areas of china, and our guide made sure we knew what was culturally appropriate in each town.
From a practical perspective I learnt a lot about Chinese history and Chinese culture, I began to learn mandarin and hope to continue this in the UK, I attempted to learn Kung Fu, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese cooking, experienced cormorant fishing, slept on the Great wall of China and volunteered at an orphanage. More importantly to me I feel as though I have learnt more about myself, I now feel more independent and more willing to experience new cultures. I am more open-minded to new experiences and look forward to travelling to equally as exciting countries in the coming years.