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John Abbot is co-owner of Married to a lovely Chinese Lady and living in China, John knows and respects China, Chinese Women, Chinese People and Chinese Culture. His blog will include good stuff about Online Dating, Chinese Women, International Relationships and Things Chinese. Join John Abbot on Google+
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A Canadian in China    

By John Abbot
3503 Views | 10 Comments | 5/18/2013 4:17:45 PM

Canadian guy in his China apartment in winter. This is not a joke!

Recently a good member (I consider all Canadians to be good members) posted a forum thread entitled "Travel for a Canadian to China". I wrote everything below as a comment, then thought "What the hey, I don't have much time to write my blogs anymore, so why not post this as a blog instead". I suggest you visit the thread and then come back for my response on China travel. I'm sure there'll also be a number of other comments of equal or greater value than mine from some of the other Expats in China who hang out on CLM, so you should check back on the thread and the comments here occasionally if you too intend to travel to China..

Now, here's a few tips based on my experience which is considerable but also maybe a little out of date. I did most of my to and fro travel between Canada and China in my first 5 years here, not so much in the last 5 years.

1. Never travel to/in China during the three major holidays, being Chinese New Year (dates change annually), Labor Day (the week of May 1st) and National Day (the week of October 1st). Otherwise you will be crushed in the crowds of Chinese traveling within China, and costs will be at a premium, especially hotels.

2. Avoid coming in the summer unless you intend to only visit the far north. Otherwise you will find yourself living in a sauna/steam room. Every 2 block walk will necessitate another shower.

3. Avoid coming in the winter unless you plan to only visit south China. Otherwise you will freeze your Canadian butt off. Not that it is colder in China than Canada in the winter, but in China indoor heating is still a luxury and not the norm. It turns out that we Canadians are actually sissy-boys when it comes to surviving the real cold of an unheated house or apartment.

4. Believe it or not, watch for the sales on Air Canada and book when they're having a good sale. There are one or two Chinese Airlines now making the haul, but most times the lack of leg room is excruciating and the prices are no better. The American airlines making the trip out of Vancouver generally suck, as they do travelling out of America. The other huge benefit if Air Canada is that usually you can fly into Beijing and out of either Shanghai or Hong Kong, or vice versa, without paying extra. $800 plus tax (return) is a good sale price. Maybe a bit more now, but that's what I paid about 8 months ago.

The good news is that the the service is pretty good on AC. The bad news is that it ceases to exist about half way to China because the 70 year old flight attendants are tiring out fast (God, I hope none of them are reading this).

5. I've been to Beijing 9 times since coming to China, and I hated it every time except the time I was there after Justin Mitchell (our blogger) started working in BJ for ChinaGlobal (or something like that) as an Editor. Justin showed me the real places to see and the real restaurants and pubs to visit, and I loved that visit. But for me, do the Great Wall, Forbidden City and a couple of other touristy things as quickly as you can and move on to nicer, more interesting cities. Justin would disagree I'm sure.

6. Don't miss at least 1 night on the Bund in Shanghai. And also at least a day there in which you go across the river to spend some time in what are now 3 of the tallest buildings in the world. I know you're going to China intending to see some history, but this is where you will be looking at the future of China, and it'll knock your socks off, for better or for worse.

7. Spend at least 2 full days in Hangzhou, the capitol of Zhejiang Province, and one of the favourite places in China for Chinese tourists. Many of the Emperors, including Emperor Mao, had their summer palaces in Hangzhou and made annual or semi-annual sojourns there to grab a dozen or so beautiful Hangzhou women as additions to their harems. Hangzhou is renowned for having some of the most beautiful of all Chinese women.

My Chinese home is in Hangzhou, and I've yet to have a visitor who wasn't stunned by the quality and the beauty of the city. Again, don't come to Hangzhou during a major holiday because you will not be alone, but at all other times it is beautiful and tranquil. I am currently on a 1 year sabbatical from China (about half finished) but if I am back before you travel I'd be happy to show you a bit of Hangzhou.

8. I personally love Yunnan Province, especially Dali and Lijiang. They are out of your way, but in my opinion worth it. Besides having enjoyable "Old Towns" at their centers, they are both surrounded by fascinating cultural and geographical places to visit.

9. Do the touristy stuff to get it out of your system, but think of a 2 to 3 week visit as a first taste of China, and figure on coming back either frequently or for a very long stay. If possible try to spend a day or 2 in a small village meeting locals. It will likely only be possible if you have Chinese connections in China who you can trust (and I emphasize TRUST).

10. I have lived in China for over 10 years now, and I would say that I have seen at the very most about 20% of what would be required to have a true understanding of the answer to "What is China?" I doubt that any westerner can ever get the whole 100% required to understand this amazing culture/country. Bear that in mind when planning your trip, so you won't be surprised when you leave China scratching your head and saying "What just happened to me?"

11. Not everyone wants to come back to China after a first visit, but I guarantee you will, or you would not be on CLM as a member, nor on this forum posting this thread or reading this blog. You will be back, so don't overplan your first trip. Wherever you go don't try to spread yourself to thin. Soak up a few good places, rather than barely scratching the surface of a dozen.

