10 things to know before leaving for China

I accompanied a folk group of the province of Pisa in the International Festival of Tourism of Beijing. My role was to document this adventure with videos and photos and then there was not much time to explore and visit the places where we were. Despite this, China has left a mark.

Before leaving I told you 15 things to know before leaving for China and the Beijing International Tourism Festival , now want to tell you 10 things you do not forget China:


This is a very popular activity in China. People gather in the street to dance together, accompanied by background music from a portable speaker. There are several ways, but the most common is the arrangement in rows, following the choreography with movements not too fast, which often stem from traditional dances. Another form is widespread in pairs, arranged in two rows facing each other. It is a form of gentle exercise, free, fun, used to strengthen relationships in the community. Usually participants are middle-aged women, but anyone can participate, young and old, men and women, and not Chinese. In Beijing we spent every night to dance and it was really fun.


The impression is that what matters is the appearance, then bathrooms, restaurants, roads can also be left to themselves. Always carry many handkerchiefs because the toilet paper, sometimes, you will not find even in your hotel. And equip yourself with patience, it seems that flush the toilet is optional. In the history of cleaning does not even take into account the ingrained habit of spitting, taking resorted well … then I wonder: what will never be expelled? No, really. You often feel the need to spit? Mysteries saliva Chinese.


Have you ever imagined a conversation with someone? You know when you say the things you want to say and t’inventi answers, jokes, perhaps to prepare for an interview or for clarification with a amic or an old flame? Here, in China it happened to me at least three or four times to carry on imaginary conversations with passersby. It may seem strange and I do not know if it just happens to everyone, but some people (usually middle-aged) I have spoken to (in Chinese) and despite my attempt to explain that I did not speak their language, these nice gentlemen and ladies are going ahead to converse. At that point in your head can take two mechanisms: discomfort, which brings you to go away annoyed, or curiosity, which brings you to accept the situation. So I imagine that story where I come from, who we are, what we are in China, answering questions (or statements … who knows) of these / and gentlemen / and. The first time is strange, from the second onwards can not wait for someone to ask the word. Who knows, maybe I have offended in many ways, but I want to believe that we understand each other, thanks to the smiles, the body language, the fact that beyond the language of the questions that a person you can do in such a situation are Universal: Hello, you’re different from me and are curios to know where you come from, what you’ll see in my country, how long you stay and if you like my world.

I can not tell if I was I smiled a bit ‘to anyone or had others to light, I just know that a lot of human exchanges that have colored my trip to China were characterized by momentary facial paresis, between laughter, smiles and slight bows. Remember the smile of sofficini Findus in advertising? Here, it is this expression that characterized this trip. I smiled wide, generous and bright.


When I visit the great monuments, famous throughout the world, a symbol of a country, I always hope that there is good weather. Want to see the Taj Mahal of glossy photos, overlooking a sky full of blue skies, surrounded by the vivid green of its gardens? Here, if you make a trip to India during the dry season to prepare a sky dish off with a gradient of colors ranging from gray to brown. The plants? are suffocated by layers and layers of dust and smog. Beauty decadent, very decadent. To the Great Wall, a snake that winds through the mountains facing steep ascents and descents, it would have been much more photogenic a beautiful blue sky, puffy clouds and maybe filled with pure white. The reality is that in this area the nice weather is very rare and is much more likely to see it shrouded in thick fog, wet from a rain fine. Unlike other monuments, the Great Wall in the fog is right in his element.


That’s right! In Tianjin I attended a rock concert outdoors, in the commercial heart of the city and all of a sudden I thought I heard a chorus well known to me … is it possible?

The international popularity of Hello Beautiful has spread in the late forties up to the maximum of the spread in the sixties, especially during demonstrations worker and student. Subsequently has been exported around the world, perhaps thanks to the text neutral that will appeal to a generic invader, and has spread among the Resistance movements worldwide. Even in China. Feel a hymn of resistance against the oppressor, whoever he is, in the nation’s one-party communist is a surreal experience, exciting, which makes you tremble with excitement and anxiety. I did not resist and I sang the text, one in Italian, then I met the gaze of Francis, a boy of Montesina, he looked at me as if to say you realize how fortunate we are to be here now?. Shortly after a lady attacked me button (in Chinese), perhaps she was curious to know why I knew that song and I told him.

That was also the time when Hong Kong thousands of protesters were organizing protests and occupations of streets and squares (which then lasted three weeks) and which would not have known anything if you do not have told our family members from Italy . Several times I tried to ask our guides about what was going on there, but nobody knew anything or could not say.


Before leaving I read a bit ‘of articles on non-verbal communication, cultural differences, the habits and customs of China, to try to do my best when it gets there. Being a culture completely different from ours was hard to remember all the rules to follow in the hope of starting a positive dialogue and exchange real advantage of body language, since it is not always easy to communicate in English. One of the first rules to be stored concerns the exchange of gifts, which are always, always, necessary when we hosted.

One thing to be avoided is to use your feet to actions that can be performed with the hands (such as moving an object on the ground, or the suitcase while you are in a row).

