So you’ve been living abroad in China, having a grand ole time eating dumplings, exploring your city, and traveling all over the country with new friends. Your parents decide they want to join the fun, too, and book a trip visit you in China – now what?
Your emotions may range from excitement and joy at seeing them again, to “oh snap how will they feel about squatty potties and taking the metro during rush hour”? Here are some tips to prepare your parents in advance and help them successfully navigate life in China!
As most expats living in China know, China isn’t the easiest country to visit and travel around. If you’re an expat teaching here for a year or longer, you have had time to adapt to Chinese culture and get used to some of the different things you might encounter here. But for someone just visiting for a short time, this time schedule gets rapidly sped up and it can be a lot to take in.
Some advice for preparing your parents for the culture shock and traveling in China:
Check out some of these other tips for adapting to Chinese cultural differences!
As you are now their China expert, pass along some helpful advice they might need when packing. When thinking about clothes, consider where you live, what season it is, and if you’ll be travelling around northern and southern cities. If you live in a bigger city, some parents might be concerned about wearing a face mask as well.
Your parents packing list will be different from a teacher's packing list, but there may be some useful items to check out there.
China is at least several hours from lots of countries, and halfway around the world from many others. Making the trip here is no easy feat, especially for parents who may have never taken a long-distance flight. After they arrive make sure they have some time to rest and recover, and give them at least a day to adjust to the jet lag.
When you live in a country for a year, you have time to spread out activities and your bucket list items. Someone who is just coming for a short trip, on the other hand, has limited time. Plan out the top things you want to do together so that you don’t miss out on doing your must do activities together.
If you’re in Beijing for just a few days, for example, it may be hard to go to every UNESCO World Heritage Site. Choose a few favorites like the Great Wall and Forbidden City so you don’t overwhelm your poor parents and run them to the ground.
Some parents are still up for hiking cross-country, running marathons, and exploring a city with you at all hours. Others might need a more relaxed trip that gives them time to catch their breath!
If you’re going to the Great Wall, consider choosing a less physically demanding section of the Wall, or opt to take a cable car to the top. If you’re doing a walking tour of a city, you might choose to walk part way, then catch a tuk tuk or cab to your next destination. You can also find activities that don’t require too much physical activity.
Some great activities in China that won't require too much physical activity:
Check out this list of other Chinese activities to try!
Realize you may have different travel styles and tastes than your parents. When booking accommodations, think about their style and budget.
Some parents enjoy a home stay with a local family or may want a cute bed and breakfast, while others would rather have a more familiar 4- or 5-star hotel rather than a hostel. Hostels are fun for the youthful backpacker type looking to meet lots of people, but for most parents visiting their kids in China, they’d prefer a comfortable environment. Hotels will offer better service and amenities, as well as higher end tour options.
Also when considering how you’ll travel around China, you need to consider the train and flight options. You may be fine roughing it on a slow sleeper train for 13 hours, while your parents might want that 4-hour high speed train or quicker flight.
Unless your parents are coming to China during a long holiday like Spring Festival or the National Holiday, chances are you may have to work a few days while your parents are visiting you. This is a great opportunity for your parents to see what your actual teaching schedule is like and maybe even see where you work!
But what do they do when your teaching? Some parents might be happy chilling and waiting for you, but since they’re in China they might want to make the most of it. It’s a good idea to give your parents some activity ideas that can easily be done without you or give them a guide of how to get around.
Some activities might include:
Coming to China and eating local food might cause some struggles for parents, especially if they’re older or have certain dietary restrictions. Chinese food can also be cooked with lots of oil (or lots of spice if it’s a Sichuan or Hunan dish) so it’s best to prepare ahead of time.
Also have them bring medication that will help with a variety of travel and food ailments – anything from melatonin (to help with sleep on long flights) to ibuprofen.
Most restaurants in China have many diverse dishes to order from, though, and you can usually accommodate a variety of diet restrictions! Make sure you try some famous Chinese dishes like dumplings, hot pot, and Peking duck.
This tip is mostly helpful for you! When your parents visit, this is the perfect opportunity to have things you miss from home brought right to you! For some it might be your favorite snack, book, game, or beauty products. Consider their luggage weight limit - but most parents are happy to sacrifice some of their space to bring you things you’re homesick for!
Parents visiting China are usually excited to see all of the beautiful and culturally significant places China has to offer, but they also want to see your life in China (and mostly see what you do and that you’re happy!)
Introduce them to your friends and co-workers. Show them around your city and take them to your favorite dumpling restaurant and jianbing street cart. Let them see how your chopstick skills (and Mandarin skills) have improved as you speak bits and pieces to a waiter or taxi driver. Give them a tour of your apartment - seeing where you live puts many parents at ease and helps them understand your daily life.
*Read more about her experience HERE