12. Come to China with a completely open mind and lose all your preconceptions. Otherwise the shock upon landing may blow your mind.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2013-05-18 18:42:09 by Apinkapple @Apinkapple

Hi,Mr John,
You said you have been in China over 10 years.But something in China is not true in your description.The following is your words:

Avoid coming in the winter unless you plan to only visit south China. Otherwise you will freeze your Canadian butt off. Not that it is colder in China than Canada in the winter, but in China indoor heating is still a luxury and not the norm. It turns out that we Canadians are actually sissy-boys when it comes to surviving the real cold of an unheated house or apartment.

I wonder where you got the fact that in China indoor heating is still a luxury and not the norm. Maybe it was the fact that truly existed 60 years ago in China.

I was born and grew up in the north part of Xinjiang, which is in the northwestern of China.It is very cold in winter when the minimum temperature is close to minus 30 degrees Celsius.We all live in a house or apartment with heating.The government establish an uniform heating time which lasts about six months from the last mid - next mid-April.
The temperature indoors is at about 25 degrees Celsius above zero.We usually just wear a short-sleeved T-shirt at home.

The Chinese people have already solved the problem of food and clothing.Heating is not a luxury at all.Instead,it's very normal in northern China.I have never been frozen indoors since I was born.

If you come to Urumqi or other cold places in China, you will not freeze your Canadian butt off.

#2013-05-19 11:11:46 by anonymous6213 @anonymous6213

I wonder why many westerners don't like Beijing, at least 3 of my colleagues or friends told that they would never want to be there again :(

#2013-05-20 16:03:29 by canadianmike @canadianmike

@apinkapple - I think John uses a little "tongue in cheek" humour when he describes this aspect of life in China. I am from Edmonton and spend a lot of time in northern Canada where the temperature will drop to the mid -40's for long stretches (keep that vehicle running 24/7!). When I was visiting northeast China last March, I dismayed to find that may buildings appeared to be without heat. I went into several restaurants and could see my breath in the evening. I didn't take my coat off from the moment I left my hotel room to the time I arrived in the evening. The mandatory heat times need to be enforced a little more!

#2013-05-20 16:26:37 by bgies @bgies

Just a quick note - 6. should be "it'll knOCK your socks off" ?

I think all your tips are very valid. I lived in Chengdu for quite awhile, and never got used to the cold at home ;) Could never convince my Chinese friend to even close the windows, let alone heat the apartment. And looking around the apartment block, all other windows were wide open all winter also :).

I'm living in Shenzhen now, but getting ready to go back to Canada for the summer. It's already close enough to a sauna here for me :). Kelowna summer weather is very good :).

Thanks for the tip on Shanghai. I've been through the airport many times, and from a train station to/from the airport, but never spent any time in the actual city. Will try it. Thanks.

Let us know when you're back in Hangzhou. Would love to see it, and meet a fellow Canadian at the same time :).

Cheers, Brad.

#2013-05-20 19:07:17 by Apinkapple @Apinkapple


Thanks for telling your experiences in China.

The climate in Xinjiang is not too extreme.There are heating indoors in winter. It's not too hot in summer,what's more,the air is relatively dry.We do not need air conditioning in summer.The natural wind is very cool.

I went travelling to Hangzhou in 1999 and Chengdu in 2005.The two cities are my favorite ones, but I also could not stand the heat and moisture there.It's said that we northerners also can not stand the winter‘s coldness indoors.

Travelling is a kind of amazing thing, during which we spend time and money experiencing different places,people,food,cultures,and some unexpected surprises.That's the fun of travelling.

I think travelling in China is not so terrible as imagine, although Canadians maybe are actually sissy-boys.

West or east, home is the best.

#2013-05-21 04:45:51 by canadianmike @canadianmike

@Apinkapple - Sissyboys?!? OUCH! The red mark on my cheek may never go away! :'-(

#2013-05-21 18:12:57 by Apinkapple @Apinkapple


LOL! I just quoted from John's blog :"It turns out that we Canadians are actually sissy-boys when it comes to surviving the real cold of an unheated house or apartment."

Just a joke. :-)

#2013-05-22 00:13:45 by canadianmike @canadianmike

@Apinkapple - I know, but I can take John calling me a sissy-boy. If a woman does, the wound is too deep to bear! *wink*
I understand your points on heating in China. It seemed that my luck on my trip that the majority of businesses had turned the heat off for the season and I had to keep my jacket on for the full time I was visiting that region. I know it isn't the norm for the area. I mean, really. What am I, a sissy-boy??!

#2013-05-22 14:54:58 by Apinkapple @Apinkapple


Thanks for your reply.
Maybe I used an inappropriate word. If the joke quoted from the John's blog really hurt you and other canadian men so deeply, I must make an apology.

As for the heating in China, I just write the situation in my place where the heating time lasts from last mid-Oct. to next mid-April.

China is so big that Climate varies greatly in different regions. It's normal to turn off the heating in May in my place when it's almost in summer.Sometimes,it will snow in June in some mountain regions.

Anyway, I hope the wound can heal earlier and you can enjoy your future trip in China .

#2013-07-17 18:01:40 by Enyaluo1977 @Enyaluo1977

I like the caricature... vivid, funny and cute!

I stayed in North East China for three years for education. My home town in south west of China, the first winter I stayed in Dalian city was so cold that made me want to cry...

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