One of the most difficult things to understand is how to manage the look. Attach a stranger in the eyes is a sign of rudeness, a bit ‘as in Italy, but in all other situations it is absolutely accepted, indeed, if during a conversation continue look the other way you could embarrass the other party, because they would feel treated like a complete unknown. That’s the theory.

Copy the Market of Beijing I followed two exhausting negotiations: on the one hand, to the plane of the technology, only men (two Italian and Chinese) on the other, to the plane of the bags, only women (two Italian and Chinese). Between these two negotiations the most successful has been to Veronica and Simona, who got bags and purses at bargain prices and in record time. Their secret? I noticed that during the negotiation often the girls were turning his gaze elsewhere (without doing it on purpose) and insisted on the amount of items you purchase. It is possible that their management of the look did feel uncomfortable selling, convincing her to lower the price significantly.

Says Francesco Boggio Ferraris, head of the School of permanent formation of Italy-China Foundation of Milan, ¬†The Chinese cultural universe, despite decades of revolutionary Maoism, sinks still rooted in the Confucian tradition . ¬†Every social exchange is marked by rules of conduct that must be respected if we are to successfully interact with the Chinese. Whether for economic reasons, whether for cultural interest, there are rituals that must be understood, implemented and repeated. There are five key elements to manage the business relationship with the Chinese, which I think can be applied in any interpersonal relationship: implicit communication and body language, the ‘listening, good manners, respect and care network social, and mutual credibility. This world, which for us may seem hard, catches my curiosity and my anthropological interest.


In my experience in China I can say that this people does not excel in the organization. The management is often smoky, chaotic, almost improvised. I do not know why, but the expectation was different. I thought there would have been given strict instructions, clear timelines and almost militaristic-trained guides. Images their immense parades, the opening ceremony of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad and you think that would not be possible without flawless organization.

In fact the only ingredient that has mastered the rigid discipline, blind obedience, the one that takes you to respect the orders that you are taught without question, without questioning the authority.

Just to give an example: the sixth day in China, where the folk group The Montesina perform in a university center dedicated to oenology. Rise early and only so much rain on the horizon. We arrive at the entrance gate of this university and our guide tells us that we have to wait for clearance to enter. Meanwhile pass 30 minutes, then another 30, then another 30 and we are still locked in a bus without bathroom and plenty of space to move a bit ‘. I ask the rep why this hitch. We are told that these are the instructions and that members of the group must put the uniforms on the bus because after will not have time to change.

What was the starting so early and then having to stay in a bus stop in a parking lot for two hours? Have not had a room where we could wait until the time of the performance? Surely there was, but if something is not provided in the Protocol is not indicated by the upper, is simply an option that does not exist, can not be considered. And that’s not all. The guys who brought us inside with caddy (style golf car) were two hours out in the cold and rain, just because they could get permission to enter at any moment. For their part, not a whimper not a quick consultation with each other to see if he should ask to return to the actual time of the transfer. What is the point?


In Beijing I have not had much time to explore the city and I did not even have lengthened the nose in the Hutong, alleys and streets more traditional (that’s one of the reasons why I have to go back to China as soon as possible). But in Tianjin, a city of 12 million inhabitants, to the northwest of China, which is about 140 km from Beijing, I had the opportunity to experience a genuine experience in the middle of the local population.

This rule will not apply to the whole of China and a bit ‘of prudence is always good when you travel, but I would tell you to get lost in the narrow streets, in markets far from the tourist sites. Here I experienced one of the best travel experiences of my entire life, that deserves a story apart. For the moment I can tell you that there is nothing more gratified the feel part of something so different and far from home. Trivia: This magnificent city is twinned with Milan.


I have already told the mysterious conversations Italian / Chinese, but even when they do not speak no shortage of demonstrating their curiosity approaching, to look with curiosity, to find out who you are, where you come from and where you go. Their presence is always respectful, quiet and has no other purpose than that of knowing you. I believe that the Chinese are affected much of the closure imposed from above, because they all seem very interested to different.


The Feng Shui, which means wind and water, is the ancient art of China that promote balance between the external environment and the flow of energy that run through it. In Chinese culture the 5 elements (better defined as five movements) play a central role in the life of every day because they are not considered as static categories at the base of the Universe, but are dynamic categories to interpret the reality of space and time. There are five stages that have certain qualities that are followed and cyclically. In this philosophical context the water is adaptability, change, life. In the energy, water is essential to soothe and soften.

In each building is a water fountain positioned at the entrance, which serves to irradiate the environment of positive energy and luck every time the door is opened. If you also want fengshuizzare a room, remember that the water must be moving and the point where the fountain is placed is crucial. Well, as you’ll see the water is essentially ubiquitous in China … except in the place where we would expect to find it: at the table.

Lunch in China

At this point the question arises if the Chinese are able to eat without drinking. The Chinese generally do not drink at the table because the dishes of their tradition are sufficiently hydrated and the table never fail soups. In any case, if you decide to drink, the drink that follows a meal is hot tea. Every city, every area in China has its own tea in Beijing will find especially the jasmine. At first it is not easy to get used, but fortunately the aroma of jasmine is very delicate, and after a few days you will begin to appreciate the quality.

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