10 tips for a happy life in Guangzhou

1. If you are illiterate in Chinese, I recommend getting a camera phone so you can take pictures of signs and forms you can’t read and send them to literate friends.

2. The weather in Guangzhou is cooler than it sounds on account on the lack of central heating and the fact that you will acclimate to the warmth. Pack plenty of warm clothes.

3. Speaking of clothing, if you will be hanging your clothes to dry (and unless you are living like a wealthy Chinese or an ex-pat you will be hanging your clothes to dry) bring clothing with a little more shape and some quick drying synthetics. You can only hang a medium t-shirt so many times before it’s stretched to XL and has the shape of a pillowcase. On top of that, when it’s damp natural fibers can take days to dry – inside or out.

4. When the weather warms up quickly and condensation begins to form on everything close the windows and blast the A/C. Else you will get mold.

5. Buy a bicycle.

6. Walk/cycle around the old neighborhoods on the south side of the river. The south side is much less modern and cosmopolitan (dare I say, generic-major-metropolis) than the north side/Tianhe/Zhujiang.

7. You don’t need to respond to every person that yells “hello” in your direction. Sometimes you can just pretend not to hear. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and, besides, China – U.S. relations are so bad right now, your intermittently callous behavior is really just a tiny drop in a very large bucket.

8. Bargain to your heart’s content, but don’t let your desire not to haggle keep you from buying when you really want something. If you want to save face, you can suggest even a tiny drop in price. If they stonewall you, let the insult slide and make the purchase. Really, what do you care if you end up paying a little more? By the time you get whatever you’ve purchased home, you will have forgotten exactly how inexpensive it was.

9. On a related note, don’t compare prices with other Westerners after the fact. Someone is bound to end up feeling like they were ripped off, while they had been perfectly satisfied with their purchase moments before. There are no returns.

10. Make sure you get to the parks sooner than later – especially in the morning. Even better if you join one of the fitness, martial arts, music, or dance groups that meet there. Anyone can join in. If you become a regular, you are supposed to kick in a little cash for the group leader.

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